Let the trash-talking begin

I love me some trash talk. But it’s even better when it’s this early in the pre-season since I’m getting pumped about the upcoming season, so it’s good to see the players are too. Usually when you see trash talk, it’s game-related, but since the players are all friends off the floor, it doesn’t have to be. We even see some between teammates.

Here’s one twitter exchange between Buffalo Bandits David Brock and Kurtis Wagar:

BrockTweetWagarTweet

And another that began with Shawn Evans wishing his former Knighthawks teammate John Grant a happy birthday. Grant’s response was funny, but Curtis Dickson’s was even better:

EvansTweet

GrantTweet

DicksonTweet

The secret clauses of the new CBA

As we all know by now, the NLL and PLPA have reached an agreement on a new CBA. A number of parts of the agreement have been released by the league, but not all.

The document itself is not available to the public (I asked), but I managed to get my hands on a copy. Here are some of the parts of the document that were not included in the NLL’s press release.

  • Rosters are cut from 23 to 20 players. Teams will dress 18 players instead of 20 per game. In addition, pizzas ordered for the team will contain no more than three toppings, or two toppings plus extra cheese. The equipment manager will go and pick up the pizzas to avoid delivery charges.
  • The requirement for each team to have at least five players from their home state or province has been dropped, at the request of the Minnesota Swarm and Colorado Mammoth.
  • League expansion will be considered, but prospective owners are warned that the league will not consider expanding to a city that has more than six or seven previous failed NLL teams.
  • Conference finals and Champions Cup finals will be decided by a two-game series with a 10-minute “mini-game” if the games are split. Wait, that’s not a joke, that’s actually in there.
  • Ontario-based players who want to finish their career with the Toronto Rock must fill out a form available from the Commissioner explaining in 500 words or less why they would be a good fit for the Rock. They must then apply in person at the TRAC where they will meet with both Jamie Dawick and Terry Sanderson for interviews. Wristband policy is in effect.
  • GMs who make trades that include nothing but draft picks where all of the picks are third round or later will be assessed a two-minute Waste of Freaking Time penalty.
  • Players over 30 (down from 32) with enough NLL experience can opt for free-agency. Except if a team designates them a Franchise Player, in which case they can’t. Except if they are over 34 and reject the Franchise Player designation, in which case they can. Except if the team designates them a Special Franchise Player, in which case they can’t. The next CBA will contain the ability for the player to reject the Special Franchise Player designation.
  • The regular season is extended by two games, and the playoffs will consist of as many as five games for the Championship winner, up from three. This should have the desired effect of extending the NLL season a little further into the MLL season. [This entry has a handwritten note next to it which says “make sure that last sentence is removed before this document is released to anyone”]

Behind the scenes at the 2013 NLL Entry Draft

Just like last year, I attended the 2013 Entry Draft in Toronto, and like last year I managed to record the draft as it really happened, not what was broadcast after the fact. Here’s the transcript of what they don’t want you to hear:


George Daniel: Good evening and welcome to the 2013 National Lacrosse League entry draft, held here at the beautiful Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville. Thanks to Jamie Dawick and the whole Toronto Rock crew for hosting this event and yesterday’s combine. And thanks also for all the Toronto Rock branded swag you provided. However as the commissioner, I’m not really supposed to wear stuff with one team’s logo, so I’ll have to return the T-shirts and polo shirts and hats and lanyards and sweat pants and shorts and socks and jackets and toques and mitts and scarves and the parka.

Draft 2013Jamie Dawick: But you can keep the boxers, since nobody will know you’re wearing them!

Daniel: Good point! All right, let’s move on to the first pick. John, you’re up.

John Arlotta: Thanks George. With the first pick, the Minnesota Swarm pick…. Mark Matthews!

Daniel: That ain’t funny, man.

Derek Keenan: Well, it’s a little funny.

Arlotta: OK, sorry. Couldn’t resist. I think everyone knows this already, but we’ll take Logan Schuss.

Daniel: Great. Once again, the Minnesota Swarm is on the clock. I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot this evening.

Arlotta: With the second pick, we’ll take Jason Noble. Hey, did you know he has a twin brother who’ll be available next year? We should totally try and get him too. How cool would that be – twin brothers on the same team? That’s probably an NLL first.

Daniel: I don’t know… I have this vague memory of these twin brothers… Ah, never mind. I don’t think they were any good anyway. Steve, you’re next.

Steve Dietrich: OK. Anyone named Smith available? I have a collection.

Daniel: <looks at piece of paper in his hand> IL Indoor says no. And I meant Govett, not you. You don’t have a pick until halfway through the second round.

Dietrich: Oh right. I was just askin’.

Steve Govett: We have that Belanger guy in net but we need a solid backup. We’ll take Dillon Ward.

Bob Hamley: What about Dan Lewis? He didn’t do too badly last year and he’s young.

Govett: Who?

Daniel: The next pick belongs to the Edmonton Rush. Derek?

Arlotta: Wait, Derek! We want that pick too! We’ll give you our next pick and… um… Ryan Benesch! Oh, wait. <grabs piece of paper, looks at it for a second> Nik Bilic!

Joe Sullivan: Wait, don’t –

Keenan: Done!

Arlotta: Woo! Another first round pick!

Sullivan: John, we didn’t gain any picks. We just moved up one position. And we lost a good player to do it.

Arlotta: But… first round!

Sullivan: Never mind. George, we’ll take Cam Flint.

Daniel: Right. Derek, it’s your turn, unless Mr. Arlotta…

Arlotta: <looks at Joe Sullivan>

Sullivan: <shakes head>

Arlotta: <head drooping> No.

Keenan: Well, we’re pretty weak with lefty offensive players, so maybe we’ll… Oh wait, no we’re not because we have Mark Freakin’ Matthews! So we’ll take a strong righty like Robert Church. Hey George, you may as well just give us the Championship Trophy now. It’ll save time.

Curt Styres: Now wait just a second there.

Daniel: Come on Derek, you know it doesn’t work like that anymore. Remember those years we gave it to Calgary before the playoffs and had to take it back? Let’s play the season first.

Keenan: Whatever.

Daniel: Speaking of Calgary, Mike, it’s your turn.

Mike Board: Thanks for bringing that up George. You made Curt cry. It’s OK Curt, he didn’t mean it. How about if I get Tor Reinholdt for you? Would that make you feel better?

Curt Malawsky: <silently nods>

Board: All right then, we’ll take Tor Reinholdt.

Daniel: Sorry Curt, I did promise I wouldn’t bring that up again, didn’t I? Let’s just put that behind us and move on. Back to John.

Arlotta: Another first round pick! This is so exciting. Joe, pick someone.

Sullivan: All right, we’ve got offense with Schuss, defense with Noble, and transition with Flint. Back to offense, so we’ll take Scott Jones.

Daniel: OK, we’re over to the Vancouver Raven- sorry Doug. I keep doing that. It’s the Washing- sorry again. I’ll get this right. The Vancouver Stealth.

Doug Locker: No problem George, took me a few days to get over it. With the 8th pick, the Washing- um, I mean the Vancouver Stealth will take Cody Bremner. George, you can edit that out in post anyway, right?

Daniel: Yes, nobody is listening to this part. When we go live I’ll fix it up. Terry, you have the last pick of the first round.

Terry Sanderson: Hey, that guy at the back there that looks kind of like a cross beween Dion Phaneuf and Paul Rabil? We’ll take him. Great lacrosse player plus Toronto hockey captain? How can you go wrong?

Dion+Paul=EthanBruce Urban: Paul who? Never heard of him.

Derek Keenan: Yes you have, remember last year when we did that deal with Vancou- I mean Washington?

Urban: NEVER HEARD OF HIM.

Daniel: OK, what’s your name, son?

Ethan O’Connor: I’m Ethan O’Connor, sir. But why is everyone getting confused on the location of the Stealth?

Daniel: Welcome to the NLL, Ethan.


This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. This is entirely fictional and tongue-in-cheek. I am not implying in any way that George Daniel, John Arlotta, Steve Govett, or any of the other NLL executives are anything less than intelligent professionals with far more lacrosse knowledge than I could ever hope to have. It’s just funnier if we pretend they’re not.

Welcome to the NLL 2023 season!

Welcome back! We’re back for the 12th year of NLL Chatter, as we get ready for the 2023 NLL season. We’ve had a busy off-season with some trades, free agent signings, and for the first time in six years, league expansion so there’s lots to talk about. Let’s get to it!

Expansion

The NLL is now the biggest it’s ever been, with the 13th and 14th teams joining for this season. For the first time since 1999, the NLL will have a team in Baltimore, as the Lightning join the Eastern division. Too bad the old Baltimore Thunder name wasn’t still available, as the Mammoth still own that, but Lightning is a pretty good homage to the old Baltimore team. In the West, the Victoria Islanders join their British Columbia cousins in Vancouver. The league announced that only two of the expansion bids would get a team this year, and the Baltimore bid was pretty much a lock, but I thought the Winnipeg one had a better shot than Victoria. The announcement that the Islanders were joining was a little surprising, but we must assume that Commissioner Jenner had good reasons for that decision.

As I said, this is the first league expansion since 2017 when the Vancouver Rough Riders and Chicago Beagles joined, just a year after the Detroit Hammerheads gave the league an even ten teams. Considering the issues the league had in the 90’s and early 2000’s with teams folding and moving all over the place, it’s amazing that the nine teams from the 2012 season (that’s all there was at the time!) are still around, though I think the Stealth might have been gone if Rhys Duch hadn’t married Dakota Fanning in 2014, thus bringing lacrosse into the national spotlight and sending the Stealth attendance through the roof.

Personnel changes

Obviously every team had some changes with the expansion draft, and there were a couple of trades as well. The most surprising was the trading of Garrett Billings from Toronto to Vancouver, so he can play closer to his hometown of Langley. Giving up seven-time MVP Billings was huge for the Rock, though receiving veterans Kiel Matisz and Johnny Powless, prospect Cam Sanderson (son of Toronto GM Josh), and two first round draft picks is a pretty good return for the only 200-point player in NLL history.

Dan Dawson joins his eleventh NLL team by signing with the Washington Stealth. At 41, Dawson can still put the numbers up, and by joining the defending Champion Stealth, he sets himself up pretty well for finally winning that first Championship. Of course, that’s what he thought when he joined the 2013 Knighthawks, the 2020 Bandits, and the 2021 Roughnecks.

In Buffalo, nothing new under the sun as John Tavares returns for his 32nd season as a Bandit, and 21st playing for head coach Darris Kilgour. Ever since Tavares had his knees, hips, ankles, elbows, and shoulders replaced with titanium joints, he’s been unstoppable, even over a 24-game season. And to think we called him “ageless” ten years ago!

Only one coaching change, as Kevin Finneran steps down as Wings coach after their first time missing the playoffs in over a decade. Another former Wing player, Brodie Merrill, takes over the reins. Merrill will try to bring the Wings back to their glory years when they won all those Championships in the 1990’s and from 2014-2018.

Predictions

In the East, I have to go with the Knighthawks in first yet again. We’ll see if Matt Vinc can break his own record of three shutouts in a season. After that, we have the Rock, Bandits, Wings, and expansion Baltimore Lightning.

The Central division will be interesting, as the Swarm try to extend their seven-year streak of finishing first, while the Mammoth, newly retooled by GM and head coach John Grant, attempt to improve on their three consecutive second place finishes. Detroit should do OK if Dane Dobbie’s switch to goaltender goes as smoothly as last year, and Chicago will probably suck again since Nick Rose’s switch to forward didn’t work out quite as well.

Defending champs Washington have to be the favourite in the West, closely followed by Edmonton and Calgary (featuring the first player-GM-head coach in NLL history, Andrew McBride), with Vancouver and Victoria duking it out for last.

This is going to be one crazy season! But it’s the NLL and it’s late October, so bring it on!

How to tell if you’re watching too much lacrosse

During NLL season, I watch a lot of lacrosse. Before scheduling things on a weekend, my wife routinely checks with me to see when the games are. It’s not mandatory that I watch all of them, but I try to watch as many as I can. On the other hand, I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs my entire life, and yet I’ve seen pieces of maybe 3 or 4 Leaf games this season on TV. I don’t think I’ve watched an entire game from beginning to end.

It’s possible that I’m watching too much lacrosse.

If you suspect you have the same problem, here’s a handy checklist. If you recognize these symptoms just remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step.

You may watch too much lacrosse if:

  • You see 6-5 as the final score of a hockey game and think that both goalies must have been outstanding.
  • Watching a live sporting event from Monday-Thursday seems weird.
  • You say things like “that tranny is really good at grabbing loose balls” and think nothing of it.
  • You think of Brian Shanahan as “Shanny” and Brendan as “Shanny’s brother”, not the other way around.
  • You watch a hockey game on TV and wonder why the announcers are not explaining the rules as they go.
  • A defenseman scoring a hat-trick in a game raises your eyebrows a little, but not much.
  • The idea of a player missing games or even entire seasons because they couldn’t get time off from work is not unusual to you.
  • You think it’s weird how hockey defensemen stay out on the ice even when their team has the puck.
  • In an NHL game, you see someone score a goal while his foot is in the crease and wonder why nobody’s yelling about it, except that guy over there from Buffalo.

Seeing the future: Lacrosse predictions for 2013

Just as it is tradition to look back over the previous year at the end of December, it’s also tradition to look ahead and make predictions for the upcoming year. I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have a frying pan that looks kind of like the Mirror of Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings. After breakfast today I gazed deep into the bacon grease, and here is what I saw:Graeme's magic frying pan

  1. Shortly before the MLL season begins Casey Powell will announce that he will retire from the MLL after this season, confusing people who thought he had already retired. He will call the season his “farewell tour” and play one game as a member of each team.
  2. Paul Rabil will fall in love and get engaged. He will then announce that he’s moving his foundation’s headquarters and all of his lacrosse clinics to his fiancée’s home town of Edmonton. Once he does this, his fiancée will laugh maniacally and remove her face mask, revealing that she is actually Bruce Urban.
  3. After the Philadelphia Wings finish with a 5-11 record and out of the playoffs, GM Johnny Mouradian will admit that his plan of bringing in American field lacrosse players was a failure. He will announce that next season, they will bring in American soccer players instead. At the entry draft in October, he almost drafts Freddy Adu before being reminded that Adu was born in Ghana.
  4. Dane Dobbie will have a breakout year, scoring 57 goals and 55 assists for 112 points. However, he will be given no MVP consideration because he finishes fourth in scoring on the Roughnecks.
  5. Mark Matthews will set a league record with 86 goals, and will also pick up four assists. Unfortunately, the Edmonton Rush score 90 goals on the season.
  6. The NLL expands to Montreal, but the new franchise is immediately put on hiatus while the government of Quebec argues whether “lacrosse” is still a French word or has been used by English-speakers for long enough that it’s not really French anymore and has to be replaced by something else.
  7. Rhys Duch is traded to the Colorado Mammoth in a blockbuster. The Mammoth immediately start looking for a new arena announcer after Willie B’s head explodes.
  8. The NLL announces that NLL Chatter is the first-ever winner of the new “National Lacrosse League Blog of the Year” award. At the awards ceremony, commissioner George Daniel starts to hand me the award, but pulls it back. He then turns into my 12th grade English teacher Mrs. Johnson, who says “You use too many commas!” All of the lacrosse players start chasing me with their sticks, and I can’t yell or move my feet. Then I wake up in a cold sweat.

Harry Potter and the Shop of Photos

Photoshop expert aficionado wizard (ha!) Dan Shirley created this awesome picture of the gang from my Harry Potter article from last season:

HarryPotterCrew

From the left we have Geoff Snider (Sirius Black), Connor Martin (Ron Weasley), Kevin Crowley (Harry Potter), Troy Cordingley (Mad-Eye Moody), and John Tavares (Professor Dumbledore).

Behind the scenes at the NLL Entry Draft

The NLL entry draft took place this past Monday in Toronto, and was broadcast live on NLL.com. But the broadcast was just NLL commissioner George Daniel repeating the picks that the GMs gave him. The actual drafting process was a little different. I managed to record it, and I’m posting a transcription of the first round here so that other fans can see the real behind-the-scenes action that wasn’t shown on the broadcast.


George Daniel: Welcome everyone to the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. Many thanks to the Toronto Rock for hosting this year’s draft and yesterday’s combine, and good luck to the eligible players. Without further ado, let’s get right to it! The first pick goes to the Edmonton Rush. Derek?

Derek Keenan: Thank you Commissioner Daniel, and thank you also to the beautiful city of Toronto and the Toronto Rock for hosting this year’s entry draft. The management and coaching staff of the Edmonton Rush have been considering our first overall choice for some time now…

Daniel: Yeah, yeah, the Rush pick Mark Matthews. We’ve all known for months. Moving on – the Minnesota Swarm have the number 2, 3, and 4 picks. John?

John Arlotta: The Swarm pick Brock Sorenson, Kiel Matisz, Shayne Jackson, Dhane Smith, Joe Resetarits, Curtis Knight, …

Daniel: John, you only get three choices right now.

Arlotta: Oh right, sorry. Got carried away there.

Keenan: …carefully examining our offensive and defensive positions,…

Daniel: Thanks John. Next we have the Buffalo Bandits. Steve?

Steve Dietrich: (talking quietly) Um, hi everyone. It’s me, Steve. (whispering) Wow, that was a dumb thing to say. C’mon Steve, pull it together.

Daniel: Don’t worry Steve, we know it’s your first draft as a GM. No need to be nervous.

Dietrich: OK, thank you Mr. Daniel sir. Um, has Mark Matthews been taken yet?

Daniel: Yes, Mr. Matthews has been taken.

Dietrich: Well, then, I guess our pick here is, um, Dhane Smith? That’s OK, right Darris?

Darris Kilgour: (headphones on, singing) Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy…

Keenan: …judging the talent of the players available…

Daniel: Thanks Steve. Next we have Calgary. Mike, you have two picks.

Mike Board: How about Mark Matthews?

Daniel: Um, Matthews is gone.

Board: Yeah, figured as much. Thought I’d give it a shot just in case Derek forgot or something. Anyway, Calgary takes Joe Resetarits and Matthew Dinsdale.

Daniel: Thank Mike. Derek, we’re back to the Rush for number eight.

Keenan: …and so with the first pick in this year’s National Lacrosse League entry draft, the Edmonton Rush choose, from the University of Denver and the Denver Outlaws, Mark Matthews.

Daniel: We got that one already, like twenty minutes ago. Who’s your pick at number 8?

Keenan: Oh. Curtis Knight.

Daniel: Thanks. Oh by the way, the University of Denver teams are called the Pioneers, not the Outlaws.

Keenan: Yeah I know, I meant the MLL team.

Daniel: (blank look)

Keenan: The MLL? You know, Major League Lacrosse? The field lacrosse league?

Daniel: (blank look)

Keenan: Never mind.

Daniel: Moving on, Steve, I believe it’s your turn.

Steve Govett: Mark Matthews is gone, right?

Daniel: (rubs forehead) Yes. Matthews is gone.

Govett: OK then. I like this Colton Clark guy. Colton. That’s a strong name. Sounds like a cowboy or something. Good Colorado name. Hope he’s a decent player.

Daniel: All right, for the last pick of the first round, we go back to the Minnesota Swarm.

Arlotta: The Swarm pick Alex Cresinpuck… Crepsnick… Crespo… Crensipick…

Daniel: Yeah, I was hoping he and that Matisz guy wouldn’t get picked so I wouldn’t have to say their names. I already spent half an hour getting Resetarits right. Anyway, that ends the first round. If someone can go wake up Doug Locker and Terry Sanderson, they are picking soon. And just let Styres and Mouradian sleep, they’ve got another round or two to wait.

Curt Styres: Hey, we’re with ya, we’re paying attention, aren’t we Johnny?

Johnny Mouradian: (asleep, mumbling) Sure Kevin, you can have a sweater just like Brodie and Dan.

Styres: Oh….kay.

Mouradian: (still mumbling) The Wings choose Mark Matth–

Daniel: Don’t even go there.

Separated at birth?

My family enjoys the show Once Upon A Time, and we look forward to watching it together every Sunday evening. But when I first saw the show, I decided that David/Prince “Charming” James (played by Josh Dallas) looked a lot like John Grant. Now I can’t unsee this.

Josh-Dallas1 JohnGrant2
Josh Dallas John Grant, Jr.

A number of years ago, I noticed another similarity:

tobey josh
Tobey Maguire Josh Sanderson

What you need to know to win in the playoffs

Only one team can win the Championship and given both the parity in the NLL this year and the one-and-done playoff format, it’s possible for anyone who makes the playoffs to win it all. So far, nobody has been eliminated from the playoff race, and it’s looking more and more like that outcome won’t be decided until the final weekend. Every team has their strengths and weaknesses, and opposing teams will be focussing on how they can exploit those weaknesses. What will it take for each team to reach the pinnacle of the NLL, and what will it take to shut each team down?

Calgary Roughnecks

The Roughnecks have to make sure their offense isn’t neutralized by a tough defense. Because all you have to do to be successful against the ‘Necks is shut down Shattler and Ranger and Dickson and Veltman and Evans and Dobbie and Conway and Toth and Snider and Cornwall. Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is score a bunch of goals on the best defense in the league and you’re golden.

Colorado Mammoth

Obviously, this year’s MVP favourite John Grant needs to be the focus for opposing teams. The Mammoth have proven that they can win without him but in the playoffs, his presence is vital. This is, of course, assuming that he’s not out rescuing kittens from trees, reducing crime in the greater Denver area, performing delicate life-saving surgery, or leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Edmonton Rush

If you’re defending against the Rush in the playoffs, get near the Rush player with the ball. Then remind him that he plays for a team based in the “City of Champions” and as such, he has a high standard to uphold. His uncontrollable laughter should allow you to strip the ball from him for a quick transition chance.

Minnesota Swarm

Many people picked the Swarm to miss the playoffs because of all the unproven rookies on the team, but those rookies have played better than anyone expected. Now they have to see if they can handle the pressures of the NLL playoffs. But first they have to get their social studies homework finished and get some work done on those science fair projects. Good thing the games don’t happen on school nights.

Washington Stealth

Whispering “Bruce Urban” when standing close to Athan Iannucci should get him rattled and reduce his effectiveness. Also, if the game goes to overtime, pretty much your only chance is to go all Tonya Harding on Rhys Duch.

Buffalo Bandits

John Tavares is 43, and so this may be his last season in the NLL. I’m sure his teammates would love to see him go out the way Bob Watson did, winning a Championship in his last game, so they’ll be playing extra hard for JT. Of course, many people have wondered “Is this Tavares’ last season?” for about five years now, and the way he played this year, the pressure to win now “for JT” is reduced. They might consider “win now for Darris”. Actually, they might want to think about “Win now for everyone but JT” because if they don’t win this year, he may be the only current Bandit left on the roster next season.

Philadelphia Wings

Shutting down the strong right side of the Wings’ offense is the key to beating the Wings, so you need to send your biggest, strongest defenders out against them. When they’re facing the likes of Crowley, Dawson, and Westervelt, have your defenders just pound on their kneecaps until they fall down, then tie them to the ground with ropes.

Rochester Knighthawks

The Knighthawks have five players listed at 175 pounds or less. Kedoh Hill is listed at just 150. Mounting a strong fan behind your goalie should keep them from getting in too close, but NLL regulations may prevent that. Just get out there and use your body against them, they should be easy to push around. Unless you get too close to Sid Smith or Craig Point or, God forbid, Tim O’Brien. Note: if using this strategy, stay the hell away from Jake Henhawk.

Toronto Rock

I know I’m a Rock fan, but I’m going to be completely objective here. The key to shutting the Rock down is Stephen Leblanc. He was the 2010 Rookie of the Year and also had a great 2011 campaign, and if John Grant wasn’t having such a great season, who knows how many MVP votes Leblanc might have gotten this year. He’s the real backbone of the Rock offense, and all opposing defenders should really focus on him and ignore everyone else. Especially Doyle. And Billings – totally leave him open alone.