Interview: Dan Ladouceur

You gotta listen when the Big Dog barks.

For those of you who watched Toronto Rock games back in the early or mid 2000’s, you undoubtedly remember Dan “Big Dog” Ladouceur. At 6’6″, Laddy was hard to miss – even more so if you were a opposing player. Ladouceur was an anchor of one of the best defenses the league has ever seen, a group which included Terry Bullen, Pat Coyle, Glenn Clark, Ian Rubel, and Darryl Gibson in front of Hall-of-Fame goaltender Bob Watson. Ladouceur was a prototypical “stay-at-home” defender with a long reach, a heavy stick, and solid fists. He rarely found himself on the far side of the centre line, scoring 6 goals in his 11-year 150-game career. But he did score a big one in the 2002 Championship game, one of five Championships he won with the Rock.

Dan LadouceurThese days, Laddy’s role in the NLL is a little different: as the Georgia Swarm offensive coach, his job is to train the Swarm forwards how to get around guys like him. This is a position at which he seems to be excelling, considering the Swarm at 8-3 and leading the league in goals scored, despite having played one fewer game than half the league.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Ladouceur (well, via email – I assume he was sitting down) and talk about his early days with the Rock as well as his new role with the Swarm.

Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to talk to me.


GP: Hi Dan… thanks a lot for doing this.

DL: Hey Graeme, no problems.  Happy to help out and share…

GP: Let’s start with your playing days with the Toronto Rock. In your early days, who were the players you learned the most from?

DL: Obviously one of the most influential guys  I played with was Jimmy Veltman.  He had a quiet style of leadership but was so fiercely competitive, you couldn’t help but follow him anywhere and want to learn and know what made that guy tick.  Other guys like Glenn Clark, Pat Coyle, Terry Bullen – Those guys all taught me about being effective defensively, and I like to think I took a little bit of each of their style and came into my own.  And other guys like Colin Doyle and Kim Squire, they reminded me that the game was fun, and to enjoy the experience.

GP: Conversely, in your later days, who were the players that you enjoyed teaching – the ones that learned the most?

DL: I really enjoyed my time rooming and chumming with Scott Campbell when he came to TO.  He is a great guy and great player.  The young Rob Marshall was great to be around as well.  I think he is and always has been a great guy and great teammate.

GP: You won five championships with the Rock. Does any one of them stand out as different from the others – more memorable or special in some way?

DL: In 2000 I won a Champions Cup and a Mann Cup in the same year.  That year was pretty special.  The win in Rochester [2003] was amazing as well.  Having never won there before and going in to take a championship is something movies are made of. The home town fans and family that made the road trip was amazing to see and feel.

2002 was great.  To be able to chip in, all of us on the back door, and help bring that home was amazing.  Also very big learning experiencing for me as far as preparation from a coaching point of view goes.  One goal that game was directly related to Ed Comeau and how prepared he always is.

GP: At one time, I heard a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade you because of your job as a Durham police officer. Was there any truth to that?

DL: It was never an arrangement I made or condition of a contract.  They could have moved me if they wanted. Playing in another city would have been challenging logistic wise, especially in the early years when I was not very high in seniority in the policing world.  I’m sure I could and would have made it work, but just been grinding like so many other players in this league with work and travel schedules that would cripple normal people.  I’m thankful I did not have to deal with those challenges.

GP: While you were playing, did you ever think about coaching sometime in the future, or did you not really consider that until your playing days were over?

DL: I never really thought of it much to be honest.  I mean, you know great coaches when you come across them in your career.  Les, T, Keenan, Clarky all great coaches and all have totally different styles.  I just never thought I would or could do the things that those guys did.

Casey Powell giving Ladouceur a totally legal check

GP: Now moving on to your role with the Georgia Swarm. How did your job with the Swarm come about – did you call them or did they call you?

DL: Eddie [head coach Ed Comeau] called me in the summer time to talk lacrosse.  We had some great conversations, catching up as we went.  I was not out pounding the pavement or cold calling places.  I was still processing my time in Toronto and my work life keeps me engaged a lot of the time, so it was not like I was experiencing a Lacrosse void.  I knew I wanted to coach more, to implement what I learned from John Lovell and my experience in Toronto, but when Eddie called, I was not in the process of chasing anything.

GP: What did you first think of the idea of being an offensive coach, having been a defensive guy for your whole NLL career?

DL: The way Eddie laid it out to me, his thinking, his expectations and our approach as a group, I had zero doubts about my ability to meet his expectations.  I acknowledge that I cant tell Lyle or Miles or Randy or Shane how to put the ball in the net, but I can offer some experienced observations on how they are being defended, tendencies, weakness and areas to exploit.  Seemed like a very progressive approach to be honest and I was excited to be part of that and work with Eddie and Sean [Ferris, Swarm assistant coach].

GP: Lyle, Miles, and Jerome Thompson have been playing lacrosse together their whole lives, but they’re still pretty young and none has been in the league longer than two years. Do they need much coaching, or do you just stand back and let them do their thing?

DL: Those guys truly “feel the game”  They are attentive to the little bit of structure and principals we have in place and do their roles so well within those parameters, but there is also no scripting or controlling that creativity.  None of that O door need coaching per se…  They need reminders, reinforcement and feedback.  It is a very unique group I get to work with, and as my first experience, I could not be more happy or proud.

GP: Which Swarm players have you been the most impressed with this season – those who are consistently playing above the level you expected from them? What about non-Swarm players?

DL: Lyle Thompson – what can ya say.  He came back for year 2 with his feet running.

Mike Poulin – I played with Mike and I am so excited about the player he is now and the leadership he brings to this group.  He wants to win and is willing to do the little things to get there and let others follow his example.

Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle – Not that they are American.   That they are so dangerous in their rookie seasons…  So many talented US players just need a chance and they could have an impact as well.

Josh Currier – Watched him in Jr out of Peterborough.  Kid is gonna be good for a long time.

Ben McIntosh – Guy is coming into his own and its a dangerous thing.

GP: And we’ll finish up with some fun ones. Who was the toughest guy you had to defend against?

DL: John Grant was always a handful.  I liked the challenge of playing against him.  And he would talk to you on the floor as well.  Let you know that last slash hurt and that he owed you one or just make a funny comment.  He is so strong and creative and competitive.

GP: I know you had limited scoring opportunities as a defender, but who was the toughest goalie to score on?

DL: lol.  Bob Watson!!!  Had lots of opportunities, but Bobby always had my number!!!!

GP: What was your favourite arena to play in as the visiting team?

DL: Philly was a great place to play in back in the day.  Great passionate crowds.  Calgary and Colorado were great as well.  I hated playing in Rochester.

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Repost: Challenges of Type 1 diabetes can’t keep Calgary’s Scott Ranger from thriving

Back in October of 2012, I wrote an article about Calgary’s Scott Ranger and how he deals with Type 1 diabetes while still managing to play lacrosse at the highest level. The article was featured on IL Indoor, and thanks to Bob Chavez for posting it.

The subject of diabetes was important to me when I wrote the article, since both my wife and father-in-law were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years before. But less than four months after this article was initially published, I was also diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. Despite my initial assumption that Ranger gave it to me via email, I’ve done some research and it turns out that that can’t happen. In my case, it was actually caused by pancreatitis, which I had back in 2010.

Since Scott has announced his retirement from the NLL, I wanted to post a link to the original article, but with the recent web site changes at IL Indoor, the original article is badly formatted and clipped, and the photos are missing. I am reposting it here along with the pictures that Scott sent me for the original article. Scott, thanks again for talking to me about this, and congratulations on a fantastic career! I wish you the best of luck in your retirement.


Challenges of Type 1 diabetes can’t keep Calgary’s Scott Ranger from thriving

Originally posted on ILIndoor.com on October 31, 2012.

Over his nine-year professional career, Scott Ranger has risen to the upper echelon of pro lacrosse. He’s among the top scorers on the Calgary Roughnecks, where he won the Champion’s Cup in 2009 and was named to the Western All-Star team in 2011. In the WLA, he was named league MVP in 2011 and this past summer he led the league in scoring (12 points ahead of second place and 22 ahead of third) for the second straight year while playing for his hometown Nanaimo Timbermen.

But Ranger is in another much more exclusive class, which none of his Roughnecks or Timbermen teammates can boast – that of professional athlete struggling with diabetes. There have been a few athletes over the years that have been able to perform at the highest level of their sport despite having diabetes, including Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow, former Philadelphia Wings captain and current vice president Bobby Clarke, and golfer Scott Verplank. As far as he is aware, Ranger is the only NLL player in that list, though it’s one he’d likely prefer not to be in.

Scott, his wife Jill, and daughter McKenzieDiabetes is a strange disease. Some people are diagnosed early in life and have to learn to give themselves injections every day. Others are diagnosed later in life and control the disease through exercise, diet, and medication. Besides being dangerous by itself, diabetes can cause many other medical complications including glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye problems; hearing loss; nerve damage; high blood pressure; strokes; heart and kidney disease; and heart attacks.

There are two main types of diabetes, called Type 1 and Type 2. It has been said that these two types “are so different it’s a shame they are both called Diabetes”. Type 1 diabetes means, quite simply, that your pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to keep you alive. Type 1 diabetics must inject insulin daily and “how will this affect my blood sugars?” is a question that they must ask themselves many times every day. Type 2 usually means that your body has built up a resistance to the insulin you produce. It’s possible for Type 2 diabetics to manage the disease solely through exercise and diet, but usually require medication and sometimes insulin shots. A lucky few Type 2’s can take a few pills in the morning and a few in the evening and don’t need to think about it otherwise. Approximately 10% of diabetics are Type 1.

Ranger was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 4, around the same time he discovered lacrosse. He has almost passed out on the lacrosse floor, he’s had blood sugar levels that were over four times the recommended level, and he checks his blood sugar levels at halftime – so he bleeds at every game whether he fights or not.

In the twenty-five years since his diagnosis, he’s lost count of the number of insulin injections he’s given himself. Actually, he hasn’t exactly lost count; in fact three years ago, he had a very accurate count. “I was actually doing a paper for school and I had to calculate how many insulin injections I had done in my lifetime,” says Ranger. “When I found the number I thought to myself, what the heck am I doing?” He then ditched the injections in favour of an insulin pump, which gives him insulin continuously.

Scott RangerRanger tries to keep his blood sugar level between 4 and 8 (all numbers are in mmol/L, the standard unit of measurement in Canada). Anything under 4 can cause him to pass out, and once he starts getting up over 10, he needs to inject insulin. He does check his levels during games, sometimes a few times, but it isn’t always entirely successful. “Last season we were in Washington playing the Stealth and I had felt pretty good until the end of the game,” he remembers. “When the game was over and we were running down to congratulate Pouly [Roughnecks goaltender Mike Poulin], I nearly passed out due to low blood sugars.”

Post-games can be a challenge since Ranger doesn’t have much of an appetite, but simply not eating isn’t an option. “I can rarely eat after games and of course after playing a full game a diabetic needs to eat,” Ranger explains. “I usually have to have Gatorades or regular pop around to boost me back up after games because once the adrenaline wears off, blood sugars usually drop quickly and if I am not prepared, can cause some serious issues.”

One factor that a diabetic athlete needs to take into account more than most diabetics is adrenaline. During a game, Ranger cannot wear his insulin pump, and so his blood sugar level tends to increase. Adrenaline flowing throughout the body can further increase his level, but that effect is only temporary and once it stops flowing, the level can drop quickly. When he measures his blood sugar after a game, the level can be between 10 and 12, and so he needs to give himself insulin to bring it back down. If he doesn’t take the adrenaline into account he may take too much insulin, which could drop his blood sugar to a dangerously low level (below 3).

On the other hand, depending too much on the insulin pump can be dangerous as well. “Last year we were travelling to a game and my insulin pump stopped working in the middle of the night,” he said. “I woke up with a blood sugar of 31.0. When blood sugars get that high it can be very dangerous. I was fortunate enough to have back up insulin and I was able to get it under control within a few hours.”

Scott RangerNot all athletes have a great deal of respect for, or understanding of, nutrition. Babe Ruth was not known for his healthy diet, and more recently men like John Daly and David Wells (a type 2 diabetic) were able to perform at the highest level of their sport while not having the standard athlete’s physique. For most modern athletes, however, diet and nutrition are an important part of their training. For Ranger, it’s not just important, it’s crucial. He is very thankful for his wife Jill, not only for her support but for her help in watching his diet. “My wife is amazing at keeping me on track. Without her I would not still be playing at this level.”

He also credits his Roughnecks roommate, Nolan Heavenor. “I have a great roommate when we travel and he keeps a close eye on me. We often eat together at the restaurants and we know each other’s routine very well so that is very helpful.”

Diet is critical for Ranger not only to get the nutrients he needs to deal with both his diabetes and the demands of being a pro lacrosse player, but also because he can’t use the same nutritional supplements that many other players use. “Supplements are very hard for me to take because a lot of them contain sugar. The ones I do use are gross tasting and in my opinion not worth it. Because I have a fairly strict diet, my nutritional needs are met.”

Professional lacrosse players, particularly those who play in both the NLL and the Canadian summer leagues, have to train year-round. In addition to working on their strength, speed, stamina, and lacrosse skills, they have to watch their diet. Particularly in this era of controversy over performance-enhancing drugs, all pro athletes must pay close attention to everything they put into their bodies. For Scott Ranger, this would be an everyday occurrence even if he wasn’t a pro athlete. There is no cure for diabetes, and those who suffer from it are said to be “managing” the disease. In Ranger’s case, it would seem that he’s managing pretty well.

Stephen Stamp: From boats in BC to the ‘Boro and the Borrelli

Stephen Stamp is a busy guy. During the last NLL season, he recorded 19 episodes of his radio show Boxla Beat, in which he interviewed more than forty NLL players, coaches, writers, and announcers. He also broadcasted the NLL entry draft for NLL.com and was one of the most prolific writers at ILIndoor.com, covering not only the NLL but CLax and MSL as well.

Last week, Stamp was rewarded by the National Lacrosse League for his dedication to his craft by being named the 2013 winner of the Tom Borrelli award for Media Person of the Year.

Over the past eight years, Stamp has interviewed hundreds of lacrosse people, done in-game play-by-play and commentary for countless games, and written thousands of articles. I thought it would be fun to put him on the other side of the table, making him the interviewee rather than the interviewer. Many thanks to Stephen for talking to me.

Stephen StampStamp was born and raised in the lacrosse hotbed of Peterborough, Ontario. He played both house league box lacrosse and high school field lacrosse, and grew up watching the Peterborough Lakers of the MSL. An accomplished rower, Stamp moved to Victoria, BC when he was 22 to take part in Olympic rowing trials. Though he just missed making several Olympic teams, he won a silver medal representing Canada at the World Rowing Championships in the Under-23 division.

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in writing from the University of Victoria, Stamp moved back east, living in Durham, New Hampshire for a year and a half while earning a Masters degree in writing from the University of New Hampshire. He then moved back to BC and stayed there for well over a decade, managing and coaching at a rowing club in North Vancouver, and also coaching regional, provincial, and national junior rowing teams. To keep his broadcasting chops fresh, he also did freelance writing, editing, and announcing.

But in 2006, Stamp decided he needed a change. “It was fantastic for a while, but I just felt like I was ready to do something else. I was going through some personal issues and feeling really burnt out on what I was doing,” he said. “I’ve suffered from depression for a long time and it kind of came to a head for me, so I really just needed some change in my life.” He decided to move back east once again, returning to his home town. “Peterborough is where my family is, so I decided to come back here for a while. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out of Peterborough, but when I came back I realized that it’s a great city and great place to live.”

After continuing his broadcasting education at Loyalist College in Belleville, Stamp combined his education with his lifelong interest in lacrosse and started doing colour for MSL games on TV Cogeco. In 2010, he began writing about the NLL and MSL for IL Indoor, and was named co-editor a year later. In the fall of 2011, he started Boxla Beat, a popular internet radio show focusing on box lacrosse.

Interviewing two or three people a week for his show as well as for IL Indoor articles has meant that Stamp has talked to many different players over the years. “Colin Doyle is always an excellent interview,” Stamp explains, “because he’s very open and honest and well-spoken, a great ambassador for the game.” Another favourite of his is Washington Stealth star Athan Iannucci. “I think we have sort of similar personalities and views on a lot of things. I like the way he really thinks about stuff and looks deeply into them and isn’t afraid to think outside the box, doesn’t worry if people think he’s odd.”

If Iannucci’s Stealth teammate Kyle Sorensen needs a job after his lacrosse career ends, he may consider a co-hosting gig on Boxla Beat. “The first time I had him on, I was doing the show on my computer from the Montreal House here in Peterborough. When he was done, he just struck around while I interviewed my other guests,” recalls Stamp. “While I was talking to one of them, he motioned to me to ask if it was okay if he asked a question. I was like, absolutely, go ahead. Kyle asked some really good interviews and the rest of the show he was like a really good co-host with me. He’s smart and very insightful into the game and he’s just a nice and funny guy.”

Sorensen’s name came up again later in the interview when I asked Stephen about “unsung” players. He mentioned defenders in general, since “there simply aren’t the statistics that make it easy to compare players and understand how effective they are at what they do”, but two specific current players he mentioned were Sorensen (“He’s one of the great leaders in the game”) and Scott Self (“he really is one of the steadiest guys playing”). One retired player he mentioned is Pat Coyle, who he believes should be in the NLL Hall of Fame. “I don’t know if he’s unsung, because I think people get how great he was, but I’d like to see that happen.”

We Ontarians are lucky to have three different pro box lacrosse leagues represented here, two of which are entirely based in Ontario, and not surprisingly, Stamp is a big fan of all three. “I enjoy the speed and athleticism of the NLL, especially now that the talent level is so deep on every team,” he said. “CLax is good quality lacrosse with players who are really hungry to play the game. It’s also really fast and high-scoring. I appreciate good defensive play, but end-to-end lacrosse is pretty darned exciting, too.” But Stamp grew up watching Major Series Lacrosse and it holds a special place in his heart.

“I remember seeing the Peterborough Lakers and New Westminster Salmonbellies playing in the Mann Cup and going down to New West’s locker room after the last game to ask Kevin Alexander for a pair of his socks. My friend and I each got a pair and we wore them for our own practices with immense pride. Probably seems weird asking someone for his socks, but they were really cool socks and Kevin was one of my favourite players. If he’s reading this, he’s probably thinking wow, Stamp was one of those weird kids that wanted my sweaty socks back in the day.

I love the heightened pressure and intensity of the one-and-done playoff format in the NLL, but I don’t think there is anything better than a best-of-seven series for the MSL title or the Mann Cup.”

The NLL’s playoff format has been the topic of some discussion recently, so I asked Stephen his thoughts. He likes the CFL-style crossover that allowed the Swarm to play in the East playoffs in 2013, but admits the system could use some tweaking. He’s an advocate of rearranging the teams into a single division with only four teams making the playoffs, which would include a best-of-three final. But it only makes sense to do that if the league were to stay at 9 teams, he explains. “There’s no point switching to a system like that if the league is going to grow, which I believe it will do soon.”

It does seem like expansion has been on the league’s mind recently, and assuming a new CBA is done and a willing owner is available, Stamp agrees with many who see Vancouver as the likely first choice. “Whether a team eventually goes to Langley or if there’s a way to work out a deal that could put a team in the Pacific Coliseum, I just hope it can happen soon because as everyone can see it’s just so obvious that there should be a team in Vancouver.” Montreal is another place Stamp would like to see the NLL return to, and despite the fact that New York and New Jersey have each failed twice, he thinks the New York area might still work in the NLL. “With the new development happening around the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, maybe that could work out, he says. I think it’s important to keep an open mind.”

We wrapped up with a few “quickie” questions and one tougher one:

GP: If you were NLL Commissioner, what’s the first rule change you would make?
SS: I would probably go with not having the shot clock run when a team is shorthanded and has possession of the ball. Again, it’s something that I grew up with. I really enjoy the strategy and skill involved in killing a penalty.

GP: What is your most memorable moment from a lacrosse game you were watching or covering?
SS: One thing that leaps to mind is the goal that Paul Rabil scored in the 2010 NLL championship game in Toronto. I was live blogging the game for IL Indoor and Rabil hit Bob Watson with a shot that actually knocked Whipper back into the net and sent one of his gloves flying off. It was unbelievable.

GP: Do you follow field lacrosse at all?
SS: I follow some field lacrosse. I can’t really watch any MLL because it’s very difficult to get in Canada and the only Canadian team is about a three and a half hour drive away. Most of the field lacrosse I see is at tournaments, particularly ones that I’m recording for my video production business, Sports and More Video. I actually like watching recruiting tournaments quite a bit because the focus isn’t so much on coaching everything down to the finest detail, but rather just letting the players play and the game flow. Some folks say it’s basically box lacrosse on a big outdoor field, which I suppose is why I like it so much. I suspect I would really enjoy MLL if I got a chance to see it more, because of the shot clock and the sheer talent level of the players. 

GP: Troy Cordingley was fired as Toronto Rock coach after the Rock finished first overall and he won the Les Bartley Award. What do you think of this move?
SS: That really caught me by surprise. It seems surprising that Terry Sanderson would remove Troy from his position. On the other hand, Terry is a consummate pro and would do what he felt was best for the team. Keep in mind that Terry also fired himself as the team’s defensive coach. Someone pointed out to me that Troy has young children and a full-time teaching job and perhaps he was getting a little overextended. He may even have felt like he needed a change or a break himself. Of course, now the speculation is that Buffalo will hire him to replace Darris Kilgour. I’ll believe that when I see it, though.

IL Indoor article on NLL star and diabetic Scott Ranger

I recently saw a tweet by Calgary Roughnecks forward Scott Ranger in which he said something about being a diabetic. This struck a nerve with me, since both my wife and father-in-law are diabetic. Also, back in 2010 I spent two months in the hospital (and three more months at home) recovering from pancreatitis, a condition which could have left me diabetic myself. In fact, I was told by a nurse during my hospital stay that I was diabetic, since a blood glucose test came back with some astronomically high value. A subsequent test showed that the first test was messed up and I was fine.

Anyway, I asked Scott if he would be interested in talking to me about his diabetes and how he deals with it as a pro athlete, and he eagerly agreed. We talked over email a few times and Scott was very forthcoming with his answers. He gave me lots of great information and I did a fair bit of research on my own as well.

Because diabetes is a topic that is meaningful to me, I wanted to get the message out to as many people as possible and quite honestly, my lacrosse blog is not the way to do that. So I made use of (you could argue “exploited”) the fact that I write for IL Indoor during the NLL season and contacted my editor, Bob Chavez. He was happy to oblige and agreed to publish my article on IL Indoor, where it will likely reach far more people than on my little blog. In fact, Bob made it sound like I was doing him a favour by giving him something to publish during what is lacrosse-wise the quiet part of the year.

Here is a link to the article, called Challenges of Type 1 diabetes can’t keep Calgary’s Scott Ranger from thriving. Many thanks to Bob for agreeing to publish it and of course to Scott for talking to me.

Interview: Steve Toll

Toll as a KnighthawkSpeedin’ Stevie Toll is currently playing in his fifteenth season in the NLL. Toll has seen it all, through five teams, five NLL Championships, and one Transition Player of the Year award. It was thought that he retired after the 2011 season, though that was never made official, and it was assumed that his involvement in the Canadian Lacrosse League (as Director of Operations of both the Durham Turfdogs and the Oshawa Machine) was the reason. But a little over halfway through the 2012 season, Toll decided he couldn’t stay away any longer, and signed with the Edmonton Rush.

It has been argued by some that Toll deserves to be in the NLL Hall of Fame, but we’ll have to wait until his real retirement to see if that happens.

I recently had the honour of talking to Steve about Edmonton’s upcoming playoff game, his return to the NLL, memories of his time with the Toronto Rock, and his involvement with CLax and the NALL. Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to talk with me.


Graeme Perrow: Let’s start with the upcoming NLL playoffs. Edmonton hasn’t had much success against the Roughnecks over the years, but you will be playing them in the first round of the playoffs. Will the history between the teams come into play at all?
Steve Toll: It’ll come into play a little bit, their confidence maybe. But every year’s a new year, and obviously there’s a lot of different guys on the team so I think we’ve just got to go with a positive attitude and stick to the game plan. Really, the big thing about going into Calgary, they’re such a good team, is not letting them go on the three or four-goal runs runs that they can go on in a hurry. If we can contain those, we should be in good shape.

GP: The Rush defense is one of the strongest in the league, but the offense has struggled this year. Calgary’s defense is also very strong – do you plan on making any changes to the offensive strategies against the Roughnecks?
ST: It’s just trying to get better looks. Like you said, their defense is very good and their goaltending is playing very good right now too. To score in this league, you have to get quality looks, goalies aren’t going to let in bad goals very often. Our offense is doing whatever it takes to get a good shot away, not just throwing it at the net hoping it will go in and being happy with that. You gotta make it a quality shot.

GP: You are playing the Rock this weekend, but the game means nothing to your playoff position. Is it more difficult to get pumped up for a so-called “meaningless” game?
ST: I think we want to go out on a positive note for us. It means a lot to Toronto, I do believe that they could still finish first. We really don’t want to go into Calgary losing our last two games, so that’s one thing, and someone said that they’re one of the only teams we’ve played this year that we haven’t beaten, so hopefully we can deny them. Plus we could meet them down the road in the playoffs hopefully, and we’d rather not be going into Toronto if we ever do get that far.

 

GP: A few questions about your NLL career. When you retired after the 2011 season, did you have any plans of coming back to the NLL as a player?
ST: I never really announced my retirement. A lot of other people said it, but I never officially retired. The league sends you retirement papers when they hear things like that, and if you’re gonna retire you sign them, but I always felt that I had a little more to give, and we’ll see what happens.

GP: When did you first entertain the idea of returning to the floor?
ST: I actually thought about it from the start of the year that I was going to come back. Actually, Edmonton had approached me at the start but at that time I thought I was going back to Colorado so I actually told Edmonton no. Then Colorado made some trades for some D guys, and said they were going in a different direction, which is understandable. I know Derek Keenan very well and we kinda talked about it, and I said I think I can help out in a couple of different ways, and it kind of went from there.

GP: Shawn Williams is a friend of yours – was he involved in the decision?
ST: No, it wasn’t really Willy, it was more Derek Keenan.

GP: Is this season your swan song in the NLL, or could you see yourself coming back again in 2013?
ST: I’m not sure. At times I’ve felt like it would probably be my final season because I wanted to go out on my terms, and thanks to Edmonton I can go out on those terms. But it’s weird, you get that feeling where you want to go back for more, like when we played that game in Colorado [GP: Edmonton beat Colorado 14-11 last weekend; Toll scored 3 goals], it just felt good, seeing that I could still play the game. Obviously I’m not the player I used to be, but we’ve got 7 O guys and 11 D guys, so on most teams I like to think I’m the best 11th D guy you could have around, because I can do the penalty kill, and bring some leadership and all that too. We’ll have to see though, my kids are getting older, it would have to be a family decision.

GP: The game has changed over the course of your career. What rule changes have had the most impact in that time? What strategies did you use in the past that aren’t as effective anymore, and are there new strategies that you’re using now that you wouldn’t have ten years ago?
ST: I can’t think of any drastic rule changes. I think a big difference from my point of view is going from 15 to 18 guys dressed for a game. Back when we had 15 guys, we had role players, all the guys did something really well. Nowadays, if the league is 15 guys, I’m not playing right now, plain and simple. That’s one rule – if there’s 9 teams in the league and 15 guys on a team, I’m not playing. That’s one rule that’s helped my career!

One rule I do hate is the scoring from behind the net. That bothers me.

With the Mammoth, 2011

GP: How has your game changed as your career has progressed?
ST: I think I’ve just matured as a player, and realized what I can and can’t do, and the things I can still do I try to do exceptionally well. Obviously I’ve been known to do the penalty kill and can pick off passes and start the fast break, so I think I can still do that. Anyone who plays the game knows their role and obviously I can’t take off up the floor like I used to, taking five breakaway passes a game from Jim Veltman like I used to. I can still run the floor, maybe not as fast, but just try to help out any way possible.

GP: It’s been a couple of years since you wore a Rock jersey, I guess it would be seven or eight years now?
ST: Yeah, I got traded in the summer of 2004 or 2005. [GP: It was July of 2004.]

GP: You saw a lot of success with the Rock. Was there one moment or event that stood out as your favourite memory of your time with the Rock?
ST: I would have to say probably the win in Rochester. I remember the pre-game speech by Les Bartley saying how we’d never won in that building but the best line I’ve ever heard him say was “We’ve never won in this building, but we’ve never had to win in this building.” That line sticks out in my mind so much. We played there during the season, but we didn’t have to win during the season. We’ve been here a lot and we didn’t have to win but now we need to win. I think that would probably be one of my best memories of being there. Plus I got two short-handed goals in the first quarter. That helps a little.

GP: Who are some of the first- or second-year players in the NLL today that you think could be stars for many years to come?
ST: Well, I’m playing with one in Kyle Rubisch. I mean, he’s already a star, and in my mind he is the best defensive player in the league. That kid has it all. He’s like a younger version of Brodie Merrill. He definitely has all the tools, I mean he can do whatever you ask, he can score, he can do it all.

Offensively, hmmm. Well, he’s still young in some ways, but little Evy [GP: Shawn Evans] has been around forever too, but he’s not that old, you know what I mean? I liked what I saw of Johnny Powless who I watched in a few games. I like Keogh as well, and obviously the big Crowley kid in Philadelphia. They have a lot of potential. A lot of potential.

GP: Have you played much field lacrosse, or are you strictly an indoor guy?
ST: Nope, the only time I ever played field lacrosse was ’98, ’02, and ’06 for Team Canada. Those are my only field lacrosse memories. Too much running in field lacrosse.

GP: There was talk at one point that you were going to play in the NALL before their legal troubles began. Is that possibility still out there for next year?
ST: I’m not sure, I just read one article saying they’re coming back with a new name…
GP: The PLL – Professional Lacrosse League.
ST: Yeah. I’m still actually in touch with Jacksonville but Paul Stewart has a different role now, he’s actually gone to the league side of things. I’m not sure if I’ll be playing or maybe even coaching in the league. To me, it’s just guys wanting a place to play lacrosse, and that’s what I’m all about. That’s one of the reasons I joined CLax. Paul St. John and Jim Veltman invented a spot for 120 kids to play lacrosse. When I was that young, I’d have loved that opportunity too, so for me to give back is an easy decision, and it’s the same with this league. Yeah, most of them are going to be American, but I want the NLL to grow and grow, and these guys are going to be moving on to the NLL. Whatever helps the game, and as long as the family agrees, I’m in.

GP: A few questions about the Canadian Lacrosse League. How did you first get involved with CLax?
ST: It’s funny, they actually talked to Shawn Williams initially about coming on but obviously he was already playing so he mentioned it to me, and I met with Jim and Paul St. John and it kinda went from there. Obviously those guys did a tremendous amount of work and to me, yeah the league might have lost a little bit of money, but it was successful in a lot of ways. For the Championship game they had over a thousand people, and our last game in Oshawa we had over seven hundred people. It was an easy decision, I mean there were two teams here in Oshawa for guys that would just be sitting around partying all winter long, and now they’re playing lacrosse and staying in shape. It’s good for the game.

GP: How difficult was it to be so closely involved with lacrosse but not playing? Did you ever consider putting the equipment on and getting out there on the floor?
ST: It was actually, and I did actually! Paul and I had talked right around the time that Edmonton called, and I was even thinking about it. I’m not saying it might have helped or drew a few more people in, but I tell ya, that’s when I knew that I either had to come back there or go to the NLL because watching those games, I still had the itch. I saw the guys making mistakes, I wished I could be out there helping ’em. It definitely gave me the itch to get out there and play again.

Toll the executiveGP: Will you be back in the same position with the Turfdogs and Machine next year?
ST: Yeah, we just gotta get things finalized. It’s hard when one guy owns all six teams when he’d like to just worry about his two teams. It’s a process, and it’s an uphill battle for those boys, they’re willing to keep fighting and fighting. Find a guy with some deep pockets, maybe willing to lose a couple in the first couple of years and make it at the end, that’s what you gotta hope for. I hope it succeeds, and I hope the NLL jumps on board too. I don’t understand, it should be an automatic AHL-type affiliate. Automatic, in my opinion. Have a couple of NLL teams have a couple of affiliates and you can send guys there. Why have guys sitting in Denver to be on a practice roster practicing once a week and not playing a game. It makes no sense. Zero.

GP: That kinda what I assumed CLax was going to turn into. It hasn’t happened yet, though it’s only been a year, but it seemed to me to be the most obvious route to go.
ST: I agree with you 100%. But now it’s down to “You should be paying us” “Well, you should be paying us”. Why don’t we just talk about the situation, do what’s best for the guys, and worry about the money situation later. It could be an affiliate where you could move guys, send them down, call them back up. I think it’d be ideal for both leagues.

GP: The season is barely over, but do you know of any major changes planned for the next season, either in in your teams or with the league as a whole?
ST: No, from what I’ve heard from a lot of the General Managers, we all like the rules. Everyone seems to be a big fan of that front door rule, which I was a fan of too. That game was fast at times. It was funny because the very first game I went to, they pulled their goalie and they shot too early, then tried to get their goalie out the back door and it ended up being a penalty shot because you’ve got to go out the front door. They weren’t used to it yet, so he went out the wrong door. I was a big fan of that rule for sure.

GP: I was just about to ask about that rule. So do you think it did have the desired effect, forcing players to play at both ends rather than having your strict offensive guys and your strict defensive guys?
ST: Yeah, but the part I worry about is that the NLL is obviously not going to adopt that rule and you’re making those players do that. But if you have a two-way guy in CLax, and maybe he’s always been on offense but now he’s playing defense, well you know what? If he’s just working on offense the whole time he’d be getting better, but now he’s playing defense and when he goes to the NLL he’s still not going to be playing defense against Colin Doyle. So realistically, why not just go offense / defense? But there were some guys that you could get off the floor, but you had to make sure they were off the floor. It was hard, but it could be done, but just the one door definitely made it tough.

GP: OK, a few quick ones before I let you go. Toughest goalie to score on?
ST: Toughest goalie for me personally was Patty O’Toole. I liked shooting on smaller goalies. Like, even though Eliuk was real good, and Disher and all those guys. I just liked smaller goalies. I don’t know why. Probably because I didn’t shoot hard.

GP: Toughest forward to defend against?
ST: Definitely John Grant Jr. because he’s big, strong, and he could bulldoze ya, he could dodge ya, he could roll around ya, and if you came to double him, he’s throw a backhand reverse pass to the guy next to you anyway. I never got to cover those guys anyway. I’d always go on the floor, and they’d say “Toll, we all have matchups, you’ve got the fifth guy”. I never really had a guy anyways cause I was in the middle getting ready to cheat and weave anyway so I never really watched anybody.

GP: You were getting ready for the breakaway in the other direction.
ST: Yeah, I was already gone.

GP: Favourite arena to play in as a visitor?
ST: Definitely Denver. Well, you know what? I initially came right away with Denver but then I’m thinking of some of those Buffalo Bandits fans. But I’d have to say Denver was my favourite.

GP: I’ve never seen a game in Denver, but I’ve been to Buffalo a few times and they can be pretty darn loud in Buffalo.
ST: They can be really loud there, yeah. Both places are excellent. But I tell ya, there’s just something about Denver. You gotta go to Denver. It’s just the city there, everything. It’s one of the most beautiful places – if I had to pick a place to live, that’s where I would live. That’s the spot.

GP: Teammate you learned the most from as a young player?
ST: Playing in the NLL, definitely it would be Jim Veltman. He did so many things on the floor, off the floor, he was a pure team leader. It’s little things, like a little story: we lost a game in Philadelphia, I think it was in overtime, and then we flew back again at 10:30 in the morning. Obviously the boys were all sad that we lost, and still a little hung over, and all of a sudden the flight attendant comes out with like 30 beers and she goes “These are from the captain, get your heads up”. Just little things like that that no other guys would do. Just getting the boys back on track, like “Don’t worry about it, boys, it’s a loss. No big deal.”

GP: Well, that’s all the questions I have. Thanks a lot for doing this, Steve, I really appreciate it.
ST: Hey, no problem, anytime!

Interview: Teddy Jenner

Teddy JennerI recently had the chance to chat with the very busy Teddy Jenner – host of the Off the Crosse-bar radio show on TEAM 1410 in Vancouver, in-house voice of the Washington Stealth, and writer and podcaster on ILIndoor.com. Teddy is also a former NLL and WLA player, and won a couple of Mann Cups with his hometown Victoria Shamrocks in 2003 and 2005 (and almost 2002, as he mentions below). As you might expect from someone who has both a lacrosse radio show and a regular lacrosse podcast, Teddy loves to talk lacrosse. We talked about some of the surprises this season, issues facing the NLL, and about Teddy’s broadcasting and lacrosse careers.

Many thanks to Teddy for talking with me.


Graeme Perrow: With the Mammoth starting 6-0, the Stealth starting 1-5, Minnesota’s rookies playing as well as they have, and Buffalo losing 4 in a row, there have been a number of surprises in the NLL this year. What team has surprised you the most?
Teddy Jenner: I think the biggest story this year has to be the poor start by the Washington Stealth. As the in-house announcer I get an up close and personal look at the Stealth and they aren’t the same team I’ve seen the past two years. There could be a number of reasons why they aren’t doing as well this year and I think a lot of it has to do with personnel changes. Doug Locker does a great job putting talent together and he finds a solid mix of talent but for some reason this year it hasn’t gone to plan. The loss of guys like Matt Roik, Craig Conn and Tom Johnson while may have seemed to be ‘minimal’ losses are proving wrong. Conn and Johnson were grinders – they did the little things that Marty O’Neil talked about in his IL Indoor article. And not having Matt Roik as backup to T-Rich is a bigger loss than most people think. Nothing against Chris Seidel but when the Stealth had Roiker they could switch tenders and be ok – I don’t see that confidence this year from the Stealth. One other huge loss has been Zywicki. As talented as Ratcliff and Duch are, Z was the floor leader. He was the calming presence on the floor that helped keep the ball moving, controlled the tempo of the O and was able to settle things down.

GP: Which will have a bigger impact on the Washington Stealth: the addition of Athan Iannucci to a struggling offense, or the return of head coach Chris Hall?
TJ: I think A.I. is a very talented ball player; you have to be to put up 71 goals in a year but he’s not the answer for the Stealth. As I said they need a floor general to distribute the ball, keep it moving and share the wealth to everyone. Can AI do that or be that kind of player? Possibly, hell any of their O guys could step up and be that player but it’s not in their makeup. Getting CH will be a dynamic shift. Art Webster was one of my childhood idols growing up when he played WLA with the Victoria Payless with a helmet and no facemask, wielding his woodstick like a machete. The guy played a WLA game when he was fifty! I also have the utmost respect for him as a person and a coach – however I don’t think he has control of that room. CH will come in and instantly change the vibe. I’ve played under CH and he just has a way with words that can get you fired up like no other coach can. People have said to me “but it’s not like CH hasn’t been in contact with all his coaches while away,” and they’re right, he has. But being there in person holds so much more weight than 2nd hand messages. Look for the Stealth to get back on track this weekend with CH at the helm.

GP: What’s your opinion on the Paul Rabil situation in Edmonton? Should the league get involved to prevent these kinds of situations, and if so, what can be done?
TJ: I’ve hummed and hawed over this for days, years really. The fact of the matter is that the NLL doesn’t pay players enough to force them to change, relocate or even fly-in to a specific team just because they have their rights. Do I think what Rabil’s doing is good for the game? Of course not, but what he’s doing for him personally it is the right choice. He had been asking for a trade back east for the past two seasons but Washington couldn’t find a deal that worked for them as well. Simple solution – find a way for players to live off the NLL and then moving to that city won’t be such a burden.

GP: Some have claimed that parity is sports is a bad thing – people look back and remember the years when the Yankees / Oilers / Rock were so dominant and they remember the dynasties. Nobody reminisces about the years when anyone could have won and there was no clear favourite. The NLL has about as much parity now as ever – do you think this is good or bad for the league?
TJ: I love the parity! As great are dynasties are (for that city/team/fans) it doesn’t do much to spread the growth of the game, if one team is winning every year after year. When any team has a chance to win I think it’s awesome! How cool would it be to see the Swarm win a title? Or Edmonton, then the next year Philly get it? The back and forth between the Rock and Stealth has been great. A bit of a rivalry has built but also the reach of the game has grown. Parity in the NLL or any sport provides fantastic competition across the board.

GP: Who are some of the first- and second-year players in the league today that you think could make a major impact in the future?
TJ: Andrew Suitor is one of the first names that comes to mind. The kid’s a beast and is playing like a 7 year vet in just year 2. He was so mentally and physically ready in his first year it was silly. Look at the list of first and 2nd year players who are from Orangeville – scary!! Kyle Rubisch is another guy that possessed so many NLL ready qualities before he even played an NLL game. He’s a monster and will be a long time top 5 defender for many many years. I really could go on and on, Crowley, Travis Cornwall, Dickson, Jamieson, Keogh etc. etc. etc… The one guy this year that actually caught me off guard was Johnny Powless in Rochester – for some reason I pictured him as Kedoh Hill – small, still needs to grow and mature a bit more and would struggle in his first year… BOY WAS I WRONG!!

GP: BREAKING NEWS: Teddy Jenner is the new NLL commissioner! What’s the first rule change you make?
TJ: First off, I’d force the Aquilini family (owners of the Vancouver Canucks) to buy a team and make them hire CH [Chris Hall] as the GM and give Ed Comeau the head coach job…. But my first rule change would be to shut the 30 second shot clock off when a team is shorthanded. I know there are pros and cons to this but I think a team should have to work to get the ball back when on the power-play. Fans will completely rally behind watching their players rag the ball for 45 seconds or more killing off the penalty and gaining momentum. I’d also gas instant replay unless every rink had an overhead camera that worked, and at least 2 different camera angles to access – because without it, you get goals like Geoff Snider’s vs Washington two weeks ago where he was 2 feet in the crease and the ref was at the restraining line.

GP: What’s the first change you make that doesn’t involve on-floor rules?
TJ: Improving the quality of our product to our viewers is huge. If a game isn’t on TV, and really not many are, how are the outlets going to get to see it? First off, create an intenet/TV show – 30/60 minutes in length but it would have game highlights, interviews, guests, etc., professionally done and full of sponsors. Also, I’d fix the league website. I know they just revamped it but come on, taking me to an offsite spreadsheet that takes forever to load if I want to look up the career stats of any past player is ridiculous. I’m not sure whose idea it was to change from the old site – while it did need a face lift, they didn’t need a brand new site… Pointstreak where are you?!?!

Jenner in 2005GP: Moving away from the NLL, let’s talk about your broadcasting career a little. How did that come about? Were you looking to get into radio, or did it happen accidentally?
TJ: I’ve always wanted to be in broadcasting. Vic Rauter and Graham Leggat doing Soccer Saturdays on TSN when I was a kid consumed me! Chris Berman was an icon, Leif ‘he’s got rope’ Elsmo was the guy I always wanted to be and I knew it was where I’d end up. Four years of College in Erie, PA and a journalism degree with a sports broadcasting concentration threw me into the fire (thanks to Craig Rybczynski, the Knighthawks PR guy, who was one of my teachers). I did everything I could to be involved in the behind-the-scenes work of Knighthawk games in my rookie year, even did colour for a game with Craig when we were in Ottawa one game. I was hooked. Once I was out of the league, I started giving back. Working with Sportsnet for the Minto Cup back in mid 2000s, working for different radio and TV stations doing anything and everything I could. Then I started writing for RudeBoys lacrosse as their west coast analyst, which led me to working more and more with Paul Tutka who brought me into NLL Insider [now IL Indoor] 4 years ago.

While writing for IL, I was working for the family car biz (I did not enjoy that but family comes first). I needed a change but everywhere I went for work in radio I was told I needed more experience. So my pops found a 10 month radio school program in Vancouver. 10 months later and after a two month internship at TEAM 1040 radio in Vancouver, I had a job there as producer and board operator. From the first day I was there I was asking how I could get my own lacrosse radio show and they said all I had to do was find people who were willing to sponsor my show by buying advertising time on the station and I’d be good to go. Well thanks to some great sponsors, last May 3 Off the Crosse-bar launched and has been rolling ever since!

GP: Who has been your favourite person to interview so far?
TJ: Every lacrosse guy has been great cause we’re all on common ground and all want the best for the game. I’ve never been turned down for an interview cause lacrosse guys love to talk! But I love talking to old school guys that played when there were less pads and all wooden sticks! Chris Hall, Kevin Alexander can tell stories till they’re blue in the face. I like talking with guys I played against, cause I always despised them but knew they had their own stories. Curt Malawsky was one of those guys. I hated playing against him but if you ever sit down and chat with him, his knowledge of the game is so vast its crazy! But then talking to some of the young guys who are really humble and realize their place in the game is very refreshing as well.

GP: A few quick questions on your playing career. Who was the toughest goalie to score on?
TJ: I never liked playing against Rob Blasdell in the NLL – he was just so big and unorthodox in the pipes. I could have him cold beat out of position but he’d throw a leg out in some odd position and make the save. But in the summer time Curtis Palidwor – I could often get him with the twister, but most of the time he had my number.

GP: Best defender you’ve ever faced:
TJ: Andy Turner hands down! I remember when he and Tom Hajek came out west in Jr to play for Burnaby, they just had this attitude and style that I had never seen before and it was terrifying!

GP: Toughest forward to defend against:
TJ: Any guy that was always moving without the ball. Guys like JT, Curt Malawsky, Aaron Wilson may not be the fastest guys but they’re so crafty off the ball that you always have to keep your eye on them or they’ll literally pull you off balance and run right by you, score a goal, then let you know about it.

GP: Favourite arena to play in as a visitor:
TJ: The really loud ones! My first ever game was in Philadelphia and I remember the interview I did before the game (for halftime on the online broadcast). I talked about watching my brother play there and the lure of 18000 fans telling the opposing players they sucked! I looked forward to that moment, so when they called my name I sort of paused and soaked it in. Then I scored my first goal on Dallas Eliuk and we got spanked! But the noise in that rink was unreal. The Pepsi Centre in Denver and First Niagara in Buffalo were the other two just ’cause the fans are nuts (read: passionate). I was on the floor for the first ever sock trick when Gary Gait scored 6 on us (Anaheim). Matt Disher and I were standing there looking at each other – “are they throwing fucking socks?!” I loved playing there cause you knew you were the enemy!

GP: Mann Cup or NLL Championship?
TJ: Well I have two Mann Cups but I should have had 3 (see the 2002 Mann Cup vs. Brampton where we were down 3-0 after the first 3 games, won the next 3, then were up 7-1 midway through the 3rd period and lost) but since I never won it, I’d like a shot at a Champions Cup one more time. But it doesn’t look too easy to drink out of!

GP: How much field lacrosse have you played?
TJ: I played field from when I was like 13 on. I went to prep High School in the US for grade 9 and 10 – Western Reserve Academy (aka WRA) then the 4 years playing NCAA field lacrosse as well. I grew up playing box in the summer and soccer in the winter, then when I was 13, I dropped soccer and picked up field lax from then on it was summers in the box and winters playing field. Then even after college when I was back home in the off seasons I was playing club ball/house league in Victoria.

GP: Do you prefer to play field or box lacrosse?
TJ: Box all the way! Field’s great but I actually find it more relaxing to play cause it’s more controlled and mechanical. Box is an all out sprint all game!!