We’ve all seen it before: the team that isn’t playing well starts getting frustrated and angry, and that leads to unnecessary penalties. That means they’re playing a man down for long stretches of time, and that doesn’t usually lead to anything good, so they get even more frustrated and angry, and so on. I don’t know what other people mean when they talk about “Banditball”, but that’s what that term means to me: the physical and undisciplined lacrosse that the Bandits became known for in the 2000’s. They generally don’t play that way anymore so the term is probably misleading and unfair now, but every now and again they revert back. But on this night, it seemed to serve them well.
Round about this time of year, people think they have a decent idea of how the standings will end up, more or less. So far this season, Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff berth, but nobody else has. We think the Rush and Swarm will probably be at the top in their divisions, but it’s not guaranteed. Calgary and Rochester are currently at the bottom but both are only a half game back of the team in front of them. There’s enough time left for some really crazy things to happen, and every year I find it fun to look over the possibilities if the lower-ranked teams start winning and the teams at the top start losing. If everything falls into place, could we have a Calgary-Rochester final? Could the Swarm miss the playoffs? Let’s look at some scenarios that are unlikely but still possible:
Calgary finishes 2nd in the west
Calgary wins out, Saskatchewan loses to Vancouver, New England, and Toronto, and Colorado loses out. Then the Rush win the west at 10-8, Calgary is second at 9-9, and Colorado and Vancouver tie at 8-10. Vancouver would win the tiebreaker in that scenario with a 3-1 record against the Mammoth, so Colorado is out.
Calgary wins out, Vancouver beats Colorado, and Colorado loses one more game. Then the Roughnecks are 9-9 and the Mammoth are at best 9-9, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker.
Vancouver wins the west
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Vancouver wins out, Saskatchewan loses at least three more, and Colorado loses to Rochester. Then the Stealth are at 10-8, the Rush and Mammoth are at 9-9, and the Roughnecks are at best 8-10.
All five teams in the east finish 9-9
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
New England beats Georgia and Saskatchewan and loses to Vancouver. Buffalo beats Calgary, Toronto, and Georgia twice. Rochester beats Colorado, New England, and Georgia twice. Toronto loses to Saskatchewan and beats Buffalo. Then all the eastern teams are 9-9 and we have the nastiest tie-breaker ever.
Rochester wins the east
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Rochester wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. Buffalo loses to Calgary. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Then Rochester, Georgia, and Buffalo are 9-9 while Toronto and New England are 8-10. Rochester has a 4-2 record against Buffalo and Georgia and wins the east while Buffalo finishes second and Georgia third.
Buffalo wins the east
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Buffalo wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Rochester beats New England and loses to Colorado. Then the Bandits are 10-8, Georgia is 9-9, and the rest are tied at 8-10. New England wins the tiebreaker and makes the playoffs.
Georgia misses the playoffs
Update: Georgia has now clinched a playoff spot.
Georgia loses out. Toronto beats Saskatchewan and Buffalo. New England beats Saskatchewan and Rochester. Buffalo beats Calgary and Toronto. Then Toronto and New England have 10 wins while Buffalo and Georgia are both 9-9. Buffalo would win the tie-breaker here and the Swarm are out.
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.
These 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  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.
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.
Let’s see… entertaining game? Check. Home team played pretty well but lost? Check. In front of not very many fans? Check. Did I move to Vancouver without knowing it?
- I liked the Rock’s green St. Paddy’s Day jerseys. Not sure about the gold helmets.
- The Mammoth offense in general was great and scored a bunch of beautiful goals. Callum Crawford in particular scored a couple of nice ones. He tried at least two “face the other way, jump, spin, and shoot while still in the air” shots, and one of them worked.
- Early in the game, Eli McLaughlin found himself with the ball right on the edge of the crease. He faked low, waited for Rose to drop, and tossed it over him. Smart play. Then late in the second quarter, Stephen Keogh did almost the same thing, but from a little further out. He faked the underhand shot (pictured below but from a different game), causing Rose to drop again, then scored over Rose’s shoulder.
- Later on, Keogh picked up the ball in the Rock zone and was immediately triple-teamed by Rock defenders. A few seconds later, a fourth Rock defender joined the fray, but Keogh kept the ball for at least ten seconds. He even managed to get a half-decent shot off but missed the net. It looked like he was killing a penalty but he wasn’t. Given the amount of work he put in, I almost wanted him to score. I heard other Rock fans applauding him too as he returned to the bench.
- Kieran McArdle scratched again. I thought he’s played well enough recently to stay in the lineup, so perhaps he had work commitments or something.
- Only 8597 at this game. Only ten Rock home games ever have had lower attendance, and three of those have been this season.
- The Mammoth defense did a great job containing Tom Schreiber. He had nothing to shoot at all night. I put this under “not awesome” because I’m a Rock fan, but if I were a Mammoth fan, I’d have put it under “awesome”.
Other game notes
- The Rock brought out a pipe band to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a day where we celebrate Ireland. What song do they play as the enter the arena? Scotland the Brave.
- There’s a big gap between the Watson and Doyle banners at the ACC. Just enough room for a third that says Veltman.
- In the fourth quarter, I tweeted the Mammoth, asking if they wouldn’t mind not scoring because the Rock were trying to tie the game. They responded by hitting the post twice on empty nets. Thanks for trying!
- Callum Crawford is becoming one of my favourite players because he’s so dynamic. He’s a great passer but can also shoot from anywhere – inside, outside, in close, from distance, even from above the goalie when he does his signature “leap in the air and then bounce it five hole from twelve feet up” move. I’m also a big Stephen Keogh fan. And Joey Cupido. And Ilija Gajic. And Dillon Ward. And Alex Buque. And… Hold on… am I becoming a Mammoth fan?
On a night where the Toronto Rock celebrated Colin Doyle’s contributions to the team and honoured him by raising his jersey to the rafters of the ACC, it would have been fitting for the Rock to win the game by scoring a beautiful late clutch goal since that’s something that Doyle was known for. But they didn’t. The Roughnecks probably wouldn’t have played along and nobody on the Rock wanted to take the chance that Calgary would score the clutch goal and win. Losing on Colin Doyle night wasn’t an option, so the Rock just decide to score a bunch of goals and take the clutch-ness out of it entirely.
The ceremony to honour Doyle was well done. It wasn’t a quick “let’s get this over with” thing, but it didn’t drag on for ages either. Jamie Dawick spoke briefly about what Doyle has meant to the Rock, even long before Dawick himself arrived. Then they showed a video of some of Doyle’s best moments, a bunch of shots of him holding the Champion’s Cup, a listing of his accomplishments, and some interviews with current and former teammates and coaches. The man himself stepped up and talked for a few minutes, and was just as classy and well-spoken as you’d expect from Doyle. He thanked a bunch of people including Dawick, former Rock owners Bill and Brad Watters, all of his teammates and coaches (collectively), the Rock trainers and doctors, the fans, and his family. He also singled out a few people who are no longer with us: Terry Sanderson, Chris Hall, and Les Bartley.
If you weren’t at the ACC or watching on the live stream, head over to nlltv.com and check out the video. During his speech, one of Doyle’s daughters (cute-as-a-button 6-year-old London) noticed that she was on the Jumbotron while daddy was talking, and started to ham it up a little, dancing around, bowing and curtseying. She stole everyone’s attention away before Doyle noticed and said “Don’t encourage her!” but how could you not?
Former Maple Leaf captain Wendel Clark was also there, and helped carry the banner out before it was raised. I thought it was a little strange that he didn’t speak at all but I’m sure it was a case of “they didn’t come to see me, they came to see him“. These classy Toronto team captains stick together.
On to the game:
- Latrell Harris, Billy Hostrawser, Sandy Chapman, Challen Rogers. These guys were everywhere and did a great job of getting in the way of the Calgary offense.
- I feel like I should apologize to Billy Hostrawser. I’ve been hard on him in previous years for taking dumb penalties, and even implied that his only reason for being on the floor was to fight. But he’s turned into a damn fine defender.
- Another seven points from Tom Schreiber, who even made a couple of great defensive plays as well. Turns out the MLL MVP is a pretty good lacrosse player.
- Refereeing. I rarely call out refs because they have a very difficult and thankless job. But the whistles were out in full force in this one. If you looked at someone the wrong way, you were in the box. There was a slashing call on McArdle in the first which was not a slash. Hostrawser was called for an illegal body check that looked totally legal to me. Scott Carnegie was given a major for an illegal body check that may have been a minor but I don’t think it was a major. Carnegie also got called for tripping which was a total accident. Gamble, checking from behind. Bell, slashing. Reinholdt, slashing. It just didn’t stop. Then in the middle of the fourth, a Calgary player gave a Rock player a blatant cross check across the back just after he’d passed the ball. No call. The mind, she is boggled.
- Latrell Harris got another breakaway but couldn’t bury it. I think he’s 1 for at least 5 on such breakaways this year. But his defense is good enough that it’s not a big deal.
- The Rock only allowed a single goal in the first half. Then they allowed NINE in the second half. Luckily the Rock offense didn’t take any time off so it wasn’t a big problem but allowing nine goals in a half is a bit concerning.
Only one other game note:
The Rock’s seventh goal was challenged because it appeared that the goal went in after the shot clock expired. The review was inconclusive. It seemed to me at the time that the order of events was:
- Rock player shoots, hits defender
- McArdle picks up ball, shoots
- Shot clock whistle sounds
- Ball enters net
- Ref signals good goal
I can’t say for sure that that’s what happened, but that’s how it looked to me. I looked over the replay on nlltv.com but the shot clock was not shown on the screen and I couldn’t hear the shot clock whistle at all, so that doesn’t clear anything up. The ref who reviewed the goal checked all of the replay views and none of them showed the shot clock either so he had no way to confirm Calgary’s suspicions. It should be technically possible to embed the shot clock and game clock time in the video itself so that either all shots from all angles have the clock displayed on the screen, or there’s some other way to determine the time from the video. This is not a small project though.
As my wife said following the game, it wasn’t as much of a blowout as it could have been, but it wasn’t really a close game either. We all know that Calgary has the offensive ability to make up 4 or 5 goals in no time flat, and in the second half they proved they could score a bunch to make it close, but on this night the Rock offense was just a little bit better.
I calculated last year that I’d probably seen around 200 pro lacrosse games over the years, but I had never been to a practice. I was able to remedy that this week, taking in the Toronto Rock practice at the TRAC this past Tuesday. Judging by the public turnout at this one, I’m going to guess that most fans haven’t seen one, so I thought I’d outline what I saw. Practices are open to the public and I couldn’t hear anything anyway, so sorry to the Roughnecks scouts looking for inside information to use this weekend. I got nothin’.
I thought the practice started at 7:00 but it was actually 8:00 so I had over an hour to hang out. Luckily the TRAC is a busy place. Colin Doyle was running a lacrosse camp for 10-12 year old kids, and that was quite entertaining. Colin was great with them. When I arrived, he was running some shooting drills at the far end, while a number of goalies were taking shots from another coach. After a while, Colin came down and took a couple of shots on the goalies, and then all of the other kids came down as well. Colin started demonstrating some trick shots, starting by faking a shot over the goalie’s right shoulder and then shooting behind the back, scoring over his left. Then he went in for another shot and the goalie thought he was going to do the same thing, but he faked a shot, faked a behind the back shot, and then shot forward again. Gotta keep those goalies on their toes! Next he faked forward, faked behind the back, and then dropped his stick and shot underhand. For the last one, he stopped right in front of the net, bent over forwards, put his stick between his legs and shot over his back. He missed that one.
He had the kids laughing a lot. He even hit the goalie in the face with one trick shot, and immediately dropped and did three push-ups. Presumably, there’s a rule. Then each kid got to run in on a breakaway and try one of these shots, and he came in with one kid, faking a shot and then passing to the kid for quickstick shot, but he missed.
After the shots, they played a half-hour game (two 15-minute quarters) complete with scoreboard, shot clock, and two NLL referees. I was very impressed at the skill level of these kids. Many of them tried the trick shots they had learned earlier, and one even dove from behind the net, tucking the ball in the side. Cory Vitarelli would have been proud. One team tried a hidden ball trick as well, where all five players gathered near centre and put their sticks together, then all ran out at once cradling what may or may not have been a ball. I think the kid who actually had the ball ended up dropping it, but it was a good attempt.
Around 7:45, the kids were done and cleared the field. After a few minutes, Brock Sorensen came out and started taking some shots on the empty net. He’s missed all of this season thus far so I was glad to see him out there, especially without any kind of brace on his knee. But that was only for a few minutes. The rest of the team started coming out and taking shots, and Brock vanished, only to return a few minutes later with a knee brace.
The team was broken up into blue shirts and white shirts. I figured this might have been for a scrimmage later on, and I was a little confused as to why there were so many more blues than whites. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the blues were defense and whites were offense.
I was surprised to see both Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle out there. I guess I assumed they wouldn’t fly up to Toronto for a mid-week practice (“We’re talking ’bout practice here. Not a game, practice!”). In addition to Sorensen, it was nice to see other injured players Kasey Beirnes, Rob Marshall, and Patrick Merrill shooting the ball around, though Merrill was always by himself and didn’t join the rest during the drills. I also saw Josh Sanderson, though not on the floor, and Jamie Dawick was on the floor for a while too. While the team was doing 2-on-2 drills at one end of the floor, Dawick was taking shots on the far net from half.
I was literally the only person in the stands. Sitting there by myself with a computer on my lap, I felt a little like these guys:
I couldn’t hear anything from the floor so I have no idea what Matt Sawyer, Manning, Codd, Pat Campbell, or strength and conditioning coach Sean Holmes were saying. After 20 minutes or so of Holmes-led stretching, they started some defense and shooting drills. Next were some fast-break drills – one player would start at the far restraining line with the ball, and when the whistle blew, he’d run toward the net, three defenders would run out from the far bench, and three offensive guys from the near bench, and the shooters would try to score.
Jamie Dawick came by and we chatted for a while. He said the whole team is just blown away with Latrell Harris – obviously he’s playing very well and beyond his years but he’s a great person off the floor too. Dawick said he’s been impressed with their other rookie D guys as well – Harris is a little more flashy but Jordan Magnuson and Challen Rogers are both solid players and have benefited from some great coaching in Coquitlam. We talked a little about the American guys – I mentioned earlier that I was surprised that Schreiber and McArdle made the practice, but Dawick said they’ve made almost all of them (“honestly, it probably takes them the same amount of time to fly in as it takes someone driving in from Peterborough”), and when they’re not coming up to Canada for practice, they’re watching game film and really studying the box game. Clearly, it’s paying off.
Dawick also expressed his admiration at Bruce Codd’s coaching abilities. Codd is new on the Rock bench this season, and while Dawick didn’t know him very well before, he’s been very impressed with how Codd is running the defense.
He then left to go and do some President/GM things, and I watched the rest of the practice. After some more shooting drills, the offense and Blaine Manning broke off into one group and the defense and Bruce Codd into another. Most of the next while was just the coaches talking and the players listening, though I did notice veteran Kasey Beirnes offering his opinions to the O guys as well.
Holmes then came back out for some more stretching to end things off. Most of the players did what he was showing them but many did their own thing, and the goalies (Nick Rose and Steve Fryer – didn’t see Brandon Miller) left early. I didn’t see any specific goalie drills at all, but most of the passing and shooting drills ended with a shot on Rosey or Fryer so they got their work in too.
Thanks to Jamie Dawick for the chat and for making Rock practices open to the public, even if very few Rock fans take advantage of it.
Everyone knows that John Tavares played his entire career with the Bandits. Similarly, Blaine Manning played with nobody but the Rock, Andrew McBride with the Roughnecks, and there are a few others.
And then there are a number of other players who you might think are in the same boat because they’ve played so long with one team that you can’t think of them playing anywhere else. But they did. If you’re a long-time fan of the league, you may know all of these but I’d guess that for many of you, at least one of these will be a surprise. The first one was for me and led me to look around for more.
These are in no particular order.
Can you imagine Shattler in any jersey other than the Roughnecks? How about Bandit orange? Shattler played a single game with the Buffalo Bandits in 2006, where he picked up one assist and three loose balls. He was then traded to the Roughnecks along with a second round draft pick for Kevin Dostie. Shattler’s now in his eleventh season with Calgary, having played over 190 games and amassed over 700 points. He also won the Transition Player of the Year and MVP awards in 2011. Dostie picked up 157 points in 53 games over four seasons in Buffalo so it’s not like the Bandits got nothing back, but I’m going to call Calgary the winner on that one.
Incidentally, that second round pick that Calgary also picked up? They used it to draft Jamie Lincoln, who never played for Calgary but did see time with the Mammoth, Stealth, and Black Wolves.
Steenhuis has been a Bandit his whole life, right? Wrong. He actually played a full season with the Columbus Landsharks in 2002, picking up 30 points in 12 games. He’s since played 233 games as a Bandit.
Watson actually played for two different teams before the Rock, but one was the Ontario Raiders (who turned into the Rock after one season in Hamilton) so that doesn’t really count. But Whipper also played 268 minutes for the Baltimore Thunder in 1996, where he had a very un-Whipper-like 17.24 GAA. He took 1997 off entirely and returned to the NLL with the Raiders in 1998 and then played 13 seasons with the Rock, where he only had two seasons with a GAA above 12 (and one of them was 12.04). Oh, and two Goaltender of the Year awards, two NLL Championship Game MVP awards, six championships, and a Hall of Fame induction.
Quinlan became the face of the Edmonton Rush from 2006-2013, playing over 125 games, many of them as captain. He then became an assistant coach with the team, where he remains. Many Rush fans can’t imagine the team without Jimmy Quinlan. But Quinlan picked up 10 points in 8 games, and a Championship ring, with the Toronto Rock in 2005.
Ranger was drafted by the San Jose Stealth and actually played parts of two seasons (11 points in 9 games in 2004 and 2005) there before heading to Calgary where he picked up more than 450 points in 137 regular season and playoff games over 8 years.