My first real memory of Josh Sanderson was the 2002 Championship game. It was my second season watching the Toronto Rock, and the Rock went to the Championship game for the fourth straight year. The Rock finished the season 11-5 but were playing the 14-2 Albany Attack. The game was in Albany but was on TV so I met all my lacrosse buds at my friend Steve’s house to watch the game there. The Rock won the game 13-12 thanks to a few goals from some unlikely sources: defensive guys like Dan Ladouceur, Drew Candy, and Ian Rubel.
Aside: That Rock team also featured five current NLL head or assistant coaches in Dan Stroup, Pat Coyle, Glenn Clark, Blaine Manning, and Jim Veltman, and one former coach in Dan Ladouceur. Other coaches Chris Gill and Kaleb Toth were on the team the previous year. Colin Doyle, Anthony Cosmo, and Sandy Chapman are the only remaining active players from that team.
But back to the 2002 Championship. Another thing I remember was the play of Albany’s Josh Sanderson. I knew who he was, since he was one of the league’s leading scorers. He had picked up 103 points during the regular season, finishing fourth in scoring. But in the Championship game, he picked up 10 points and was the clear offensive leader of the team. At the time I even thought he should have been named game MVP, despite being on the losing team. I also remember an interview he gave after that game, in which he criticized the people of Albany for not coming out to support the team.
After another season in Albany, the Attack began their migrant ways (as ill-timed as Josh’s comments were, they were correct) and moved to San Jose but in the summer of 2004, Sanderson was traded to Toronto in a deal that came to be known to Rock fans (for a while anyway) simply as The Trade. Adding Sanderson to Colin Doyle and Blaine Manning was (not unexpectedly) genius and the Rock, with one of the strongest offensive teams in NLL history, won the Championship in 2005. Sanderson, Doyle, and Manning became the first trio of teammates to eclipse 100 points in a season, a feat that has still not been repeated.
If there was one thing he was occasionally criticized for (sometimes by me), it was taking his time getting back to the bench on the O-to-D transition. Instead of running (or sprinting a la Sandy Chapman) to the bench to let the D get out there, Josh would casually saunter back. He also wasn’t the greatest defender in the game – I remember seeing him get caught on the floor and have to play some D and wishing the other Sanderson (Phil) was out there instead of Josh. But even that got better over the years. By the end of his career, I still wouldn’t have called him a great defender but he could certainly hold his own at the other end of the floor – though perhaps less so against the 6’5″+ Crowleys and Dawsons and Matthewses of the league.
I have more to say about Mr. Sanderson, but I’ll leave the rest until tomorrow. Until then, enjoy this overtime goal from 2015.