Six degrees of Bob Watson

I realized the other day that a large number of goaltenders in the NLL have played with Anthony Cosmo. This is not surprising seeing as how he’s been around so long. Then I realized that both he and Mike Poulin are the only goaltenders left in the league who played alongside the great Bob Watson, so it turned into a little game – how many steps is each goalie from Bob Watson?

I’ve gone through the current goaltenders in the league and assigned them a “Whipper number”, defined thusly:

  • Bob Watson has a Whipper number of 0.
  • Anyone else has a Whipper number one greater than the lowest Whipper number of anyone they played with.

GOATSo if you played on a team at the same time as Watson, your Whipper number is 1. If you didn’t but played with someone with a Whipper number of 1, your Whipper number is 2, and so on. If you are familiar the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game or Erdős numbers in mathematics, it’s the same idea.

I decided to limit it to just goaltenders, so Tyler Richards playing with Colin Doyle who played with Whipper doesn’t count.


Anthony Cosmo played with Whipper on the Rock 2001-2004, and Mike Poulin did from 2007-2008.


Christian Del Bianco played with Mike Poulin in 2016, while Frank Scigliano did from 2012-2016. Davide DiRuscio played with Cosmo in 2016. Brodie MacDonald plays with Poulin in Georgia now (2017). Matt Vinc played with Cosmo in San Jose in 2006. Angus Goodleaf played with Cosmo in Buffalo from 2010-2012. Aaron Bold played with Cosmo on San Jose from 2007-2008, and Brandon Miller did from 2005-2006. Nick Rose played with Cosmo on Boston in 2010-2011 and also played with Poulin in Calgary for part of 2012.


Tyler Carlson has played with Aaron Bold on the Rush since 2015. Tyler Richards played with Bold on the San Jose Stealth in 2009. Evan Kirk played with Brandon Miller on the Wings in 2014. Steve Fryer played with Miller on the Wings in 2012 and the Rock in 2014 and 2016.


Tye Belanger played with Evan Kirk on the Black Wolves in 2015-2016. Doug Jamieson plays with Kirk on the Black Wolves now (2017).


Dillon Ward played with Tye Belanger in Colorado in 2014.


Alexis Buque has played with Ward in Colorado since 2015.

So 11 of the 18 goalies in the league (61%) either played with Whipper or played with someone who did. Like I said, this isn’t really surprising, since Watson has only been retired for 5 seasons and both Cosmo and Poulin have each been around for 10+ years and have played in a number of cities.

Next project: six degrees of Mat Giles. Giles played for 12 different teams in 15 seasons and retired in 2013 so I suspect 80% of the league has a Giles number of at most 2.


Illegal substitution or too many men?

A week ago, I wrote about the Crease Violation rule and a number of people told me that it clarified that rule a little. So today I’ll cover another rule that’s frequently misunderstood, Illegal Substitution.

I’ve been asked this question many times in the past: what’s the difference between “illegal substitution” and “too many men”? It came up again last weekend, and my answer was the same as it’s always been: “I dunno”. So I looked over the rule book.

Here’s the thing – according to the rule book, there is no “Too many men” penalty. There is rule 55.3 Too Many Men, but that’s not the description of the penalty, it’s one of the reasons why a goal would be disallowed. The actual rule referring to the case where a team gets this penalty is under Rule 56: Substitution.

Too many men, but I think they'll let this one go

There are three relevant sections: Rule 56.6 says that if the defensive team has too many men on the floor, a delayed penalty is called. Rule 56.7 says that if the offensive team has too many men on the floor ‘for the purpose of a “fast break”‘ then play is stopped and a penalty is given. Rule 56.8 is a little complicated but says that a penalty shot is awarded against the offending team if:

  • insufficient playing time remains in the game to serve the penalty in its entirety (i.e. <2 minutes left in the 4th), OR
  • at any time in overtime, OR
  • the penalty can’t be served in its entirety due to penalties already imposed. I believe this means that if the offending team is already two men down, that’s a penalty shot. But if a team takes any minor penalty when they’re already two men down, that’s a penalty shot.

A violation of the substitution rule, which is Rule 56.4, says that a player entering play must wait for the person he’s replacing to have both feet in the substitution area in front of the bench. Usually if the player is pretty close and the actual play isn’t anywhere near the benches, they’ll let it go. A violation of that rule where the player coming off only has one foot in the box or is a yard away from the box would likely be called “illegal substitution”. If a player leaves the box when the player he’s replacing is twenty feet away, the ref is more likely to call it “too many men”. Anywhere in between, who knows.

So the long and the short of it is: the actual rule is called “illegal substitution”. Sometimes the refs announce the penalty as “illegal substitution” and sometimes it’s “too many men”. They’re the same thing.

Game report: Georgia 13 @ Toronto 12 (OT)

What a heartbreaker. But what a great game. The matchup for top position in the East was everything we hoped it would be – close, defensive, fast-paced, and with some beautiful passing and scoring at both ends. Goaltending was solid, there were some nice transition plays, a number of penalties but nothing crazy (though one had a fairly major impact on the outcome), and we even got some free extra lacrosse at the end, though only 46 seconds of it.


Latrell at the draft

  • Both defenses. This seems weird since each team took over 60 shots. But there seemed to be a lot of shot clock violations and constant passing around because nobody had a decent look at the net.
  • Tom Schreiber. Does it get boring saying this guy’s name every week? As a Rock fan, I say no. One play he made in the first quarter was similar to a play from last week, where Schreiber ran at the net like he had a couple of times previously, taking a couple of defenders with him. He then casually flipped it back to a wide open Brett Hickey who buried it. This time, he actually dove towards the side of the net, looking like he was trying to tuck it in between Poulin and the left post, but instead flipped it back to Dan Lintner who buried it while Schreiber was still in the air over the crease. Very slick.
  • Thompson brothers. Again, we mention these guys week as being awesome after week on Addicted to Lacrosse but it continues to be true. Each just knows where the others are going to be and I’m kind of surprised that the Miles-from-Lyle-and-Jerome goal in the third quarter was the first goal this year featuring all three of them. Actually, I checked and this is the only goal since 2005 featuring three players with the same last name, which means that neither the Gajic nor the Morgan brothers ever did it. The Kilgours (Travis, Darris, Richie) all played together on Buffalo from 1995-1999 but I don’t have goal stats going back that far.
  • Kieran McArdle – he scored the same goal three times: a laser from about 20 feet out and a little to the goalie’s left.
  • Latrell Harris. He played a solid game and then topped it off by giving the Rock a one-goal lead (finally! Harris scores on a breakaway) with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter. The elation lasted twelve seconds (see below).
  • Overtime! Who doesn’t love overtime! Well, I know a couple of people who get very stressed during OT and don’t like it. But I do!
  • Chad Tutton shot while on the run and then was hit into the crease, landing at Nick Rose’s feet. This tripped Rose up and he landed on Tutton, but not before making the save. Rose, as you may know, is a big guy. After Rose got up, Tutton got up, patted Rose on the shoulder, and headed to the bench. Not sure if he was saying “nice save” or if Rose apologized and Tutton was saying “don’t worry, I’m fine” but either way, it was nice to see that kind of sportsmanship. It was also nice to see the defenders not lose their minds because an opposing player hit their goalie accidentally.

Not awesome

  • Mike Poulin. Poulin was not terrible by any stretch, but he seemed to get fooled a lot. There were a number of shots where he’d make the save, and then look around frantically because he didn’t know where the ball was. At least twice it dropped behind him and he stopped it from going in the net or it rolled just wide. In one case, he saved most of it, but then danced around a little to try and get control of it, and it actually did bounce into the net. The ref had already whistled play dead so it didn’t count. But seeing as Poulin never really had control of the ball, play probably should not have been stopped and the goal should have counted.
  • Latrell Harris – The very next play after his tie-breaking goal, the Swarm win the faceoff and Harris chases down the player with the ball, and is called for interference. Not quite the worst time to take a penalty, but… actually that might have been the worst time to take a penalty. So the Swarm are down by one but are now on the power play with a minute left in the fourth quarter. Of course they pull their goalie to go 6-on-4. Shayne Jackson scores the tying goal with 3.9 seconds left.

Other game notes

  • Teddy Jenner made a great point on twitter after the game:

    Powless comes off the IR from concussion symptoms and scores the game winner in over-time; teammates immediately smack him on the head
    Teddy Jenner (@OffTheCrossebar)

  • For the upcoming Star Wars night, they played some ads featuring Rock players. One was wearing a Darth Vader mask and “force-choked” another, still another did his best Chewbacca impersonation. The ads were just terrible. And great. Or possibly great because they were terrible.
  • Two different people asked me whether women’s lacrosse features a “too many men” penalty. Is it “too many players”? Or “too many women”? I have no idea. Anyone out there know?

Clarifying the crease violation rule

It’s a rule we all know. It’s tested in every single game and although breaking it will disappoint your teammates and fans, nobody will head to the penalty box or dressing room. In a nutshell, the rule is “If you’re in the crease, any goal scored by your team doesn’t count”. If a player shoots while standing in the crease, even if his toes are just touching the crease line, no goal. If it’s his teammate who’s in or touching the crease, no goal. If he shoots while jumping and lands before the ball goes in, no goal. Easy, right? Actually there’s a little more to Rule #67.

The NLL rule book is available online (the 2017 version is here, at time of writing) so if you want to see the actual wording of the rule, go have a look. I’ll summarize some of the parts of the rule here and then we’ll look at what it all means.

Rule 67: Goal-crease violation

67.1 Attacking player in crease

If the guy with the ball touches the crease or crease line, his team loses possession. It doesn’t say “touching the ground” but that’s the implication; jumping over the crease is fine.

67.2 Attacking player first touch / interfere after shot on goal

If you shoot and your momentum takes you into the crease but you immediately step out, everything is copacetic as long as you’re not the first person to touch the ball or interfere with a defender afterwards. However, it refers to touching the ball after you get out of the crease; it’s not clear what happens if the ball goes in the net. Rule 55.2 says “A Crease Violation will result in a no goal. See Crease Violation Rule 67.” Rule 67.2 says that if you immediately step out of the crease (and don’t touch the ball first, which won’t happen if you score), you are not in violation of the rule which implies that any goal scored in such a situation would count. We’ll come back to this.

67.3 Attacking player in crease to gain advantage

If you (as an attacker but without the ball) go into the crease and then leave it, and doing this gives you an advantage (as decided by the ref), and then you grab the ball or interfere with a defender, your team loses possession. I believe an example would be if you go through the crease to get around a pick.

67.4 Attacking player in crease to gain advantage on defender

Same as the previous rule but if you initiate contact with an opposing player who has the ball, that’s a delay of game penalty rather than just a change of possession. We saw this called on Dhane Smith at last week’s game in Toronto – it was called as “Delay of Game – checking through the crease” and nobody had any idea what it meant.

67.5 Non shooter in crease when teammate shoots

The title is a little misleading. If any member of the attacking team is in the crease when the ball crosses the goal line, the goal does not count. It has nothing to do with when the shooter shoots. In a recent Toronto Rock game, a Rock player shot while another Rock player was in the crease but the ball hit the goalie and slowly trickled over the line. After a review, the refs determined that the non-shooter had left the crease by the time the ball went in so the goal counted.

67.6 Shooter in crease prior to ball crossing goal line

This is the one we’re all familiar with. If you shoot and any part of you is in contact with the crease before the ball goes in, the goal does not count. This one is slightly more explicit than 67.1; it does say you need to be touching the ground. Shooting while in the air over the crease is fine as long as it goes in before you land – just ask Mark Matthews, Curtis Dickson, or any of the dozens of other players who like to score while diving through the crease.

<waves arms, points downwards>

There’s an addendum which is oddly specific: if you shoot and the ball hits the goalie and then hits a defender and then goes in, it counts as long as the shooter is out of the crease by the time the ball crosses the line. We’ll get back to this one as well.

What does it all mean?

There are actually nine more sections of this rule, all the way up to 67.15, but I’m just looking at the ones above. For the most part, the rule says what we expect: if you or anyone else on your team is touching the ground in the crease (including the crease line) at the moment the ball crosses the goal line, the goal does not count. If you intentionally step into the opponent’s crease with or without the ball, it’s either a loss of possession or a penalty. If you accidentally step in and immediately get out (and you don’t have the ball), that’s OK.

The confusing part for me is the apparent contradiction between rules 67.2 and 67.6. We have:

  1. Rule 67.2 implies (but doesn’t say explicitly) that if you shoot, step in, get out, and then the ball crosses the line in that order, the goal counts.
  2. The first part of 67.6 says that if you step in the crease before the ball crosses the goal line, the goes does not count.
  3. The second part of 67.6 says that if you shoot, step in and then out, the ball hits the goalie and a defender and then goes in after you’ve stepped out, then it does count.

#1 and #2 together seem to contradict each other, but it could be that #1 covers the case where the shooter has time to get out of the crease before the ball goes in, while #2 covers the case where he does not.

But if #1 is true, why is #3 listed at all, since it’s just a special case of #1? It’s like having rules saying (a) “If you’re driving over 50 km/h in a school zone, you get a fine” and (b) “If you’re driving over 50 km/h in a school zone and your car is red, you get a fine”. But doesn’t (b) imply that you do not get a fine if you’re speeding in a green car? No, because (b) is covered by (a). (b) is not necessary at all and doesn’t clarify anything; it only serves to add confusion.

Update: In at least two and possibly three games in the week since this article was published, a shooter has stepped into and out of the crease after shooting but before the ball crossed the line. In every case, the goal was waved off. Perhaps it’s just me who thinks the rule is not explicit, but It seems clear how the refs are interpreting this rule.

Also, why does a defender need to be involved? Why that specific order? What if it hits the goalie but not a defender? What if it hits the defender first and then the goalie? As long as the shooter is out of the crease by the time the ball crosses the line, it seems that rule 67.2 should mean the goal counts in any of these cases, but we don’t know for sure. It’s a rare situation but it would be nice if this rule was clarified.

So there you have it, the crease violation rule. Clear as mud, right?

Now, here’s a question not answered by the rule book: if I score while my teammate is just barely touching the crease line behind the net, the goal doesn’t count. Clearly my teammate’s toes in no way affected the goalie’s ability to stop the ball and didn’t give me any sort of unfair advantage. So why is the goal disallowed? And don’t say “because of rule 67.5” – I mean why does the rule exist? Why can’t the ref wave it off and say that the player’s “presence” in the crease had no effect on the play so the goal counts? That’s an exercise left for the reader.

Game report: Buffalo 10 at Toronto 18

I kind of liked the awesome / not awesome thing I did for last week’s Rock game report, so here we go again:


  • Dominant performance by the Rock. Nick Rose was… well, awesome. The defense was excellent, limiting the Bandits to only 48 shots. The transition was strong, and the offense looked great. Just a great performance all around.
  • Back during the Rock’s early-2000’s dynasty, critics talked about their power play as nigh-unstoppable but they really didn’t score a lot of goals 5-on-5. On Friday, the Rock scored 18 goals and 16 of them were 5-on-5. Of course, that means that only two were on the power play. Hmmm… (see below)
  • Tom Schreiber. Three goals, seven assists, tons of hustle, and he looks like he’s been playing box lacrosse all his life. As I read on twitter, imagine how good he’d be if he had been. Props also to Stephen Leblanc with two goals and seven assists, and I thought Dan Lintner had a great game as well.
  • I watched Brodie Merrill a lot during this game for some reason, and re-discovered why he’s considered one of the best in the game. Nothing flashy but he seems to see the floor so well and makes an awful lot of very smart plays. (Note that the picture below is not from last Friday’s game. Fighting Steve Priolo isn’t what I’d call a smart play, but props for having the cojones to take him on.)
  • Mark Steenhuis is still a beast on the PK. Give him the ball and he’ll just run around for 30 seconds, regardless of how many people are hanging on him.

Photo credit: Bill Whippert

Not Awesome

  • Rock power play. Only two PP goals when it seemed the Bandits spent half the game in the box. They had a full two minute 5-on-3 and couldn’t score.
  • Bandits offense just couldn’t get it going. No Bandit had more than three points, and the Rock kept Dhane Smith to 2/0 and Ryan Benesch to 1/2.
  • Lots of penalties, mostly by the Bandits. Brett Hickey got a penalty for something (though I missed what) and Billy Dee Smith got one for punching Hickey on his way back to the bench. Thing is, at least two other Bandits punched Hickey while he ran by their bench. That’s also “intentional contact – dead ball”.
  • Not all of the penalties were warranted. Kedoh Hill got one for goalie interference that looked entirely unintentional to me. Mitch de Snoo got a five-minute major for a high hit but I didn’t think it was worth 5 minutes.
  • Attendance. Only 8319 at this game. Games against the Bandits (located close, long rivalry) should draw more, shouldn’t they? Read last night that this was the 6th lowest attendance in Rock history and something like five of the lowest eight were against the Bandits. I don’t get it.


Other game notes:

  • Dhane Smith got called for “Delay of game: checking through the crease”. This is rule 67.4: “Attacking player in crease to gain advantage on defender”. I have a blog post coming up soon describing rule 67 in detail, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen this one called.
  • The Bandits did not line up on the restraining line for the national anthems; they stood in a group around the net. I actually thought this was kind of cool.
  • My friend Jeff told me to call my buddy Jamie (Rock owner Dawick) and tell him to tell the video guy not to show replays of Buffalo goals, or close Rock goals. Sorry Jeff, it’s a new league rule: replays of all goals must be shown. I can only assume that the league read this article from last year and acted accordingly.