Category Archives: Sports

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.

Real men wear pink

Game Review: Toronto 15 Philadelphia 10

I’m pretty sure Calgary used that “Real men wear pink” line a few years ago when they had their pink jerseys, but it’s worth repeating. The Toronto Rock had their Black Out for Breast Cancer night at the ACC tonight, and wore their awesome black jerseys and bright pink helmets. A couple of the players even had pink string in the lacrosse sticks. This is an annual event that the Rock have done for a number of years, where fans can bid on the jersey of their favourite player, and the highest bidder gets to go onto the field after the game and get the actual jersey worn by that player. All the money raised (over $12,000) goes towards breast cancer research at Sunnybrook Hospital, and as the son, son-in-law, and grandson-in-law of three breast cancer survivors, I cannot think of a more worthy cause.

Anyway, the first-place Rock hosted the last-place (in the East) Philadelphia Wings tonight and beat them 15-10, but don’t let the final score fool you – the game was closer than that score might indicate. The Wings didn’t look to me like a last place team on this night, though it seemed to be a bit of a backwards night for them. It seems unusual for a team that’s 4-5 to have a goalie starting the All-Star game, but that’s exactly what Brandon Miller did. He’s been a bright spot for Philly in an otherwise unremarkable season, but he looked downright ordinary tonight. He wasn’t terrible but he did allow all 15 goals on only 46 shots. Bob Watson had another good performance in goal for the Rock, saving 40 of 50 Philadelphia shots. Both goalies made their share of great saves but each let in a few softies as well. Considering these were the two goalies in the East chosen for the All-Star game, you might have expected a better goaltending display tonight, but alas, it was not to be.

That said, defense was the name of the game early on, as the teams took turns stifling the other’s scorers. Pat Maddalena scored his first of the season six minutes in and Blaine Manning followed with another less than thirty seconds later. Shortly after that, Paul Dawson managed to get a breakaway but ran too far and didn’t shoot until he was actually in the crease. Watson made the stop, but Dawson kept going and fell into Watson, making completely avoidable contact with the goalie. That’s a no-no, and the ref sent Dawson to his room without supper and told him to think about what you’ve done, mister. Garrett Billings scored on the PP to put the Rock up 3-0, but Alex Turner scored his first of two on a one-timer after a beautiful feed from a falling Drew Westervelt, and the first quarter ended with only four goals. Philly opened the second by scoring just 33 seconds in, before the Rock scored another three unanswered goals. Philly did not give up and scored three of their own sandwiched around another Billings goal to put the halftime score at 7-5. Philly’s last goal of the second was a very nice play by tough guy Paul Dawson.

Just like they did in the second, Philly opened the scoring early in the third, with Athan Iannucci scoring his second of the night just 26 seconds in. Both teams traded goals until Matt Alrich silenced the Toronto crowd with a bullet over Bob Watson’s left shoulder to tie the game at 9. The game was tied for almost five minutes before 18-year-old rookie Rob Hellyer, playing in his first NLL game, scored his first goal – and what a goal it was. Hellyer broke towards the net from the left side, had the ball knocked out of his stick by Bill McGlone (who would have been given a holding call on the play if Hellyer hadn’t scored – the ref’s arm was already up), but recovered the ball and threw it back over his shoulder and past Miller. Not only was it an amazing effort and goal, but it turned out to be the winning goal, as it put the Rock up 10-9, a lead which they would not relinquish.

In the fourth, it was the Rock who opened the scoring early, as Sandy Chapman scored 11 seconds in. The Wings seemed to run out of gas in the fourth, only scoring one goal while the Rock added another four. Toronto extended its home winning streak to 6 games this year, and nine going back to last year. The last time the Rock lost at home was an 11-10 OT loss to the Bandits on March 12 last year. They have the next two weeks off while the Wings travel to Calgary to play the Roughnecks tomorrow night.

Other notes:

  • There were a bunch of really nice goals tonight by both teams. Both of Alex Turner’s were one-timers – kind of the alley-oop of lacrosse – and he missed on a third. Dawson had a nice one as I mentioned, Iannucci had a couple, and Hellyer’s was awesome.
  • Pat Maddalena has put the ball in the net four times this season. Three of them have been challenged, and two of those resulted in disallowed goals.
  • As soon as Rob Hellyer scored his first-ever NLL goal, Pat Maddalena ran to the ref to grab the game ball for him. Classy.
  • Stephen Hoar had a shorthanded breakaway. Awesome.
  • Athan Iannucci is a very good lacrosse player. Yup, you heard it here first, folks. I’m still not sure he’s back to the level he was at during the 2008 season, but even if he’s 80% of that guy, that’s still pretty damned good. He had a ton of shots and four very nice goals.

By the numbers

Some interesting stats about the NLL at the halfway point of the season.

Number of face-offs taken by the Calgary Roughnecks: 214
Number of face-offs not taken by Geoff Snider: 12

Geoff Snider’s league-leading face-off percentage in 2010: 75.6%
Second-highest face-off percentage in 2010: 57.5% (Stephen Peyser)
Snider’s face-off percentage this year after implementation of the “Snider rule”: 64.9%
Highest face-off percentage this year: 70.9% (Bob Snider, Geoff’s brother)
Highest non-Snider face-off percentage this year: 60.1% (Jamison Koesterer, who has retired)

Players in the league with 5 or more points per game (>1 game): 10
Players on the Toronto Rock: 3 (LeBlanc, Manning, Billings)
Players in the entire west division: 3 (Benesch, Ratcliffe, Duch)

Penalty minutes for Scott Self in Buffalo’s Jan. 22 loss to Toronto: 30
Players in the league with more than 30 penalty minutes total: 7
Penalty minutes for Scott Self since that game: 2

Goal differential for Toronto in the 3rd quarter: +14
Goal differential for Boston in the 2nd quarter: +13
Goal differential for Colorado in the 1st quarter: 0
Goal differential for Colorado in the 2nd quarter: –16

Total goals for/against for Calgary: 91/89
Calgary’s record: 5-3
Total goals for/against for Minnesota: 91/88
Minnesota’s record: 4-4

Number of games where Toronto opponents scored 0 goals in a period: 5 (one of those games had 2 such periods)
Number of games where that period was the third: 4
Next closest team: Buffalo, with 2

Highest shooting percentage (goals/shots, at least 10 goals): Andrew Watt, 45.48%
Number of players over 25%: 3 (Watt, Chad Culp – 32.5%, Ryan Benesch – 26.6%)

Number of players with >10 loose balls per game: 4
Number named Snider: 2

Best home attendance average: Colorado, 15,745 per game
Total attendance for all four home games in Washington: 15,974

Number of eastern division teams allowing more than 11 goals/game: 0
Number of western division teams allowing less than 11 goals/game: 0
(Thanks to Casey Vock at the NLL Insider for that one)

The NLL Skills Competition

By Graeme Perrow

2011NLLAllStarLogo The NLL will hold the 2011 All-Star game at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York on February 27, 2011. The game itself is getting some buzz around the league, but what is getting less fanfare is the skills competition the night before. Here are some of the events taking place:

Coaches Cursing: Troy Cordingley and Darris Kilgour are the heavy favourites. Lucky for them Bruce Boudreau is not an NLL coach.

Guess The Next Team Move: Players attempt to guess the next NLL franchise to move or vanish. You get double points if it happens before the end of All-Star weekend.

We are Family: All the players in the league who also have brothers, nephews/uncles, or cousins in the league will be put together for one big lacrosse game. The seven other players in the league will watch.

Random one-on-one: Forwards and defenders are chosen randomly one at a time for a one-on-one. The forward has to get by the defender – the defender that that keeps the forward away the longest wins. Last year’s competition featuring Josh Sanderson against David Morgan had to be cancelled after thirty-six hours, when Sanderson complained that he wasn’t even sure that the net was still there since he hadn’t seen it all day.

Why are you still here? A two-part competition. Part 1: Players guess at the next time one of the Gait brothers re-un-retires. Part 2: Players attempt to determine why. Part one is worth five points, part two is worth five thousand.

Hairball: Players attempt to stop a Paul Rabil shot with only their hair. Bandit Mark Steenhuis is the current record holder, but Edmonton Washington’s Ian Hawksbee will put up a good fight. NLL newcomer Connor Martin might jump into the fray as well, if he can overcome his shyness. Former Mammoth and Albany Attack head coach Bob McMahon will be judging. Brandon Miller declined an invitation to participate.

Goalie 100m dash: Goalies attempt to run 100m in full equipment. A time of less than an hour and a half is considered outstanding. The race is usually won by the cameraman running backwards.

Game Report: Toronto 13 Rochester 6

I was not at the Blue Cross Arena for tonight’s Rock-Knighthawks rematch, so I watched it on I’ve said it before, but major kudos to the NLL for streaming every game live. The picture and audio quality was great, and there were only a couple of network interruptions. The Rock – Knighthawks game is now over and I’m watching the Boston – Minnesota game, and the picture quality is just as good. It ain’t HD by any stretch, but certainly watchable and you can’t beat the price.

Anyway, the Rock have definitely thrown off whatever curse may have been on them in Rochester. After winning only one game in Rochester ever, they’ve now won twice there this season. Once again, the Hawks just couldn’t get anything going. They scored a single goal in each of the first three quarters before “exploding” for three in the fourth. Matt Vinc was downright average, looking even less like the reigning Goalie of the Year than last night. Given that Cody Jamieson seemed pretty pissed in the first quarter and that Shawn Evans tried to pull helmets off both Watson and Phil Sanderson in the fourth and the fact that the Hawks were in danger of getting blown out by the same team two nights in a row, there was surprisingly little chippiness. The Rock took advantage of penalties on both sides, scoring four power play goals and two shorthanded goals – with both shorthanded goals coming less than 40 seconds apart on the same penalty. The Rock’s two shorthanded goals were two more than Rochester scored during Toronto penalties.

Nice to see Mike Hasen and Jeremy Hollenbeck inducted into Knighthawks Hall of Fame before the game.

First quarter

  • Stephen Hoar on a breakaway – didn’t look like that hard a shot but froze Vinc. 1-0 Toronto
  • Rochester fans starting the “Watson… Watson… Watson…. you suck!” a few minutes before their first goal. At that point, no Knighthawk had scored on Watson in well over 30 minutes going back to last night.
  • Shawn Williams scores with less than a minute remaining in the quarter to tie it at 1
  • Rochester fans get Knightingales. Toronto fans get Iggy.

Second quarter

  • Nice passing resulting in a power play goal by Leblanc – 2-1 Rock
  • Jarrett Davis goes five hole to tie it up at 2
  • Kasey Biernes dives across the goal mouth to put the Rock back up by 1. Leblanc is given credit for the goal, though I was sure it was Biernes. Perhaps I was mistaken. Update: I was, but so were they. The goal was later awarded to Billings.
  • Kasey Biernes on the PP with a one-timer past Vinc – Rock 4-2
  • Manning passes from behind the net to Leblanc who buries it to put the Rock up 5-2
  • Jeff Gilbert scores on an empty net, beating Matt Vinc sliding into second base across the crease right at the end of the half – Rock up 6-2

Third quarter

  • Mike Hobbins scores on a shorthanded breakaway. Awesome. 7-2 Toronto
  • Another defender shorthanded goal, this time by Stephen Hoar. 8-2 Rock
  • Mike Accursi from Shawn Evans – 8-3 Rock
  • Garrett Billings goes to his favourite place – top shelf. 9-3 Rock
  • Pascas scoops up a loose ball, feeds to Manning who has all kinds of time to decide how to score. Rock ahead 10-3
  • Rochester fans starting the “Watson… you suck” chant again right after their goalie lets in a goal. Um, it’s 10-3 people.
  • Nice goal by Pascas called back, presumably because his toe was in the crease. Awfully close, but I can’t say they were wrong
  • Another nice diving-across-the-crease goal by Leblanc – 11-3

Fourth quarter

  • Former Rock Scott Campbell with a transition goal opens the scoring in the fourth – 11-4
  • Another Rochester goal – Mike Accursi hits the top corner. 11-5
  • Creighton Reid answers for the Rock – 12-5 Toronto
  • Shawn Evans tries to start something with a Rock defender (Sanderson I think) and they both end up in the crease in front of Watson. Evans ends up grabbing Watson and pulling his helmet off before dropping on top of Sanderson and trying to pull his helmet off. He gets 2 for facemasking and 2 for roughing. No penalty for being a douchebag.
  • Garrett Billings scores Toronto’s fourth PP goal of the night. 13-5
  • Shawn Evans comes out of the box and scores after a nice move on Bryan. He’s still a douchebag. 13-6 Toronto.

Game Review: Toronto 10 Rochester 5

Tonight was the worst. The absolute worst. I’ve been going to Rock games since 2001 and it’s never been as bad as it was tonight. Oh, the game was fine; in fact it was pretty good. I’m talking about the traffic into Toronto from Waterloo. Took me over three hours. Three freakin’ hours. I could have been most of the way to Detroit or over halfway to Ottawa in that time. I left work a little after 4:30, and I think it was quarter to six before I hit 60 km/h. I arrived at the parking lot near the ACC around 7:45.

Anyway, I suppose it’s possible that you, dear reader, are not interested in the fact that it took me three hours to drive to this game, so on to the game report. The Rochester Knighthawks have been an enigma to me for years. They’ve had a ton of offensive talent – Grant, Williams, the Evans boys (who I don’t like, but can’t deny their talent), Gait, Point, Bomberry, Accursi, and now Jamieson, and sometimes they gel and are unstoppable. For example, the entire 2007 season. Other times, this same group of players just can’t seem to put the biscuit in the basket, to quote Bob McCown. For example, tonight’s game against the Toronto Rock. OK, Grant, Gait, one of the Evanses, and Bomberry are no longer there, but the Knighthawks still have a bunch of offensive talent and yet cannot score. I don’t want to take anything away from either the Rock defense or Bob Watson, but the Hawks just couldn’t get anything going at all. Five goals total? Only one in the second half? What are you, the Colorado Mammoth? I’m sorry, Rochester fans, that wasn’t nice.

Watson continues his unbelievable last season in the NLL, winning his 100th career game. Not only is he still a better-than-average goalie at age 40, he’s the best in the league. Nobody has a higher save percentage, and the only goalie with a lower GAA is Angus Goodleaf, who’s only played one game. Watson was his usual outstanding self on this night and his defense was solid as well. The Rock’s transition wasn’t as good as last game, as shown by the fact that there were no goals and only two assists by defensemen. As for the offense, the best word for that would be inconsistent. 80% of the Rock’s goals were scored by Kasey Biernes (5) or Garrett Billings (3). Manning had one accidental goal, and in the first quarter, rookie Aaron Pascas snuck around a couple of defenders and scored his tenth of the year. Manning’s goal was an attempted pass to Kasey Biernes (he already had five at this point, why not pass to him?) but Biernes was covered and couldn’t catch the pass. I saw that Biernes wasn’t going to catch the pass and was in the process of asking Manning “What are you doing?” when the ball trickled by Vinc and into the net. Captain Colin Doyle was kept off the scoreboard entirely, and I have to wonder if that has ever happened to him in his fourteen year career. Stephan Leblanc’s scoring streak was stopped at 23 games, as Leblanc finally experienced a game without scoring for the first time in his career. It’s too bad, since he only had 30-odd more games to go to catch John Grant, whose streak ended tonight at 55 games. Apparently Leblanc was injured during the shoot-around before the game and was given stitches at the bench just before the game, so this might have put him off a bit. I had to be told about this rather than see it because I missed the first eight minutes of the game because it took me three hours to… oh right, sorry.

The Knighthawks really did resemble this year’s Colorado Mammoth, as they had no offense but their defense was strong. Vinc did not look like last year’s Goalie of the Year but did make some pretty amazing saves here and there. Vinc did do one thing that I had never seen before. One Rock player and one KHawk fell into the crease and after Vinc picked up the ball and tossed it to another Hawk, he reached down towards the Rock player lying down – I thought he was going to pound him one, as goaltenders are sometimes wont to do when someone is in their crease, but no. He grabbed the Rock player’s stick out of his hands and made like he was going to toss it away. I think the ref was looking right at him, because he suddenly stopped and gave the stick back. He looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Other notes:

  • Patrick Merrill made a great play to strip the ball from a Knighthawks attacker at the centre line, then ran in on a breakaway… and missed the net entirely.
  • Quote from the guy sitting behind me: “My grandmother didn’t like to watch hockey cause she couldn’t follow the puck. Can you imagine her watching this? We need Foxtrax for this! It’s too fast!”
  • Professional athletes are a superstitious lot, and goaltenders seem to be the most superstitious of the bunch. They all have their little quirks and foibles. Whenever Anthony Cosmo goes out to his net, he faces it and smacks his stick against the posts and crossbar a bunch of times, then turns around and does it some more with his back to the net. Matt Vinc went out to his net, made sure it was in the right position, turned around, and that was it. The fact that he didn’t do anything weird was weird.

These teams meet again tomorrow night in Rochester, so we’ll see how much difference the home field advantage makes to the Knighthawks, who have dominated the Rock in their own barn over the years. The Rock’s victory a month ago and the Championship game in 2003 are the only games Toronto has ever won in Rochester.


As a Christmas present, I bought my sister The Book of Awesome. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote up my own list of awesome things and then started thinking about some lacrosse-related ones, so I decided to put them all together. These aren’t necessarily the best plays or even the most awesome moments in a lacrosse game – obviously your team winning a Championship or an overtime game is awesome, but that’s true in any sport. These are things that make lacrosse unique and make fans sit back, smile, and say “I love this game.”

A John Grant-style over the shoulder goal when you know it was not a fluky “let’s see what happens if I do this” type of play. It’s hard to believe that people like Grant, Doyle, Kelusky, and Tavares can actually aim while doing this, but some people are successful at it too often for it to be pure luck.

When the goalie grabs the ball and launches it most of the length of the floor to a teammate who catches it and scores. Some call it cherry-picking, others call it transition. Bob Watson used to do this to Jim Veltman all the time.

Getting a hug from the ACC usher at the first home game of the season. The same lady (Arlene) has worked our section for most of the last ten years.

Scoring a goal on a breakaway – when your team is shorthanded.

When a non-offensive defender scores on a breakaway. Not talking about guys like Steve Toll, Brodie Merrill, or Mark Steenhuis here, just talking about pure defenders who almost never see the other side of centre. We used to joke about big Dan Ladouceur scoring one goal every other year this way – he’d somehow end up on a breakaway, desperately look around to see who he can pass to and seeing nobody, shoot it himself. Sometimes he’d bury it, but even if he missed the net completely he’d get huge applause.

When a player turns his stick around and scores shooting the “wrong” way. Blaine Manning does this all the time.

When the “hidden ball trick” actually works. I’ve seen players try it many times, and the defenders always see it and point at the guy with the ball. But at the 2002 Heritage Cup game, Gary Gait and John Tavares did it to perfection, and the goalie and all the defenders followed Tavares who ran way off to the right side. Gait was all alone up the middle and just tossed it into the net.

Diving across the crease then shooting behind the goalie while still in the air.

When a defender intercepts a pass. Intercepting passes in hockey is no big deal but it’s way harder in lacrosse. Jim Veltman was a master at this. Actually, Veltman was a master at a lot of things. I miss him.

When a team honours a player on the opposing team. This isn’t unique to lacrosse, but it’s awesome anyway. Teams honouring former players that now play on the opposing team is classy. Toronto did this with all of their former players during their tenth anniversary season, Calgary did it with Tracy Kelusky this year, the Leafs have done it with Mats Sundin on his return, and I’m sure many other teams have done the same. But it’s even more awesome when the player has never played for the home team and is being honoured for a particular achievement or an outstanding career. I was at the first game Cal Ripken played after ending his seventeen-year streak, which happened to be in Toronto, and the Blue Jays honoured him. The Jays players all came out of the dugout to show their respect and Ripken got thunderous applause. A couple of years ago the Rock honoured Tom Marechek after he announced his retirement and the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. And let me tell you, Rock fans don’t stand and applaud Wings players all that often. I love seeing players show their respect by banging their sticks on the floor or the boards.

When your team scores and before the arena announcer has a chance to announce the goal, your team scores again.

The handshake line-up at the end of the game. Hockey players do it at the end of a playoff series. Lacrosse players do it after every single game. That’s awesome.