Although early in the season, last weekend’s game against the Toronto Rock was really important for our team on many levels. The Rock were off to a 2-0 start and have looked very strong. For us, we are still trying to come together and build off a good start. Road games are usually a good opportunity for the team to bond. With some early injuries to key players, and the suspension of one of the league’s top offensive players, Jordan Hall, it was an opportunity to see what our team was really made of.
It was a good sign when I looked up during the national anthem to find Chris Sanderson’s brother Dustin and cousin Nate — I knew it was going to be a special night. As Dustin mentioned after the game, Chris will always be a WING. Tough not to get emotional every time I put on the Wings jersey and #17.
The NLL is much different than other professional sports leagues. It is a “part time” league, but requires a “full time” commitment. For the majority of the players in the NLL, it is a constant balancing act between your personal career commitments and your NLL training schedule. Players have to remain disciplined throughout the week, knowing there is no one looking over your shoulder making sure you put in the necessary work. You have to understand that your teammates are relying on you to be well prepared for each game. Great teams have individuals that are wiling to put their teammates ahead of themselves.
Because we have players living in different parts of the continent, anywhere from Toronto, Canada, to NYC, to Erie, Pa., it is not possible for us to practice during the week like some other teams in the league. Email communication is frequent between the players. Typically we share pre- or post-game thoughts, but mostly it is light hearted “chirps” -- in a weird way showing that we are thinking about each other. That is the beauty of playing lacrosse at any level, the relationships and the connections that you make over the course of a season.
Every Wednesday night we have a mid-week conference call, where our coaches introduce the weekend’s game plan and scouting report. Our coaches usually open it up for discussion. It is a good time to recognize what we are doing well and try to correct some of the mistakes that were made.
We have the privilege of having a legendary coach, Bobby Allen, on our staff (lacrosse’s version of Scotty Bowman or Dean Smith). Every time you talk to coach Allen, you learn something new. Although in his 80’s and battling cancer, he still has a great deal of fire and passion for lacrosse and teaching the game. For me personally, it is a good feeling knowing Bobby is in our corner, lending words of advice and encouragement. For health reasons, he is not able to travel to every game, but we will take every minute we can get with Bobby. I had to laugh to myself when I saw Bobby standing next to Paul Rabil ... the evolution of the modern lacrosse player! Bobby still has those magical hands, as he effortlessly throws behind the back passes in practices, resembling John Grant Jr. (or John Grant Sr, who Bobby coached in the 70's).
As coach Allen would say, regardless of the outcome, continue to look for ways to correct the mistakes and continue to improve gradually. That will be our goal again this weekend as we have back-to-back games in Buffalo on Saturday night, then at home to Calgary on Sunday. We hope to see you out at The Wells Fargo on Sunday.
Thanks for your continued support,