On December 18, the Toronto Rock held their first-ever town hall meeting, where season ticket holders were invited to come to the new Toronto Rock Athletic Complex in Oakville and ask questions about the facility, the franchise, or the team itself (or some other team, as you’ll read later) and have them answered by Rock executives and players. This was a great way for the fans to feel more connected to the team and more importantly, listened to by the team. Of course, not every suggestion will lead directly to a change, but owner Jamie Dawick seemed very sincere in his desire to hear what the fans have to say. That was, after all, the whole point of the meeting. All the top brass were there – Dawick, GM Terry Sanderson, Head Coach Troy Cordingley, and players Colin Doyle, Nick Rose, and Garrett Billings.
I attended this meeting and even brought a notepad with me, but for some reason I didn’t think to write down the questions and answers as they were asked, so I’m going by memory here. To readers who were also there, please feel free to leave a comment on this article if I’ve missed something or you remember something differently than I do.
As we walked in the door, we were directed into the Rock dressing room, where all the players’ equipment and jerseys were neatly laid out:
I tried to figure out what order the players were listed in but couldn’t – it wasn’t alphabetic, it wasn’t by jersey number, it wasn’t by length of time with the team. The goalies were all together in one corner, and each goalie locker was twice the width of the regular ones. Here are a couple of pictures to illustrate the difference in size between Colin Doyle’s locker and that of goalie Tyler Glebe:
After perusing the dressing room, we made our way onto the practice floor. There was a table set up for distributing season tickets, and another selling Rock merchandise. In the middle of the floor, there was a stage and chairs set up, and shortly after 7:00pm, they got things started.
Dawick talked for a little while, just explaining the purpose of the town hall. He talked, almost bragged (justifiably!) about the new practice facility and how it was the new home of the Rock – not only where the team practices and trains (the gym overlooks the floor and is run by Sean Holmes, the Rock’s trainer), but it’s also the company headquarters. Colin Doyle piped up at this point to echo Jamie’s comments about how this was a professional facility and the best he’s seen anywhere. Rose and Billings also agreed and one of them (don’t remember which) said that they were spoiled and almost felt sorry for members of other teams. Doyle finished this part by saying “It’s way better than San Jose.”
Once Jamie finished talking, they opened the floor for questions for him. Most of the questions for Jamie involved things like advertising and taking advantage of the NHL lockout, the in-game experience, and games on TV. He mentioned that there is a potential ownership group in Montreal, though he didn’t expand on that. He was asked about the anthem singers this past season and how all but one or two of them were terrible. I don’t remember them being all that bad, except one which he did specifically mention. Without making excuses for Josie Dye, he said that they do have an audition process and don’t just let anyone get up and sing, but singing in front of a handful of people in an audition is very different from singing it in front of 15,000 people at the ACC. That said, they have hired a full-time anthem singer for the upcoming season.
Jamie also said that there will be a TV deal with TSN/TSN2 this year, for ten games. He couldn’t remember if it was 6 home 4 away or 5 of each, but this is great news. He said that getting on TV was very important to them, and getting national coverage is even better.
The next set of questions were aimed at Terry and Troy. They only got a few questions, none of which I can remember. This is why I’m a blogger and not a reporter.
The final group of questions were for the players. There was one about balancing your lacrosse career with your “regular” job. Colin Doyle is a teacher (though he admitted that he thinks of himself as a lacrosse player who also teaches, not the other way around) and both Billings and Rose work for the Rock.
There was one about how to get lacrosse into the schools, and Colin responded saying that they’ve had a program like this for years. A player or two will come to the school with sticks and balls for a class (which the school keeps), and then spends a period showing them the basic skills. Colin said he’d been told by a number of kids that it was the best gym class ever.
Another question, more of a comment, was aimed at Nick Rose, from a guy whose son is a midget lacrosse goalie. He mentioned a few tips that his son had received from his coaches, things like “Keep moving back and forth so shooters have nowhere to shoot”. I’m sure Nick, who has several years of NLL and WLA experience; is one of nine starting goaltenders in the highest-level indoor lacrosse league in the world; and was the WLA goaltender of the year and MVP this past summer, appreciated the goaltending advice.
Someone asked why we never see Rock forwards crashing the net and getting in close anymore, and Colin explained the pressure defense that most teams are using now. He said that Troy and Darris Kilgour basically invented it in Buffalo a few years ago and almost everyone uses it now. (He mentioned that Colorado and Philly do not but Rochester, Buffalo, Edmonton, and Calgary do.) Garrett said they’ve basically taken away the pick-and-roll and gave a specific example – something like “If Kasey Beirnes sets a pick for me in the middle and then tries to get inside for me to pass it to him, I know he’s going to get destroyed.” Troy, who won three championships in four years using this method, just said “Sorry.”
I even asked a question myself. The Knighthawks had a definite #1 offensive guy last year, and now they’ve added two superstar offensive players, possibly dropping Jamieson to #3. How might that affect team chemistry? I think I worded it badly, because in retrospect it kind of sounded like “How do you think the Knighthawks will do this year?” which is not what I meant at all. I should basically have asked “Is the concept of team chemistry a real thing, or by the time you get to the NLL level is that not really an issue?” Doyle didn’t answer the second question directly (since I didn’t ask it directly), but indirectly I’d have to take it as a “yes, it’s a real thing”. Doyle said that we saw something similar in Boston which didn’t work, but they definitely have to take the Knighthawks seriously because it might. Garrett Billings then chimed in and just said “I hope they tank.”
Thanks to Jamie, Terry, Troy, Nick, Garrett, and Colin (plus the Rock cheerleaders, Rock PR dude Mike Hancock, and the rest of the Rock staff involved) for creating this great event. I imagine this will be a once-a-year thing, though maybe they can hold another at the end of the season, so the fans can talk about what they liked and didn’t like while it’s still fresh in our minds. It could pay off for the Rock as well – maybe there’ll be someone there who can give Terry some advice on being an effective GM.