The National Lacrosse League (NLL) kicks off its 25th season this Saturday evening with 5 of the 6 scheduled match-ups taking place January 8.
The Toronto Rock start the 2011 campaign at the Air Canada Centre Saturday night versus the Edmonton Rush at 7pm on TSN2 and online at the NLL Network. Toronto will look to bust out quick and fire up their fans as they have one thing on their mind…redemption.
The Rock fell just short of their 6th NLL championship and first since 2005 with a narrow 15-11 defeat at the hands of the Washington Stealth. Head Coach Troy Cordingley and General Manager Terry Sanderson have both clearly stated that they are making another, more aggressive run at the title this year and have made some strategic moves to bolster their 23 man active roster by adding 11 new players. Captain Colin Doyle returns to lead an impressive offence, while Sandy Chapman will be wearing the “A” and was Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
Goaltending initially posed an intriguing situation as 3 net minders (Pat Campbell, Gee Nash, Bob Watson) were kept on the Rock’s line-up. After speaking with GM Sanderson he confirmed that Bob “Whipper” Watson would once again stand between the pipes for the home opener as he enters his 13th season in Toronto. Sanderson also mentioned that Toronto’s overall off season conditioning program was more rigorous from last year, which will surely benefit 2010 leading team scorers Stephen Leblanc, Blaine Manning and Colin Doyle.
Despite the Rock’s formidable attack, they will have their hands full with Edmonton who are coming off a solid season where they finished 10-6 and made it to the West Division finals. The Rush’s lead man behind the bench, Derek Keenan, said that they are disappointed in the loss of defenceman Chris Mcelroy and Ryan Powell. However, he is excited about his squad’s size on defence with the addition of Bruce Murray, and the dangerous diversity of transition man Brodie Merrill. Brodie will actually be squaring off against his brother Patrick on Saturday, who will be wearing the Toronto jersey.
Other Rock News:
A pre-season scrum between Toronto and Buffalo re-ignited a bitter rivalry, sending shockwaves across the league as the match was actually cancelled due to both benches clearing. Officials were unable to get control as brawl after brawl broke out, which forced the NLL head office to hand down numerous suspensions and fines.
On Dec. 28 Toronto Rock Assistant Coach Matt Sawyer signed on as the new Head Coach of the Boston Blazers following the termination of Tom Ryan. The Rock receive three 2nd round entry draft selections from Boston for nabbing Sawyer. The first 2 will be in the 2011 draft. 1 being Boston’s own pick and the other being a pick Boston acquired from Minnesota. The 3rd draft choice is the Blazer’s 2nd rounder in 2012.
NLL League News:
A new rule change regarding face-offs will be officially implemented at the beginning of the 2011 season. During face-offs opposing player sticks must now be 8 inches apart, where previously the distance was only 2 inches. The change was tried out during the pre-season and it has resulted in faster face-off wins, quicker transitions, and an overall smoother start to a possession.
The National Lacrosse League recently signed a multi-year deal with IMG Consulting to handle the all league’s international media and sponsor rights. “The NLL has had a very successful first 25 years,” said George Pyne, President of IMG’s Sports and Entertainment Group. “I am very confident that IMG’s global experience in media, sports, brand development and sponsorship will provide the NLL with the necessary capabilities for additional expansion and growth of the sport and its brand into the future,” Pyne concluded. (Thanks to NLL.com)
On a personal note, I cannot wait to get started as the new Play-by-Play voice of the Toronto Rock on the NLL Network. Make sure to follow the Rock’s drive to the Champion’s Cup all year long here right here on the blog and on Twitter
(follow me @: http://twitter.com/AndyMc81).
Andy McNamara is a sports broadcaster covering Toronto Rock lacrosse on the NLL Network, along with collegiate and minor league hockey, baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, and OCW pro-wrestling across the GTA on Rogers TV, Cogeco, and Durham College/UOIT.