NLL Week 1

Finally, the NLL is back! In previous years, I wrote an article on each game I attended (last season, not so much) but I saved the commentary on other games and such for the Addicted to Lacrosse podcast, which I hosted for about eight years along with Tyler Fitch and Melissa Dafni. We’re not doing that anymore, so I need a place to vent talk about the goings-on in the league, so that’s here. I’ll do a wrap-up article each week, summarizing my thoughts on what happened the previous weekend.

I’m going to do this using an Awesome / Not Awesome format like we used to do on Addicted to Lacrosse. Awesome is, obviously, things that were awesome. Not awesome is everything else – not necessarily things that suck, though they’d be included, but there may also be things that happened that I’m just not sure about. In general, I try to be positive and have more awesomes than not, but I can’t guarantee that.

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Game report: Albany @ Toronto

Saturday night began the next chapter in the story of the Toronto Rock, their first game at the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton. The team made no secret of the fact that this was a cost-cutting measure; Scotiabank Arena is one of the most expensive arenas in North America to rent, and owner Jamie Dawick has said that he needed attendance of 12k just to break even there. That requirement is almost certainly lower at First Ontario Centre.

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2022: Who’s in, Who’s out

Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.

Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2020 (eg. Dhane Smith). And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”. Not all teams have announced who’s on their IR, PUP, or holdout lists so take “None” with a grain of salt.

Teams and players are each listed in alphabetical order. This article will be updated as things change up until about a week into the season.

FireWolvesAlbany FireWolves

In: Curtis Conley, Charlie Kitchen, Jacob Ruest, Adrian Sorichetti, Tanner Thomson, Garrett Thul
Out: Adam Bomberry, Callum Crawford, Mack Mitchell, Tristain Rai, Creighton Reid
IR: Eric Shewell
PUP: Adam Bomberry
Holdout: Johnny Pearson
Practice Roster: Jackson Brown, Curtis Romanchych, Brad Smith


BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Kyle Buchanan, Connor Fields, Brad McCulley, Tehoka Nanticoke, Ethan O’Connor, Justin Robinson, Devlin Shanahan, Dhane Smith, Jordan Stouros
Out: Garrett Billings, Frank Brown, Doug Buchan, Mitch de Snoo, Matt Gilray, Jon Harnett, Dan Lintner, Ian MacKay, Corey Small
IR: None
PUP: Frank Brown, Ian MacKay
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Tye Argent, Nolan Clayton, Sam LaRoue, Dalton Sulver


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Tanner Cook, Landon Kells, Jesse King, Marshal King, Liam LeClair, Harrison Matsuoka, Carter McKenzie, Andrew Mullen, Ethan Ticehurst, Kyle Waters
Out: Tyson Bell, Tyler Burton, Chad Cummings, Dane Dobbie, Dereck Downs, Rhys Duch, Greg Harnett, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace, Tyler Richards
IR: Tyler Burton
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Adam Bland, Lyndon Bunio, Tyler Pace, Cole Pickup


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Jalen Chaster, Ron John, Sam LeClair, Connor Robinson, Erik Turner, Zed Williams
Out: Dan Coates, Brett Craig, Kyle Killen, Jake McNabb, Jacob Ruest, Jeff Wittig
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Nate Faccin, Noah Lebar, Brett McIntyre


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Tanner Buck, TJ Comizio, Vaughn Harris, Jeff Henrick, Robert Hudson, Connor Kirst, Ethan Riggs, Thomas Semple, Ethan Walker, Craig Wende
Out: Alex Crepinsek, Zach Miller, Jason Noble, Kevin Orleman, Connor Sellars, Randy Staats, Leo Stouros, Miles Thompson, Zed Williams
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Laine Hruska, Russ Oakes, Aden Walsh


ThunderbirdsHalifax Thunderbirds

In: David Brock, Rhys Duch, Aaron Bold, Stephen Leblanc, Tyson Bell
Out: James Barclay, Ryan Benesch, Mike Burke, Pete Dubenski, Chet Koneczny
IR: James Barclay
PUP: None
Holdout: Brandon Robinson
Practice Roster: Cory Becker, Braden Hill, Ryan Terefenko, Connor Watson


RiptideNew York Riptide

In: Andrew Borgatti, Callum Crawford, Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, Leroy Halftown, Connor Keanan, Matt Marinier, Mack Mitchell, Steven Orleman, Adam Perroni, Darryl Robertson, Leo Stouros, Larson Sundown, Jeff Teat, Jay Thorimbert, Bryce Tolmie
Out: Tyson Bomberry, Alex Buque, Jean-Luc Chetner, Ryan Fournier, Scott Johnston, Myles Jones, Connor Kelly, Dan Lomas, Travis Longboat, Cody Radziewicz, John Ranagan, Pat Saunders, Ethan Schott, Andrew Suitor, John Wagner, Alex Woodall
IR: Ryan Fournier
PUP: Dan Lomas
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Will Johnston, Ty Thompson, Kris Veltman


Panther CityPanther City LC

In: Everybody
Out: Nobody
IR: Harrison Smith
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Taite Cattoni, Cam MacLeod, Ryan McLean, Liam Phillips


WingsPhiladelphia Wings

In: Alex Crepinsek, Angus Goodleaf, Kyle Marr, Ben McIntosh, John Ranagan, Jackson Suboch, Corey Small
Out: Kevin Buchanan, Liam Byrnes, Josh Currier, Brandon Miller, Liam Patten, Eric Shewell, Nate Wade
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: ?


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

In: Charlie Bertrand, Dan Coates, Shawn Evans, Matt Gilray, Thomas Hoggarth, Evan Kirk, Ryan Smith, John Wagner, Jeff Wittig
Out: Dallas Bridle, Dylan Evans, Steve Fryer, Julian Garritano, Dan Michel, Liam Osborne, Darryl Robertson, Craig Wende
IR: None
PUP: Mike Manley
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Tyler Halls, Mitch Ogilvie, Joel Watson


SealsSan Diego Seals

In: Dane Dobbie, Jacob Dunbar, Tre Leclaire, Mac O’Keefe, Patrick Shoemay, Chris Origlieri
Out: Kyle Buchanan, Nick Damude, Connor Fields, Connor Kearnan, Garrett MacIntosh, Austin Staats
IR: Tyler Garrison, Mikie Schlosser, Austin Staats
PUP: Tyson Bomberry, Jay Carlson, Teddy Leggett, Danny Logan, Devyn Mayea, Mike McCannell
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Mathieu Biossenault, Reed Rezanka, Skylar Whinery


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Matt Beers, Josh Currier, Pete Dubenski, Bobby Kidd, Dan Lintner, Mike Mallory, Connor McClelland, Marshall Powless, Tristan Rai
Out: Travis Cornwall, Marty Dinsdale, Matt Hossack, Evan Kirk, Ben McIntosh, Austin Murphy, Connor Robinson, Justin Robinson, Jeremy Thompson
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Cameron Dunkerley, Clark Walter, Keegan White


RockToronto Rock

In: Mitch de Snoo, Jamieson Dilks, Aaron Forster, Latrell Harris, Jason Noble, Justin Scott, Brandon Slade, Chris Weier
Out: David Brock, Sheldon Burns, Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, Johnny Powless, Taylor Stuart, Alec Tulett
IR: Sheldon Burns
PUP: TD Ierlan
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Troy Holowchuk, Phil Mazzuca, Jordan McKenna


WarriorsVancouver Warriors

In: Reid Bowering, Alex Buque, Adam Charalambides, Marty Dinsdale, Steve Fryer, Anthony Kalinich, Kyle Killen, Garrett McIntosh, Brett Mydske, Justin Salt
Out: Matt Beers, Keegan Bell, Lyndon Bunio, Sam Clare, Nolan Clayton, Ian Hawksbee, Mike Mallory, Chris O’Dougherty, Eric Penney
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Keegan Bell, Isaac Bot, Brody Harris, Ryan Martel


The Rock Relocate: Thoughts from a Hamiltonian

It’s a little bit of hyperbole, but not a lot: the lacrosse landscape in southern Ontario changed dramatically this week.

Of course, we all know now that the Toronto Rock are sort-of relocating, and by “sort-of” I mean that they are remaining the Toronto Rock but will be playing their home games in Hamilton for at least the next five years. The jersey and logo will be the same, the staff and roster will be the same, everything to do with the TRAC will be the same, but when the team bus leaves the TRAC for home games, it’ll head west on the QEW instead of east.

For me personally, this is great news. I live in Waterdown, which is part of the city of Hamilton, and my house is about 10 km from the First Ontario Centre. If a game ends at 10:30pm, I’m easily home by 11, and that’s if I stroll to the parking garage. There are not that many people who can say that the relocation of their nearest NLL team is good news, but I imagine Rock fans anywhere from Oakville to Kitchener-Waterloo to Six Nations are all pretty pleased with this move. Fans in Banditland who like to cross the border for Rock games just found their travel time cut in half.

Downtown Hamilton

(Image: downtown Hamilton. The tall black building in the middle is Stelco Tower. Just to the left of it, you can see part of the white roof of the First Ontario Centre.)

Of course, that’s not the case for thousands of others coming from north or east of Toronto. I know my friends in Newmarket and Stouffville have decisions to make, not to mention my friends downtown who used to be able to walk home after Rock games. There are likely a ton of people from Peterborough who are willing to make the hour-and-a-half-in-good-traffic drive downtown for Rock games, and they will all have to decide if they are willing to add an extra hour-in-good-traffic to each direction of that trip. Remember too that most NLL games occur in the dead of winter, and so the “in-good-traffic” part can really come into play.

The Rock have said that they plan to have most home games on Saturday evenings, so the Monday-Friday 9-5 crowd won’t have to worry so much about getting from work to the arena. But make no mistake, I’m not dismissing the additional travelling a great many fans will have to do if they want to see the games in person. It’s a big deal and I wouldn’t blame anyone for deciding to either scale back from season tickets to going to a game or two per season, or just not going at all.

Rock owner and GM Jamie Dawick said that ticket prices will be lower in Hamilton, and things like parking and concessions will be cheaper as well. I am looking forward to paying less than $6 for a can-sized bottle of Coke Zero.

The Rock are returning to the same place where the franchise began, as the Ontario Raiders back in 1998. But they only played there a year before moving to Toronto where their popularity skyrocketed. But after five Championships and seven straight years of 15,000+ attendance, the Rock’s numbers dropped to around 10,000 in 2010, and haven’t recovered, which brings us to where we are now. I’m pretty sure Dawick said a few years ago that he needs attendance of 10,000 per game just to break even. [Aside: I have a feeling I’m misremembering that and the number is actually higher.]

Half of the 65 Rock home games since 2015 have been below 10k and only two have been above 12k. Surely nobody expects Dawick to continue losing tons of money every year renting the Scotiabank Arena. Does it suck for many Rock fans who don’t live west of the city? Absolutely it does, but it’s a business decision. I’m impressed he stuck it out this long.

Another odd part of this whole scenario is the fact that Toronto and Hamilton have been sports rivals forever, mainly the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This is a rivalry that compares to that of the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, and so I’ve seen comments that this endeavour will fail because any real Hamiltonian wouldn’t be caught dead supporting a team with Toronto in the name.

But I’ve lived in Hamilton for almost 25 years. I don’t buy it.

No, I don’t see a lot of Argos gear around town, but that’s because Hamilton has its own team. I do see Leafs, Blue Jays, and Raptors gear all over the place. I personally have worn shirts and jerseys from all three of those teams (plus the Rock of course, and I even have a Toronto FC hat), and nobody in Hamilton has ever mentioned anything to me about having a problem supporting Toronto teams.

Nonetheless, the fact that a team with Toronto in the name will play its home games in Hamilton is a little unusual. According to people on twitter, only the San Francisco 49ers play their home games further away from the city they’re named for (in a normal non-pandemic year, anyway). Now, the Vancouver Stealth didn’t pull in great numbers when they played 40 km away from Vancouver in Langley, but let’s be honest, the team wasn’t very good. The Chicago Shamrox also didn’t pack the building in Hoffman Estates, 53 km away, but they weren’t great either and they were only given two seasons to figure it out.

The Rock were 7-4 during 2020’s partial season and 12-6 in 2019. There’s no reason to believe they won’t at least contend in the North division next season. The team may not be the powerhouse team they were in Toronto in 1999, but Toronto fans who make their way down the QEW for Rock games next season should still see a strong team and entertaining games. Other than transportation costs, they’ll also spend less money to do it.

I have intentionally refrained from making any predictions about how successful the team will be in Hamilton. The Ontario Raiders averaged 4,810 people per game in 1998. But that was an expansion team in an unknown league. Thanks to 22 seasons of the Toronto Rock, the lacrosse scene in southern Ontario is quite different now, and so I don’t think comparisons to the Raiders are really meaningful. Even if they don’t pack the building every night, the lower arena costs will hopefully mean the team can stay alive. Moving the team to Hamilton may not be good news for many Rock fans, but I’m sure most will agree that it’s preferable to losing the team entirely.

I did not grow up watching the Rock play. I was in my early thirties before I ever saw a lacrosse game. But an entire generation of lacrosse players, broadcasters, and fans have grown up in southern Ontario with the Rock as a major part of their lacrosse world. Things will be different going forward but hopefully the new location will allow the Rock to continue to be a huge influence on the lacrosse community in this area.

NLL team movement: Here we go again?

It was announced on Monday (and the league confirmed it on Tuesday) that the New England Black Wolves will be relocating to Albany for the 2021-2022 season.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

OK, maybe that snarky comment is a little unfair since we haven’t had nearly the team movement over the past ten seasons or so as we did over the previous… all of them.

In the ten years from 2002-2011, the NLL added 11 teams, remove 10, and relocated 5. Not a single season began with the exact same teams as the previous year. In fact, in the nineteen seasons from 1994-2012, there were no consecutive seasons with the same teams. At least one team was added, moved, or folded every single year. “Stability” was not a word the NLL was familiar with at the time.

In contrast, from 2012-2021, there were four teams added (Philly, San Diego, Rochester, New York, plus Panther City coming next year), one removed (Boston), and five relocations (six if you include the Vancouver Stealth becoming the Vancouver Warriors). There were three seasons in that time where the number and location of teams didn’t change from the previous season, and for the first time in the thirty-year history of the league, we had three consecutive seasons (2016-2018) with the same teams.

But back to New England. No reason was given by the Black Wolves ownership group for selling the team, but it’s very likely the same reason as the sale of just about every other team: they were losing money. It’s no secret that attendance in New England wasn’t stellar. Most games in Buffalo or Calgary had double the attendance of your average Black Wolves home game, and most games in Saskatchewan had triple.

Aside: the Mohegan Sun group (owners of the Black Wolves) made no secret of the fact that they bought the team mainly to bring more people into the casino, or at least have them spend more time (and thus money) there. The COVID-19 pandemic likely cut Mohegan Sun’s revenue significantly, and so it likely played a big role in this decision, but we have no way to know. I’m not going to pretend that attendance was the only reason for selling the team, but it’s the only real numbers we have.

Photo credit: Sarah Gordon, TheDay.com

In their six seasons in New England, the Black Wolves averaged 4,871 fans per home game. This is 35th overall in the history of NLL teams, which is not great but it’s ahead of 11 other teams including the New York Riptide, Ontario Raiders, and each of the San Jose, Washington, and Vancouver Stealths.

But if you exclude their first two seasons, their average jumps to 5,420 per game. Still not spectacular, but higher than the Georgia Swarm and last year’s Knighthawks.

So how does Albany compare? Albany’s four-year average was 4,201. Oddly, their lowest season average was 3,508 when they were 14-2 and lost in the Championship game to the Rock. That said, they did get over 5,000 fans out to the semi-final game that year and almost 9,300 to the final.

But the Attack played in the NLL from 2000-2003, so the numbers we’re talking about here were literally decades ago. An awful lot can change in that amount of time. I won’t go over all of the recent changes in Albany since Bob Chavez already has on IL Indoor.

The Black Wolves were bought by an ownership group led by a man named Oliver Marti, who played in the NLL for the New York Saints in 1994-1995. He and others in his investment group are also investors in the PLL. Does this mean that the team will definitely succeed in Albany? Of course not. But in the 2000’s, the NLL was filled with rich team owners who seemed to have watched half a lacrosse game and thought “I can bring this sport to <random city> and make some bucks!”. The entirely of the league’s due diligence was the question “Do you have the $2 million expansion fee?”, after which the rich guy was granted a franchise which they sold or folded a couple of years later.

Marti was a good enough lacrosse player to make the NLL, which means he’s probably played since he was a kid. He’s been around the sport and the league long enough to know how difficult it is to make money as an owner of an NLL team. This is also the first NLL team that’s been purchased and moved since, ironically, the Philadelphia Wings were bought and moved to New England in 2014. I have a lot more trust in the league’s ability to vet potential owners and markets now than 15-20 years ago.

Yes, this kind of thing used to happen all the time in the NLL, and so a lot of long-time fans are probably thinking “here we go again”. But it’s not nearly as common anymore. I’m not saying Albany will be the next Saskatchewan, but they probably won’t need to pull in 15,000 people per game in order to make money. I’m hopeful but since I was around during the crazy 2000’s, I’ll call it “cautious optimism.”

Fort Worth, Panther City

Back in July, the NLL announced that its latest expansion team would begin play in the 2021-2022 season in Fort Worth, Texas. This week, the name, logo, and colors of the team was announced, and lacrosse twitter went nuts over the Panther City Lacrosse Club.

With any announcement like this, you’re going to get people who love it, people who hate it, and those in the middle. The most recent NLL team name announcements (the Wings, Thunderbirds, Seals, and Riptide) were generally well received. I did hear a couple of complaints that the Wings should have chosen a new name but those  people are simply wrong. The new Knighthawks team name and the rebranding of the Stealth into the Warriors weren’t quite as well received, but weren’t universally despised either. But like most internet-based complaining, haters hated for a short while, then whatever they hated became the new norm and they forgot that they hated it.

The Panther City announcement might have been the most polarizing of them all. There were many, myself included, who weren’t really sure what to think at the beginning. I certainly didn’t think “Wow, that’s awesome!” when I heard the name, but I didn’t hate it either. I saw a lot of positive comments, some from fans (or hopefully-soon-to-be fans) in Texas who are excited to have a team near them.

Panther City logo

But there were a fair number of negative comments as well, from fans, journalists, and even former NLL players. There seemed to be two major problems:

  1. With this name, it’s not clear where the team plays, and
  2. The “Lacrosse Club” part of the name is unusual

Have you ever heard of Fort Worth referred to as the Panther City? I hadn’t. Some cities have nicknames that are known far and wide: Chicago is the Windy City, Portland (Oregon) is the Rose City, New York is the Big Apple, etc. but many others have nicknames that are only known locally. Ever heard of Hamilton, Ontario referred to as the Waterfall City? I hadn’t until I moved here, and I suspect nobody outside Hamilton knows that name. This one is likely the same: people from that part of Texas may know what “Panther City” refers to, but others won’t.

I’m curious what people thought when the name “Golden State Warriors” was announced in 1971. I think California having the nickname of “Golden State” is a little more well-known than Panther City, but it’s still not obvious. Most comparisons have been made to European soccer; there is no city or town in Italy called “Juventus” and the team called Rangers that plays in Glasgow is not the “Glasgow Rangers”, it’s just “Rangers Football Club”. North American soccer is similar – a team called “Chivas USA” played in MLS for ten years. They were based in Los Angeles, but I had to look that up.

So “Panther City” doesn’t tell most people where the team is based. But really, so what? The Georgia Swarm, Colorado Mammoth, New York Riptide, and Saskatchewan Rush use the name of their state or province rather than the city they play in. The New England Black Wolves are even less specific, using the collective name of a half-dozen states all gathered together.

As for the Lacrosse Club part of the name, that’s also drawn comparisons to soccer teams as well as to the PLL. All of the PLL teams have “Lacrosse Club” in their name, but nobody says that part of it. It’s just Atlas and Chaos. Now and then you might see Atlas LC or Chaos LC written, but not usually. Hell, the name of the Toronto Maple Leafs is officially “The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club”, and other teams in the NHL and other leagues do the same thing.

Personally, I think the name is growing on me. There are teams in other leagues with a location and no nickname (Toronto FC and a few other MLS teams), and I find those boring and unimaginative. There are teams with a nickname and no location (Juventus, Rangers), and that’s more interesting. This one is different because the nickname is the location but it’s obscure.

“Fort Worth Panthers” would have been fine. Not fantastic, but fine. If it was just “Fort Worth Lacrosse Club”, I wouldn’t have been thrilled with it. But I’m sure they’ll be referred to as “the Panthers” now and again, and the fact that they sort of have a nickname in there makes it unique and interesting, and that might get people talking. If you tell your non-lacrosse friends that your team is playing Panther City next weekend, they may ask what that means. Will some of them say “that’s stupid” and come out with a negative view of the NLL? Probably but you can’t avoid that entirely. Others might just think “Huh, that’s interesting”.

When people outside the NLL are talking about the NLL, and it’s not related to a big-name player getting suspended, that’s a good thing.

Lacrosse and the Dunning-Kruger effect

From 2011 to 2019, I wrote roughly an article a week for NLL Chatter. This past season, I posted a couple of prediction articles before the season, a couple after, and only a handful of articles during the season itself. It was related to a lack of confidence on my part though until recently, I couldn’t explain why. It came down to “I won’t bother writing about last night’s game because nobody will care what I think about it”.

I have since decided that the cause is what’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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White privilege

The year was 2016. Dhane Smith had arguably the best offensive season in NLL history. He set a new record with 72 goals, and only a season after Shawn Evans set an NLL record with 130 points (shattering the old record of 116), Smith broke that record with 137. Smith was named league MVP.

Some months after the award announcement, I realized that Smith was probably the first Black player to be named NLL MVP. I checked and indeed he was. I was a little surprised that I had to go look that up, and that none of the press releases or discussion that I’d seen about the award had mentioned that fact. That made me wonder about how many Indigenous players had been named MVP. At the time, the answer to that was two: Jeff Shattler in 2011 and Cody Jamieson in 2014. In 2017, Lyle Thompson brought that number to three. And in all of those cases, all of the talk about those players and the award just dealt with how great a player they were, how good a season they had, and so on. Nothing about their background.

Dhane SmithI remember thinking at the time how great it was that in the lacrosse world, Indigenous and Black players can be named MVP and it doesn’t make news. If a Black player had won the Hart trophy in the NHL, how many of the MVP stories would mention the player’s skin colour? I decided it would likely be all of them. How great it was that racism wasn’t a problem in lacrosse.

Damn, was I naïve.

It never even occurred to me at the time that I, as a white man, was the last person who should be claiming that lacrosse doesn’t have a racism problem. How the hell would I know? Without talking to the Black and Native players and getting their perspective, I had no way to know. I hadn’t done that, and yet here I was, proud of the lacrosse community.

A couple of weeks ago, Dhane Smith posted a series of tweets (go read them now if you haven’t already) regarding some of the issues with racism he’s faced in his lacrosse career. People assume he plays basketball or football. People are surprised he plays a “white” sport like lacrosse. (Not only is that racist against Black players, but it also ignores the Native people who invented the damn game and have been playing it since before white men existed in North America.) Other players (and likely spectators too) would throw racial slurs at him; it was a big deal if they got caught but it happened many times when they didn’t. That’s something Smith just had to live with and get used to. It’s insane that this is just a fact of every aspect of life for Smith and very likely every other Black athlete. It’s shameful that I didn’t fully realize that until now.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I thought that being Black was probably very difficult in places like the American south, but things were better elsewhere and not so bad in Canada at all. As a Canadian, I was kinda proud of this, even though I really didn’t have any basis for this opinion other than my own white privilege.

The Black Lives Matter movement has opened my eyes to a lot of the systemic racism that still exists, everywhere. Dhane Smith’s message opened my eyes to the fact that racism still exists in the lacrosse world, and that it was naïve of me not only to assume it doesn’t exist (or “isn’t that bad”), but to assume that I, personally, have any way to really know.

2020 NLL Awards

At the end of every season, I look back at the choices I made at the beginning of the season for the NLL awards. It’s interesting to see what players had the great seasons I expected, which came out of nowhere, and which weren’t as successful as anticipated. I usually do this during the playoffs but since this season ended quite abruptly in mid-March, the playoffs we’d currently be in the middle of never happened. I’m not a big fan of unfinished business, so let’s take a look at my awards, standings, and “Look out for…” predictions from last fall and see how well I did, or how badly. It wasn’t great, honestly. Hell, I predicted that each team would play 18 games and didn’t even get that right.

Here are the links to the predictions articles: standings & awards, and East, West, and North previews.

Standings

In the north, I picked Toronto, Buffalo, Halifax, and Rochester. Rochester finishing fourth was all I got right. Buffalo and Toronto ended up tied for second but I believe the first tie-breaker would be divisional record, so the Rock’s 4-2 beats the Bandits 3-3.

In the East, I had Georgia, New England, Philly, and New York so I had the 3rd and 4th place teams right. In the West, I went with Calgary, Saskatchewan, San Diego, Colorado, and Vancouver. I did not see Calgary dropping to 5-5 and fourth place, but I did get San Diego at third and Vancouver at 5th correct.

In the overall picks, I only got two right: the Mammoth at 8th and the Riptide at 13th.

Individual Awards

IL Indoor will be posting their end-of-season awards articles soon, and I was involved in the voting there. Here I’ll list my top 5 picks for each award but I won’t repeat the comments I wrote for those articles. Comments here are more about my original pick. In more cases than not, the guy I picked to win the award didn’t even finish in my top five.

MVP

Callum Crawford (Photo credit: Kohi Ton)Original pick: Mark Matthews

  1. Callum Crawford
  2. Graeme Hossack
  3. Shayne Jackson
  4. Kevin Crowley
  5. Mitch Jones

Incredibly, Mark Matthews was not on pace to finish the season with 100 points, breaking a five-year streak.

Goaltender of the Year

Original pick: Christian Del Bianco

  1. Doug Jamieson
  2. Warren Hill
  3. Zach Higgins
  4. Evan Kirk
  5. Nick Rose

My predictions article listed my top goalie pick (Del Bianco), three more on the short list (Ward, Poulin, Vinc), and one dark horse (Scigliano). None of those five made this list.

Defensive Player of the Year

Original pick: Kyle Rubisch

  1. Graeme Hossack
  2. Ryan Dilks
  3. Kyle Rubisch
  4. Brad Kri
  5. Steve Priolo

I waffled back and forth between Rubisch and Hossack for the prediction. Went the wrong way.

Transition Player of the Year

Original pick: Zach Currier

  1. Graeme Hossack
  2. Kiel Matisz
  3. Challen Rogers
  4. Zach Currier
  5. Joey Cupido

Hossack is the new Chris Corbeil. Is he a transition guy who’s especially good at defense, or a defender who’s especially good at transition? Yes.

Rookie of the Year

Original pick: Andrew Kew

  1. Connor Fields
  2. Tyson Gibson
  3. Andrew Kew
  4. Ryland Rees
  5. Clarke Petterson

Fields and Gibson had almost identical stats, though Kew’s points per game was a little higher than both.

Les Bartley Award

Original pick: Ed Comeau

  1. Mike Accursi
  2. Glenn Clark
  3. Matt Sawyer
  4. Derek Keenan
  5. Paul Day

If Glenn Clark had released a video of himself dancing with his kids, then maybe…

GM of the Year

Original pick: Patrick Merrill

  1. Curt Styres
  2. Jamie Dawick
  3. Steve Dietrich
  4. Paul Day
  5. Derek Keenan

See the IL Indoor article for my comments about Styres, but props must go to Jamie Dawick. Picking up Dan Dawson was a no-brainer (i.e. if you have the chance to get Dawson, you get Dawson), and getting David Brock to replace Brock Sorensen and Creighton Reid was a good move too. The rookies that got lots of playing time this year (Manns, Jubenville, Dominey) all had very good seasons, but the kicker was that they lost Tom Schreiber for six games, only had Adam Jones for one, and were without Dan Dawson for a game as well – and yet still had the depth to tie Buffalo for second in the North division with an 7-4 record.

Look out for…

These were players I predicted would have a big year. I’m only counting wins here for players who had a better-than-average year for them, so if I count a pick as a loss here, it’s not because they had a bad season, just not a excellent one.

I was under .500 here with 5 wins and 8 losses.

Buffalo: Josh Byrne – Win. Byrne was on pace for a 90-point season and led a team containing Dhane Smith in scoring. Sure, Smith played three fewer games but still.

Halifax: Warren Hill – Win. A GAA under 10 and save percentage above 80% would usually mean you’re a lock for Goaltender of the Year. But 2020 ain’t like normal years. Warren Hill has both of those criteria but is sixth in the league (among starters) in both. His 8-1 record leads the NLL though.

Rochester: Curtis Knight – Win. Knight was on pace for 69 points, his highest total in six years.

Toronto: Damon Edwards – gonna give myself a loss here. On pace for 11 points – he has four career seasons above 11 and four below 11, so it’d be average. Of course, points aren’t everything particularly for defenders, but I still wouldn’t call it an excellent season for Damon.

Georgia: Zed Williams – have to say no here too. Williams was on pace for 45 points, exactly what he had last year. Again, not a bad season by any stretch, but it wasn’t a breakout year.

New England: Jordan Durston – Nope. I said Durson could get back into the 60-70 point range like 2018 with Buffalo. Durston was on pace for 32 points, the lowest of his career and less than half of 2018 total.

New York: Tyler Digby – loss here as well. On pace for 69 points, slightly less than what he had last year. Odd stat: Digby scored either two goals or no goals in every game in 2020. He scored exactly two goals in nine games, and none in the other three.

Philadelphia: Brett Hickey – Definite win, though this wasn’t surprising. Hickey was on pace for 40 goals, quite a few more than the four he had in last year’s injury-shortened season.

Calgary: Jesse King – Loss. On pace for a good season but only played four games before he got injured again.

Colorado Mammoth: Kyle Killen – Another loss. On pace for 40 points, which isn’t bad, but he had 49 last year. Like King, he missed time due to injury.

San Diego: Wes Berg – Win. On pace for 87 points, a career high and led the Seals in scoring.

Saskatchewan: Marty Dinsdale – Nope. On pace for 26 points, a 20+ point drop from each of the last two years.

Vancouver: Riley Loewen – Loss. Another solid season from Loewen but he was on pace for 42 points, slightly below his 46 from the previous two.

The Orange Crew, Nick, Cayla, and the Roughnecks

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching a different historical NLL game every Saturday evening and live-tweeting it. I started with the 2000 final in Toronto, where Kaleb Toth scored with a second left to give the Rock their second championship. Then it was the 2013 Championship when the Knighthawks beat the Washington Stealth in Langley (before they moved there), and last weekend it was a Detroit / Philadelphia game from 1994 which got called after three quarters because of insane fights. I had a lot of fun watching these replays and I got some comments from people on twitter who appreciated it as well. I even had a few people watching along with me.

The NLL had replayed some historical games on Facebook and BR Live over the past couple of weeks, and on Saturday they decided to re-run game 2 of last year’s Championship final between Calgary and Buffalo. A group of fans in Calgary called the Orange Crew decided to set up a zoom meeting to get a bunch of people together to watch the game. They asked me to be a part of it and I thought it would be fun. I was right.

We started about 8:45pm (my time) with a few of the Orange Crew, me, and a few other fans. I gave a bit of an overview of the 2019 season and how Calgary and Buffalo got to the finals, as well as a quick summary of Game 1.

By the time the game started, it was well after 9:00 but we had a number of others join the call including some special guests: NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, Roughnecks reporter Cayla Spiess and Roughnecks players Dane Dobbie, Tyler Richards, and Zach Currier. Curtis Dickson joined in a little while later sporting an impressive fu manchu, and eventually Rhys Duch also joined, coincidentally (or not?) with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, not long before he scored the OT winner. There were about 16-18 people on the call for most of the game.

Curtis Dickson

The game itself was fine, but the call ended up as basically a two-plus hour interview of Sakiewicz and the Roughnecks players, who couldn’t have been more accommodating. They answered questions in great detail, and we got a lot of background and some fun stories as well. The commish talked about streaming and TV deals and the NLL’s relationship with the MLL and PLL (they talk all the time and confirmed that if there ever was an agreement among NLL staff that they don’t mention the MLL, that’s long gone now). He also talked about his transition from being an MLS owner to the NLL commissioner and his first experience watching box lacrosse and how impressed he was with the game, the players, and the experience.

Cayla had some great stories of being between the benches, getting spit on, and interviews that didn’t go the way she planned. All of the players were forthcoming and willing to answer questions. Some of the questions were tossed around a little – Dane would answer some of it and then ask Zach or Curtis to give their viewpoints as well. After the game ended and the call was basically over, Curtis and Dane even asked if there were more questions, and said they were willing to stay on until they’d answered them all – this was after over two hours of doing just that.

Dane Dobbie was the most vocal. I don’t know about the Orange Crew but I had never met nor talked to Dobbie before, but he talked to me and everyone else on the call like we’d been buds for years. If you’ve ever watched him play, his passion for the game is obvious but it even came through in how he talks about it. He talked about his respect for guys like Curt Malawsky, Shawn Evans, and longtime NLL coach Bob McMahon, and how he was glad that Dan MacRae handed McMahon the NLL Cup as soon as he got it. He answered my question about how well Rhys Duch has fit in with the Roughnecks, he talked about his workout routine (“I’ve never lifted weights, I run, that’s about it”), and he talked about the weird situation a few weeks back where Calgary had a goal disallowed because the net had been moved; if the net had been in place, the shot wouldn’t have gone in so the goal didn’t count. He admitted that he and Dickson overreacted at the time but once they had the rule explained in detail, they understood and accepted it. We even got a cameo from his adorable little daughter just before she toddled off to bed.

Best line: With just a minute to go in a tied fourth quarter, Cayla mentioned that even though she knew the outcome, she was still excited and a little stressed watching such a close game. Rhys Duch: “Don’t worry guys. I got this.”

Thanks to the Orange Crew for setting up this call and for including me in it. It was a lot of fun even if we didn’t actually watch most of the game. Thanks also to Nick, Cayla, Dane, Zach, Tyler, Curtis, and Rhys for joining in, spending a couple of hours with us answering questions, and being the accessible and down-to-earth people that the NLL is proud to showcase.