Category Archives: Lacrosse

The Transition Player That Wasn’t

Last week, Calgary’s Jeff Shattler was awarded the 2011 Transition Player of the Year award. There is no question that Shattler had a great season, and I would even list him in the top few MVP candidates. I congratulate him both on his season and this award. But Shattler wasn’t a transition player for most of 2011, he was a forward, a significant part of the Roughnecks offense.

According to (a couple of typos left intact):

…apparently as long as a player is classified with a “T” by their name (which is done by the team, not league), they can be a contender for the NLL’s Transition Player of the Year Award. Andyone with D or F by their name (defender or forward), no matter what role they appear to be playing during the season, cannot be considered for the honour.

So Shattler was considered a transition player by the league because Calgary listed him as one at the beginning of the season, regardless of how he was actually used. This is silly. Surely the GMs and coaches and whoever else votes on these awards are lacrosse-savvy enough to be able to distinguish which players should be considered based on their play, not based on a letter on the roster list?

If you look at the Toronto Rock roster on, the only person listed with a “T” by their name is Ryan Sharp, who missed most of the year. Does this mean that nobody on the Rock was even considered for this award? I don’t think anyone on the Rock had a Transition Player of the Year type season quite honestly, but to completely disqualify players like Marshall and Chapman and Merrill because the Rock listed them as defenders is silly and unfair.

Whether a player is a “defender” or “transition player” is hard to nail down. Many transition players play a lot of defense as well, and some defenders are involved in transition while others aren’t. But as I said, the people voting on the NLL awards know lacrosse. They don’t need to be told that Brodie Merrill is a transition guy while Cam Woods is not. They are not going to vote for Colin Doyle for Defender of the Year, and they don’t need to look to see if there’s a D beside his name to make that decision. Having said that, enough of them did vote for Shattler which is why he got the award. Can’t say I understand that.

There were a couple of travesties in the NLL awards this year – Dave Pym should have been a lock for Coach of the Year, and Matt Vinc had a very good season but Mike Thompson’s was better. Many people are disagreeing with the choice of Pat McCready as Defensive Player of the Year. No disrespect to Shattler intended, but the league got this one wrong as well.


Game Review: Toronto 10 Rochester 8

The Toronto Rock moved one game closer to the Championship game on Sunday with a 10-8 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Bob Watson, in what might have been his last-ever game in Toronto (only one of the four possible outcomes of next week’s games means another Rock home game), was great but Toronto’s defense was even better, only allowing 41 Rochester shots and keeping the Knighthawks scoreless for over 30 minutes from the first through the third quarters. The offense seems to have overcome the problems they had in the last few games of the season, though there were still a few situations that looked like a drill where the idea was to pass as much as possible and not shoot at all. Shawn Evans, Jordan Hall, and Mike Accursi each had 2 goals for Rochester, while Garrett Billings and Colin Doyle each had hat-tricks for the Rock.

The Knighthawks took an early lead but down 3-1 after ten minutes, the Rock scored seven straight goals to take an 8-3 lead. The first was a beauty by Colin Doyle, diving from behind the net to stuff the ball in behind Vinc in a mirror-image of a Tracey Kelusky goal against Boston the night before. Rochester didn’t score their fourth goal until ten minutes into the third, but then scored four in the 4th to make it close. One of those four included a rare penalty shot, scored by Jordan Hall after a Rock defender left the bench a touch early when Hall was on a breakaway.

The game was a fairly typical Toronto-Rochester matchup, a close game with no fights and not much chippiness. Somehow Shawn Evans was not aware of this, and seemed to think that more chippiness was just what this game needed. At one point Evans (5’9″, 180 lbs) got into a pushing match with Jeff Gilbert (6’4″, 215 lbs) and even managed to take Gilbert’s helmet off, but Gilbert just stood his ground and didn’t retaliate or let it develop into a full-blown fight. I’m not sure he even knew there was someone hitting him, actually. In the end, nobody was even penalized. There weren’t that many penalties called at all, actually; I thought the refs did a pretty decent job for the most part, though there was one “warding off” call early in the game – that happens all the time, but when is it ever called?

Toronto’s third goal was scored by Aaron Pascas, and I don’t think the ref had brought his arms down from signalling the goal before Mike Hasen had thrown the challenge flag. It looked pretty cut-and-dried to me – Pascas shot the ball, Vinc got a piece of it, Pascas ran through the crease, and then the ball crossed the line. Pascas was definitely in and through the crease before the ball went in, so I thought it was a no-brainer – no goal. So when the ref came out of the video booth and signalled that the goal was good, we (as Rock fans) were pleased but thoroughly confused. It turns out that if the player goes into and gets out of the crease before the ball goes in, the goal counts. This makes no sense to me, but I’ll take it. Pascas later left the game on a painful note – in the 4th quarter, a Knighthawks player fell on him in the Rochester crease and after the Knighthawk got up and ran off, Pascas half-crawled half-dragged himself through the crease, in obvious pain. The Rock trainer went out and after a few minutes, Pascas was helped off the floor, making sure to put no weight at all on his left leg. It didn’t look good, but according to TSN, Pascas should be ready to go for next week’s game.

Note to Rock promotional staff: it was nice to give the white “rally towels” to everyone, but you are aware of the phrase “waving the white flag” and what it signifies, right? Or “throwing in the towel”? That said, seeing ten thousand people spinning them around at the same time was pretty cool.

The Rock travel down the QEW to Buffalo to meet the Bandits in the Eastern division final next Saturday. The game is televised on Versus on Sunday afternoon, for those of you who get Versus (i.e. not Canadians). The winner of that game makes it to the Championship game – the winner either travels to Calgary or hosts Washington.

Fighting in lacrosse

I don’t like fighting in lacrosse. There, I said it. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, though I really don’t consider this a problem. (Yeah, I know. Denial.) Let me clarify my position here. I do not think fighting should be banned from the game entirely, i.e. one fight and you’re out for the season, or anything like that. I think the current penalties are fine, though I wouldn’t be opposed to an automatic game misconduct for a fight. I absolutely do not want to take the roughness away from the game. I simply don’t like fighting. I think it’s rarely necessary, and despite being “part of the game”, I think the game would get along just fine if it were removed entirely.

I know that this is not a popular opinion. Whenever I’m at a Rock game and a fight breaks out, the crowd instantly stands to get a better view, and the cheering volume reaches levels not usually reached outside of overtime. I generally don’t stand up, but I know I’m in the minority.

Note that a number of places in this article talk about hockey rather than lacrosse because there is a lot more talk about hockey than lacrosse out there, and the fighting pros and cons are very similar.

OK, fighting enthusiasts, start up your pro-fighting excuse machine – here, let me help you by listing the most often-heard ones:

This is lacrosse, not ballet dancing. It’s a rough game, suck it up.

I know that lacrosse is a rough game – that’s one of the things I love about it. I talk to a lot of people who know nothing about lacrosse and think it’s basically people who hit each other with sticks, and occasionally toss a ball around if it happens to come near them. I try to convince people unfamiliar with the game that it’s a rough game but not a violent one, certainly no more violent than hockey. And what happens to bring lacrosse to the forefront of the local sportscast? An amazing behind the back pass from Tracey Kelusky to Chad Culp who dives across the crease and scores a beautiful goal? No, a bench clearing brawl between Toronto and Buffalo in a meaningless game. (You want to know how much I don’t like fighting in lacrosse? The video of this brawl is all over Youtube and features my favourite team but I have never watched it.) Just about the only time the NLL makes it onto SportsCentre is when there’s a huge fight. Thanks for supporting my claim, guys. Now I’m a liar, and the unfair reputation of lacrosse players as thugs in uniforms is cemented in more and more people’s minds.

And no, it’s not ballet dancing. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be the WWE either.

Lacrosse players are passionate and sometimes that passion for the game spills over and things get rough.

Hogwash. Not that lacrosse players aren’t passionate about the game, absolutely they are. But where is it written that passionate people cannot control their emotions? Seems to me that football players are pretty passionate about their game, and football is a far rougher sport than lacrosse or hockey. (Note to international readers that I’m talking about American/Canadian football here, not what we would call soccer. In soccer, the players don’t fight, the fans do.) In fact, one could argue that football is the most violent team sport there is – almost every play ends up with numerous people being tackled and thrown to the ground – but you rarely see fights in football games. In the Super Bowl a couple of months ago, I watched a play where a player was tackled (legally, as far as I could tell) and got up and gave the opposing player a swat in the head. Rather than retaliate, the guy that was hit immediately got ran off. Call him a pussy or whatever you like but because the tackled player was not able to control his emotions, he (and therefore his team) was penalized and they now had an extra five yards to make up. If the other player had retaliated, which would have been totally accepted (and expected) if this were hockey or lacrosse, both players would likely have been penalized and both teams would have been worse off.

Now, sometimes you do see this in lacrosse – one player attempts to drop the gloves but the opposing player opts not to. I don’t think that anyone would question that Geoff Snider is one of the best fighters in the game. But in a recent game, I saw an opposing player (David Morgan of the Rush, I believe) give him the old “You wanna go? You wanna go?” and a few shoves. Snider basically ignored him, Morgan went to the box for roughing, and the Roughnecks went on the power play. I don’t remember if Calgary scored, but I do remember thinking that that was a very smart play by Snider. He didn’t let his emotions get the better of him, and helped his team in the process. He did more for his team by not fighting that he would have if he’d dropped the gloves.

Sometimes you need to fight to get your team fired up.

If this is true, then this is a sad statement on your sport. First off, your coach deserves to be fired because it’s his job to motivate his players. Plus, what happened to this passion that lacrosse players have for the game? Why would such passionate people need a fight to get them going? These are the best lacrosse players in the world playing at the highest level of their sport – if they can’t get motivated to play their best without watching a fight, then they don’t deserve to be there.

Fighting is payback for dirty hits and is useful for protection of star players.

If this is your argument, I have two words for you: Todd Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi (and the entire Canucks team) said publicly that Steve Moore would have to pay for his hit against Markus Naslund in a previous game (a hit that was perfectly legal, by the way) and Bertuzzi ensured that he did pay – with his career. You could certainly argue that what Bertuzzi did was not a fight and was far cheaper and dirtier than what Moore did, and you’d be right. But Bertuzzi was trying to pick a fight, even if we went about it the wrong way. (If you’re trying to pick a fight, you skate in front of him and challenge him. You don’t skate up behind him and slam his head into the ice.) If fighting wasn’t so embedded in the hockey culture, or if the punishment for fighting was a multi-game suspension, Bertuzzi wouldn’t have thought the way he did and the incident never would have happened.

Having said that, I can see the desire for revenge after a dirty hit, especially on a star player. In my opinion, however, a revenge fight needs to follow three rules:

  1. It must be done during the same game as the dirty hit. Once the game’s over, that’s it.
  2. This only applies to hits that are not penalized. If the player gets a penalty for the hit, that should be it. Though if Joe Superstar leaves the game with a possible concussion or broken leg and the player that hit him from behind gets nothing more than a two minute penalty, his teammates may feel that this was insufficient. I can’t really blame them, so I’d be willing to waive this rule in some cases.
  3. You cannot get revenge for a legal hit. It always puzzled me why Dave Semenko would go after anyone who checked Wayne Gretzky with a legal check. Wayne’s a big boy and a pro hockey player; he can handle being bodychecked.

Fighting builds team cohesion.

OK, this one I agree with. I remember a game back in early 2010 where Boston’s Paul Dawson got into a fight with Toronto captain Colin Doyle. While both players were in the box, four different fights broke out at the same time and a bunch of people were tossed. As I wrote at the time: ‘The unmistakeable message from the Rock was “You will not touch our captain.”‘ Was it necessary? No. Was it over the top? Yes, four fights at once was too much. Did it handcuff the team for the rest of the game? Yes. But did it send a message? Yes – to Doyle. His teammates were telling Doyle that they were willing to fight for him, not because he couldn’t do it himself (he actually held his own pretty well against Dawson, a seasoned fighter), not because he got pounded (he didn’t), not because he’s a superstar, and not even because he’s the captain – just because he was their teammate. Again, it wasn’t necessary, but that’s the kind of team building that’s just not the same as buying a round of beers after the game.

It’s part of the game and always has been.

So what? Beheading the captain of the losing team was once part of the game too. Sports evolve over time. Rules change. Things that used to be part of the game are removed, and things that were never part of the game are added. Have you ever seen a lacrosse game without a fight? Sure you have. Did you walk away thinking “Wow, that game would have been much better if there had been a fight”? Probably not. If you are in any way familiar with lacrosse, I’m sure you would argue that it’s certainly possible to have an intense, hard-hitting, and entertaining game with no fights whatsoever. So why again are they necessary?

For the most part, fights don’t happen in Olympic or international hockey. Did you hear anyone complaining that the hockey during the Vancouver Olympics was boring? (Just mentioning hockey here because international lacrosse games are too few and far between and Olympic lacrosse is non-existent.) It’s fairly well-documented that fights don’t happen nearly as often in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. If fighting is so integral to the game, why does it disappear during the most critical games?

Hockey and lacrosse are the only North American team sports that allow fighting. If there are fights in a baseball game, multi-game suspensions are handed out. There was a fight in an NBA game a couple of months ago and while only a couple of punches were thrown, each player was suspended a game for the fight, and the instigator had to sit for an extra one. Note the penalty for instigating: not two minutes, an entire game. There was a fight in an NFL game back in November, and while neither player was suspended, each was fined $25,000. One of the fighters, Tennessee Titan Cortland Finnegan, had this to say after the fines were announced:

This is the NFL, not the NHL, and it’s a higher standard,” Finnegan said. “That’s the NHL. They fight. They get penalized for that. The NFL, it’s not even heard of … you do that, you’re suspended. Hands down. That’s what I’ve been taught.

It’s a higher standard.” What does that mean? It means that pro football players look down on the NHL because of the fighting. Where are the people telling him that this is football, not ballet dancing?

Baseball and basketball get along just fine without fighting. Now neither is as full-contact as lacrosse or hockey, so perhaps that’s an unfair comparison. But nothing is as violent as football, and even they get along fine without fighting. So why can’t hockey or lacrosse players?

I almost made it through this entire article without even mentioning the injuries brought on by fighting. In December of 2009, an OHL hockey player named Don Sanderson died after falling and hitting his head on the ice during a fight. (To my knowledge, he is not related to the numerous Sandersons currently or formerly in the NLL.) This was, obviously, a huge story at the time and it seemed that rules may change because of it, but to my knowledge, nothing ever came of it. You could argue that it had nothing to do with the fight – his injury came because he fell. But if not for the fight, he would have been wearing a helmet. In early March, it was announced that the late hockey fighter extraordinaire Bob Probert had brain damage (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) because of his years of fighting. I’d be very surprised if the Troy Bonterres, Tim O’Briens, and Geoff Sniders of the NLL didn’t pay serious attention to those findings.

Recently, the NHL has considered banning any hits to the head to try to avoid concussions and it’s become a serious issue in the NLL as well – just ask Ken Montour or Merrick Thomson. Stephen Stamp wrote an excellent article about the problems that players face after experiencing a concussion – the article is quite long, but well worth the time.

With the proposed changes, if you hit someone in the head with your stick, even if it’s accidental, you’ll be suspended for at least a couple of games. But if players deliberately take their helmets off and pound each other in the head with their bare fists – five minutes.

Fans like fighting so it helps attract fans.

This thinking led to the old joke “I went to a fight the other day and a hockey game broke out”. I can’t disagree with the fact that many (if not most) fans enjoy fights. Does it actually bring people into the building that wouldn’t otherwise come? Would fans stop coming to lacrosse games if they knew they would not see a fight? Personally, I’d say no to both of these questions, but I have no stats either way.

What a pansy.

Oh yeah? Ya think so? You wanna go? Huh? You wanna go? Actually, I can’t right now. I have a quiche in the oven. It’s almost ready.

He’s never played lacrosse. He doesn’t get it.

You’re right. I haven’t. And I don’t.

Game Report: Buffalo 11 Toronto 8

Wow, did that game ever suck. The Toronto Rock squandered an opportunity to clinch first place in the Eastern division and keep pace with Calgary for first overall, losing 11-8 to the Buffalo Bandits, who move ahead of the Rock into first in the East. The game was the final home regular-season game in Bob Watson’s hall-of-fame career, and the Rock organization celebrated it with a ceremony before the game, as well as video tributes from current and former Rock players including Kaleb Toth, Dan Stroup, Josh Sanderson (and his dad Terry), Sandy Chapman, and Pat Campbell. Captain Colin Doyle, Rock owner Jamie Dawick, and Watson’s own daughter Sydney gave short speeches, and Watson acknowledged his teammates, Rock ownership and management, coaches, trainers, as well as the fans.

As for the game itself, I thought I was heading to a Rock/Bandits game, but must have missed the paper handed out in the lobby saying “For tonight’s performance, the role of the Toronto Rock will be played by the Colorado Mammoth”. Good goaltending, with periods of great goaltending, solid defense, and absolutely no offense to speak of. I don’t want to take anything away from the Buffalo defense, which was also solid, and Mike Thompson was great (with periods of outstanding), but the Rock O was just not there. They missed passes all over the place, frequently decided to pass rather than shoot (at one point Kyle Ross had nobody between him and the goalie five feet away, and still passed), and were just generally anemic all night. The Bandits offense wasn’t an awful lot better – there were more dropped balls and passes to nobody in particular on both sides than you’d expect from 8-4 and 10-4 teams and as a result, this was not a very entertaining game.

After the touching ceremony for Watson, the Rock and the Bandits got down to business. The Toronto crowd of over 15,000 was pumped and it was nice to see that level of attendance again. The Rock haven’t announced the attendance at a game in a couple of years, and haven’t hit 15k for at least that long. It didn’t take long to make the crowd happy, as Jon Harasym was given a bogus cross-checking penalty less than two minutes in, and Kasey Beirnes scored his first of three on the resulting power play. Pat Merrill scored on a breakaway a minute later, and it seemed that the Rock were also pumped and might just run away with this game. Not so fast. At 4:48, that was it for the Rock scoring in the first quarter. Tracey Kelusky scored 30 seconds after Merrill’s goal to get the Bandits on the board, and Brett Bucktooth tied it a couple of minutes later. John Tavares and Chad Culp scored to give the Bandits a 4-2 lead before the Rock finally got their third goal (about 22 minutes after their second), and their fourth goal was a beautiful passing play. Colin Doyle passed to Kasey Beirnes standing on the left side of the goal, but rather than one-time it in from there (which Thompson expected), he passed it cross-crease to Stephan LeBlanc who buried it. Props to Thompson who managed to change direction quickly and actually have an attempt at stopping the shot.

For the rest of the game, it seemed that the Rock were trying to replicate that goal, and passed the ball as much as possible rather than take shots. Unfortunately for them, this led to a bunch of wasted possessions, as they just passed until the shot clock ran out. For a Rock fan, I’m giving props to the Bandits quite liberally today, but they deserve them – this time they go to the Bandits defenders who seemed to read the Rock attackers really well, and just put their sticks in the air and blocked I don’t know how many passes. Once or twice the ball went into the stands and give the Rock a fresh 30, sometimes they actually intercepted the ball and had a transition chance, but most of the time they just deflected it harmlessly away from the Rock players.

The Rock took a two-goal lead early in the third, and then things fell apart. The Bandits scored seven unanswered goals to take a 11-6 lead. The desperation set in early for the Rock, and they started pulling Watson for the extra attacker with four or five minutes left in the 4th. It did pay off, as Garrett Billings and Kasey Beirnes scored with under a minute to play, but it was way too little and way too late. Once again, the Rock went about 24 minutes between their sixth and seventh goals.

Not exactly the way Bob Watson likely envisioned his final regular season game at the ACC, but he wasn’t the reason for this loss. The good news for the Rock is that they already made the playoffs. The bad news is that they no longer control their own destiny with respect to home playoff games – if the Bandits win out, they grab first in the east regardless of what the Rock does in their one remaining game. If the Rock lose to Edmonton next week and Rochester wins out, Toronto could even find themselves in third, and could potentially have no home games. The Bandits are in action tonight against the Knighthawks, then Boston next Saturday and Rochester again the week after that.

Other game notes:

  • Watson was the first Rock player through the post-game handshakes, and it was nice to see how many Bandits players took an extra second or two and said something more than just “good game”. Many even gave him a hug or a stick bump. Classy.
  • When the team started their “victory lap”, which they do regardless of whether they win or lose, Colin Doyle stopped and let Watson go first. Again, classy.
  • At least three Bandit names were mispronounced by the Rock announcer. He pronounced Kelusky two different ways on the same goal announcement, and also got Harasym and Tavares wrong. How does anyone familiar with the NLL over the any part of the last twenty years say Tavares wrong? What we need is a list of frequently mispronounced names and their correct pronunciation. Oh wait, we have one. Tracy Kelusky is not on that list though – I believe it’s “kuh-LUH-skee”, not “kuh-LOO-skee”.
  • Why do they still have TV timeouts even when the game is not televised?
  • The Bandits had a 5-on-3 power play for about a minute and a half in the first, and Bob Watson made some outstanding saves. Creighton Reid did a nice job on the PK too, getting the Bandits to chase him around the floor and eating up time.
  • I’m all for being optimistic and playing a full 60 minutes, but when you’ve been playing like the Rock were, you’re down by five, and there’s only a minute left in the game, I’m not sure pulling the goalie for the extra attacker is really necessary. Yes, the Rock did score twice within the last minute, but is it realistic to even dream of three more in the last 33 seconds?

Game Review: Toronto 13 Washington 12

The Rock kept hold of first place in the East with a thrilling 13-12 overtime victory over the Washington Stealth in Toronto last night. Toronto has made it known throughout the season that they had “unfinished business” to take care of thanks to the Stealth stealing the Championship last year – not that the Stealth didn’t deserve the victory, but that they were the only team standing between the Rock and their sixth Championship. This rematch was not only important to the Rock to stay in first in the East, but as a little payback.

Colin Doyle led all scorers with 2 goals and 5 assists, while both Garrett Billings and Rob Hellyer had 5 assists. Blaine Manning was held to a single assist and was having trouble hitting the net. He had 15 shots and the scoresheet says that 10 of them were on net, but I don’t think so. Lewis Ratcliff led the Stealth in scoring with 3 and 3, while Paul Rabil (holy crap, he’s good) got a goal and four assists and Rhys Duch had two goals and two assists. Ratcliff also had a game high sixteen shots on net – nobody else had more than 11.

As I said in last week’s game report, I’ve tried to hold back on complaining about NLL refs. I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt for years, but I’m starting to lose my patience, and last night’s game didn’t help. The Rock had seven power plays (scoring 5 PP goals) and the Stealth four, but a number of the calls made little sense. Craig Conn was given five for an illegal cross-check, but two would have been sufficient. Once out of the box, Conn then punched Kyle Ross in the face after the whistle right in front of the ref who called nothing. When Troy Cordingley expressed his displeasure with that, the Rock were given a penalty, leading to several beautiful Watson saves before Matt Beers buried one with 5 seconds left in the first half. There were people on Twitter saying that the refs were trying to give the win to the Rock, but that goal lands squarely in the other court. Five minutes into the third, a Jeff Moleski was approaching Stephen Hoar, who had his stick turned, ready to make a (completely legal) cross-check on Moleski’s arm or mid-section, when Moleski suddenly dropped his head and tried to go around Hoar. Hoar’s stick made contact with Moleski’s head and Hoar was given an illegal cross-check penalty. It should have been obvious what happened – I saw it from the other side of the arena 17 rows up. I just watched it again (thanks to TSN!) and it looked the same – a total accident with no intent. What’s the point of penalizing Hoar on that play?

Bob Watson had another good outing, and will be a serious contender for goaltender of the year. Only once has a goaltender ever been named league MVP, that being Steve Dietrich in 2006, but if Watson leads the Rock deep into the playoffs, that could be a possibility as well. At the other end of the floor, Tyler Richards faced 66 Toronto shots, and had a better game than the 13 goals scored against him might indicate. Not that 13 goals against is terrible, but I can think of several unbelievable saves Richards made that kept this game from being an 18-12 Rock win – particularly one on Kasey Beirnes in the second when Beirnes was right on the edge of the crease with a wide open net and Richards somehow got a hand up and deflected the ball into the crowd. Richards made another save in the 4th that actually made me and others near me applaud. Note to Richards if he’s reading this – it seemed to me that a lot of the Rock goals went in over your left shoulder. May want to look into that.

The Rock are idle for another three hours and play in Philadelphia tonight, while the Stealth head down the QEW to Buffalo for a battle (aren’t they all?) with the Bandits. Hopefully Cam Sedgwick makes it to the game – according to a couple of his teammates on Twitter, he left his passport in the hotel in Toronto and the team bus was delayed at the border.

Other game notes:

  • Early in the 4th, Cliff Smith scored a goal while falling into Watson. The goal counted and Smith was given a goaltender interference penalty. WTF? If there was goaltender interference before the goal, the goal shouldn’t have counted. If it was after the goal, unless it was an intentional punch or something, there should be no penalty. I just watched the replay again and it was a complete accident – Smith fell into Watson after a nice diving goal. Again, what’s the point of this penalty?
  • Weird rule: In the NHL, a shot on goal is loosely defined as any shot that goes in the net or would go in the net were it not for the goalie stopping it. In the NLL, a shot that hits the post or crossbar and doesn’t go in is also considered a shot on net. This is probably because of the shot clock – so they can simply say that any shot on net resets the clock. The weird thing is that in this case the goalie (who was beaten) gets credited with a save. I guess they decided that any shot on net must result in either a goal or a save, so if they’re going to make hitting the post a shot, they also need to make it a save. Still weird.
  • After goalie Tyler Richards left his net to set a pick on Jeff Gilbert (what was Gilbert doing at that end of the floor?), Gilbert pushed him down. Chris McElroy took exception and jumped Gilbert, getting two for instigating, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. Gilbert was given two for goaltender interference and five for being the recipient of several punches. Isn’t it true that you are allowed to hit the goalie if he’s out of the crease? If it’s not, it should be. The goalie has a “safe zone” where nobody can touch him and if he makes the conscious decision to leave that safe zone, he should do it at his own peril. Plus, he’s the most heavily padded guy on the floor.

Roughnecks on the move

By Loof Lirpa, special correspondent

The drama is finally over. A spokesman for the Calgary Roughnecks announced this morning that the team has been sold and will relocate for the 2012 season. Following in the league’s decisions to try new markets and to move to smaller towns outside of major cities (Hoffman Estates IL, Everett WA, Glendale AZ), the Roughnecks have been sold to a Mexican company called Ándale Arriba. The president of Ándale Arriba, S. Gonzales, has already stated his intention to move the team to Chimalhuacán, a town of just over half a million people near Mexico City. The team will begin play in the 2012 season, and will be known as the Mexico City Menudos.

NLL Commissioner George Daniel said that he is “sorry for the Roughnecks fans in Calgary who have to watch their team leave, but at the same time, very excited for the people of Chimalhuacán and Mexico City. This is a big step for our league, and we are happy for the mill— um, thous— um, dozens of Mexican lacrosse fans who will be able to watch the best lacrosse players in the world right in their own back yard. Seriously, until the arena gets built, Mr. Gonzales will be hosting the games in his back yard. Not much in the way of seating, but the tequila and burritos are really cheap. And I guarantee that snowstorms on game nights will be less of an issue than in Calgary.”

After a private meeting with the players, Menudo captain Andrew McBride issued the following statement on behalf of himself and his teammates: “We’re going where?”

In an exclusive interview with The NLL Blog, former Roughnecks owner Brad Bannister explained his financial reasoning and how he came to the difficult decision that this was the right move for the franchise: “Some dude gave me a coupla hundred grand and a bottle of Cuervo Gold. More than the Flames offered.”

The movement for next season may not be over yet. There are rumours that the NLL may become the first professional North American sports league to have a team in Iceland, as the Rochester Knighthawks become the Reykjavík Hrútspungars. We will keep you updated on this story as it develops.

Game report: Calgary 14 Toronto 9

The battle of the first place teams is over, and the better team won. On this night, anyway, Calgary was indeed the better team in a 14-9 victory over the Toronto Rock. The Roughnecks dominated the entire game and while Bob Watson is having a career year in his final season, he was outplayed by his former backup Mike Poulin.

The Rock and Roughnecks traded goals early before Kasey Beirnes scored six minutes in to give the Rock a 2-1 lead. Dane Dobbie erased that only twelve seconds later with his first of four, and the Roughnecks never trailed again. Calgary had a much more balanced attack than the Rock – thirteen different Roughnecks got points to the Rock’s seven. Dobbie and Jeff Shattler led the scoring with seven points each, while Curtis Dickson got a hat trick and Scott Ranger had four helpers. On the Rock side, Colin Doyle was the only multiple-goal scorer with 3, with LeBlanc, Billings, Manning, Maddalena, Beirnes, and Marshall all getting one each.

I thought Toronto’s transition was a big part of their downfall – far too many times a defender would grab the ball and race up the floor looking for a breakaway or 2-on-1, which almost never happened. They’d take a shot from a bad angle or through traffic, Poulin would make an easy save if the ball even got to him, and the Roughnecks offense would come back up the floor again. Rob Marshall scored one, but no other defense or transition players even had assists, a sure sign that your transition is not working.

Pro: The game was on TSN2 in high definition, which was really nice for those of us not in Calgary. Dave Randorf is great on the play-by-play and Brian Shanahan, while he needs a new haircut, really knows his stuff. My wife declared that their ties didn’t match either, though I have to say I did not notice that. I have to say, though, that the Calgary announcer needs to STFU during play. Trying to get the crowd going and announcing goals and penalties is fine, but keep the Supercuts ads for breaks in play. They also need to turn his mic down – he was drowning out the TV commentators.

Con: the game was tape-delayed at least 30 minutes so that TSN2 could continue their March Madness coverage. Now if they were covering a game that went long, and tape-delayed the lacrosse game to finish it, I could understand that. They should have put a banner across the bottom of the screen saying this. But that’s not what happened here. The game they were covering was over, and they showed half an hour of James Cybulski and Jack Armstrong talking about that game and some other upcoming ones, and then showed the first ten minutes or so of the Ohio State / someone else (Kentucky? Florida? Don’t remember, and don’t care enough to go look it up) game. No banner indicating the change in scheduling was shown. Then at the end of the coverage, they finally said that the Rock / Roughnecks game was coming up, but Cybulski added insult to injury by stating that their March Madness coverage would continue over on TSN, so you want to change the channel…. now. Right, because nobody really wants to watch lacrosse, do they? Remember that Rock owner Jamie Dawick pays to have the Rock games on TSN2, so I can’t imagine he’s too happy with how things played out last night.

Now if they had had Kate Beirness (who apparently went to the non-existent “University of Ontario”*) doing the basketball coverage, I would have been able to forgive TSN a lot easier. I’d watch half an hour of her reading the phone book. I might even PVR it so that I could revisit the subtle intricacies of her performance. Sorry, where was I?

I’m afraid I’m turning into one of those people who complain about the refs after every game. I’ve tried to be good and give them the benefit of the doubt, and I know it’s a hard job and I couldn’t do it and all that, but still. As I’ve mentioned before, Grant Spies takes every penalty he calls as a personal affront to him or to the game or something, and there were a number of phantom or “You called that? Really?” penalties on both sides. The weirdest call was a no-goal on Kasey Beirnes in the 3rd. Replays clearly showed that his goal was good, but it was waved off. Troy Cordingley immediately threw the challenge flag only to be told that the call was not reviewable. I have no idea why not, but the call stood. Another weird one had happened in the second when the shot clock whistle sounded just before a Roughnecks goal, but I have to give the refs credit on that one – it appeared to be the wrong call, but it was actually correct. The shot was taken just before time ran out and Watson made the save, resetting the clock. Dobbie then grabbed the rebound and buried it. It happened fast enough that it looked like the goal shouldn’t have counted, but it should have and did.

The game was a little chippy but not really rough until the end. Blaine Manning was getting pretty ticked by the end of the game, and according to Claude Feig, Manning wanted to go out and fight Andrew McBride but Cordingley wouldn’t let him. The coach didn’t have the same restraints on Patrick Merrill or Kyle Ross, however, and both got into completely pointless fights with under a minute in the game. Merrill took on Mike Kilby and I’d have to call that one a draw, and then Ross took on heavyweight Geoff Snider. Ross went right after Snider and even took him down almost right away. But Snider did a smooth tuck-and-roll and got back up, landed three punches, and it was over. Snider was the clear winner there.

Both teams are done for the weekend and play at home next week. The Rock host the Washington Stealth, while the Roughnecks play the Minnesota Swarm.

* – I stand corrected; there is a University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. My bad.

Steve Toll – Hall of Famer?

Steve Toll recently announced that he will retire after the 2012 NLL season, which will be his fifteenth in the league. It’s probably for the best, since his memory is obviously going. In the story on, Toll recalls his first game, while playing with the Ontario Raiders in 1998: “It was in the old Philadelphia Spectrum. We beat Philadelphia and I got an assist.” The story then says “That was the beginning of the streak.”  But if you check the career stats page, also on, you find that Toll played one game in 1998, collecting zero points, then played one game in 1999, collecting an assist. His streak couldn’t have begun in 1998, since he only played one game in 1999. Also, according to the Spectrum’s page on Wikipedia, the Wings stopped playing there in 1996, two years before Toll started in the league. OK, so either someone screwed up their research or Toll can’t remember details from 13 years ago. No big deal.

Anyway, when I heard that Toll was going to retire, I wondered if he would be considered for the NLL Hall of Fame. My first thought was “Definitely yes!”, but then I wondered if I was just being a homer because I’m a Rock fan and he was a big part of the Rock’s success from 1999-2004. So I reconsidered and decided no, Toll was a great player but not a Hall of Famer. But I have reconsidered my reconsideration, and now I’ve decided once and for all – when Toll retires, he deserves to join his former teammates Dan Stroup, Jim Veltman, and Gary Gait (though he didn’t win a Championship with Gait) as well as former coach Les Bartley and GM Johnny Mouradian in the NLL Hall of Fame.

If you want numbers, I got numbers. Toll has played in 201 NLL games, all but the first consecutively. He’s won 5 Championships – four with the Rock during their years of dominance in the early 2000’s, and one more with the Knighthawks during their dream 2007 season. The Hawks finished the season winning 12 in a row plus 3 more in the playoffs, and became the first team to ever win a Championship in a home game over two thousand miles away from their arena (don’t ask). Toll led the Knighthawks in loose balls every year he played there (except 2005 when he only played 5 games with them after being traded from San Jose), and the only reason he didn’t lead the Rock in that category was a guy by the name of Jim Veltman. He was also was the first-ever winner of the NLL Transition Player of the Year award in 2007.

Toll had three consecutive seasons with over 50 points for the Rock, collecting 65 in 2002. He scored 15 or more goals four times, and 25 or more twice. In Rochester, the numbers tailed off but Toll was primarily a defender, so looking at the point stats can be misleading. His speed made him very effective on transition, and Rock fans got used to at least one Speedin’ Stevie Toll breakaway goal, and sometimes several, each and every game. I just checked his Wikipedia page, and found that Steve Toll is six feet tall, which I never would have guessed. He never seemed that big to me. He was never the Dan Ladouceur type of defender who would just stand in front of you and make you try to get around him because otherwise you couldn’t see the net. Toll would chase you into the corner and pound on you with his stick until you either made a desperation pass or dropped the ball, in which case he’d have picked it up and be halfway to your net before you even knew it was gone. He was also very effective at intercepting passes, a skill he learned from Jim Veltman.

They say that the mark of a true Hall-of-Famer in any sport is that you cannot describe the league during the time that that player played without mentioning him. You cannot describe the Rock and their success in the early 2000’s without talking about Steve Toll. The Knighthawks didn’t have the same kind of success in his six seasons there, but along with John Grant and Toll’s good friend Shawn Williams, Toll was a team leader there as well. Obviously Colorado isn’t having much in the way of success this year, but Toll is the oldest player on a young team – Toll is at least six years older than every D/T player on the Mammoth except John Gallant, and Ben Davies was only ten when Toll played his first NLL game. He’s no longer the fastest guy in the league – he’s probably not even the fastest guy on his team – but having a veteran like Toll around has got to have a positive impact on these young players.

It’s almost a season and a half early, but congratulations on a stellar career Steve, and I look forward to your Hall of Fame induction.

New NLL Rules

The NLL has instigated a new rule to make sure that fans sitting behind the players benches can always see the game. This came from a group of fans in Philadelphia who couldn’t see because the Calgary coaches were standing on the benches. The fans complained to the Wings, the Wings complained to the league, and bam! A new rule was instigated saying that if anyone (player or otherwise) is standing on the bench at any time during play, or if coaches or non-playing personnel are “deemed to be deliberately obstructing fans”, the team will get a bench minor.

After listening to complaints from other fans, here are some other rules the NLL is considering:

  • Teddy Jenner reported on Twitter that because of complaining in Colorado, the Mammoth will be spotted a ten-goal lead for all home games. With this rule in place, the Mammoth may be able to win a home game sometime in the next season or two.
  • There will be a $50 cover charge per person at Roughnecks home games. Ladies are free after halftime! Two drink minimum.
  • Thanks to complaints from around the league, the Minnesota Swarm are banned from wearing those awful striped jerseys.
  • No fan under the age of 18 is allowed within ten rows of the Bandits bench. They were going to make a rule preventing Darris Kilgour from swearing, but nobody wanted to tell him.
  • In order to boost attendance in Washington, the Stealth will automatically win all of their home games. If they are successful on the floor, the fans will show up in droves, right?
  • Due to complaints from Rock fans, either Stephan LeBlanc or Bob Watson will be named Player of the Week every week. Even weeks where the Rock don’t play. Sure, Casey Powell scored eight goals but if Stephan had played, he would have scored nine.
  • Hey, as long as the fans are deciding the rules, every game will have at least one penalty shot, a fight, and a penalty that the goalie has to serve himself. Or maybe get them all done at once – a penalty shot that results in a goalie fight. And games that end in a tie go to a shootout. If the teams are still tied after five shots, there will be a trick shot competition, where players like Mark Steenhuis throw their sticks in the air or flip them behind their back before scoring. Coolest shot wins, even if it doesn’t go in.
  • How about a lap dance competi- um, never mind.