Hi all and welcome to my first ever article on the inter-webs. I’m Game Time Decision and will be your host for this article. I’m a long time reader, occasional kommenter and came here as part of the exodus from the site that shall-not-be-named. I’m one of the Canacks around these parts, am a Green Bay fan and a Habs fan. So, yes, I have issues. But my other issue is that I’m a HUGE lacrosse fan. Now, I totally get the dislike about lacrosse from all the crap that lax-bro’s do and create, but the game at the highest level doesn’t have much of that left. I like the opposite thing going on with sport, similar to football. The checking and stick work make it a hard game, but the actual plays and the things some of these guys are able to do with the ball is amazing.
Some lacrosse history, if I can indulge for a minute. This is a game created by the Native American’s hundreds of year ago as a way of settling disputes and a slightly less brutal war. They call it “little war”. Back then there were few rules, and the “field” could be miles long and wide, with hundreds of players for each side. Today, there are two versions of lacrosse, the outdoor or field version and indoor or box. Field lacrosse is played on a lesser footy field and has 10 players per side. Box lacrosse is played in a hockey arena on concrete or turf over the ice and has 6 players per side. This is the version we’ll be looking at today.
For box lacrosse, there are 2 main leagues. There is the winter league called the NLL ( National Lacrosse League) which plays December to May. This is the “professional” indoor league. Professional is in quotes as even the superstars only make around $35K a season, the rookies get between $7 and 10K a year, depending on who you listen to about player salaries (they are not published). Most, if not all, of these players have other jobs as there is not much money in the sport. The other league is the summer league but has 2 divisions. There is the WLA ( Western Lacrosse Association) and the MSL ( Major Series Lacrosse) as divisions. As there is no money in lacrosse, the 2 divisions do not play against each other during the regular season, so the winners of each division play for the Mann cup. This is what I’ll be covering for you. This is similar to the Lesser Footy Premier league, where they can win their part but then move on to play other league champions. For the games themselves, the offense and defense of basketball is the most similar with picks and screens, but with the change on the fly and body checking allowed from hockey. Oh, and slashing and cross-checking is legal assuming you don’t hit the head and the other person still has the ball. Each game is 3 periods of 20 minutes with 10 minute breaks between the periods.
The Mann Cup (yes its spelled with 2 “n”s) is one of the hardest trophies to win in sports. These guys have just finished a regular season, 2 rounds of playoffs in their own division and now are playing a best of seven game series in nine nights. One of the strange things about the series is that all games are played in one arena. This year the MSL or East is the host so they get to host all of the games. Last year and next year the WLA or West will be the host and the winner of the MSL will travel out West to play the series out there. This is done as there is no money in the summer league for teams to travel back and forth across the country. From my understanding, most teams barely make enough to cover expenses, forget about paying anyone. However, there are 2 teams that apparently pay the players in the East and one of them is playing in the series. In case you are interested, the other team that plays players is the Six Nation’s Chiefs and they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the team that lost in the finals. I’m not sure if any teams in the west pay their players.
This year, playing for the Mann Cup will be, representing the West, the Maple Ridge Burrards, and from the east, the Peterborough Lakers. The Burrards had to fight to make it into the playoffs, but once they did, they swept the first round in 4 straight games, and then took the WLA championship 4 games to 1. The Lakers were first in the East, were pushed to 7 games in the first round of the playoffs and then won the MSL title 4 games to 2.
Up until 2007, the home team usually won the Cup, but the East has now won the Mann cup every year since 2007 except for 2015. The Lakers went out west last summer and won it, so are the defending champs.
Peterborough is considered a hot bed for lacrosse and for the last 15 years or so has fielded some very good teams. So with success brings out the fans, and with Peterborough averaging almost 3,000 people a game, they usually draw more fans per game than the other teams do for the year. So this was going to be a hot ticket in the lacrosse world. These fans are also, for the most part, pretty knowledgeable about the game, so it makes for a nice game experience when they appreciate good plays from either team.
Game 1 (Friday Sept 7)
As Peterborough is a small town in the middle of no-where\cottage\cabin\camp country about 2 hours east of Toronto, and about an hour from where I live, their print-at-home tickets didn’t work, so all tickets needed to be re-issued from the box office before the game. So this is what I was greeted with on my way in.
Oh and lets only have 3 people working at the ticket window. Grrrr. I managed to get to my seat just before the game started.
Usually when two teams haven’t played each other, the game starts slow, but there was none of that here. The pace was quick, and it was a back and forth game that ended 3-2 for the Lakers after period one. As there is little money for entertainment between the periods and they are trying to create fans, you are allowed out on the floor between periods with a stick and ball to practice. The turn out here is great to see
The second period saw the Burrards slow a bit, probably due to travel, and the Lakers were up 10-5 after 2 periods of play. Lacrosse is a game of runs and the Burrards put in 6 straight goals in just under 4 minutes to lead the game and silence the home crowd with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd period. Then with about 5 minutes left to play in regulation, the Lakers evened up the score with a beautiful pick and roll play. That would be all the scoring in regulation time. For the first period of over-time in lacrosse, they play 10 minutes but they play the full time. So, no sudden death.
The Burrards got a goal about 30 seconds into the OT period and then got another about 3 minutes later to make the score 13-11 for the Burrards. The Burrards were caught with too many men on the floor which led to a Laker power play goal. In lacrosse, good teams will score on over 50% of their power play chances. Then about a minute later, the Lakers with some great loose ball work in the offensive end tied up the game at 13 to send us into double overtime. In double overtime, it’s now sudden death, so you could feel the tension in the crowd. However the Laker fans gathered would go home happy as the Lakers were about to score on a beautiful shot from distance. The team combined for 129 shots in the game.
Game 2 (Saturday Sept 8)
The Burrards got on the board first with a goal about 8 minutes in. Unfortunately for the Burrards, that would be their only goal for the night. The Lakers would score 10 unanswered goals to win the game 10-1. My guess to the lopsided score would be a bit of jet lag from the travel east and then the double overtime loss caught up with the visiting team. Peterborough out shot the Burrards 61 to 31, to make the Burrards goalie their player of the game. The Lakers goalie was their player of the game with the almost shutout game.
The game got a bit chippy towards the end of the second period, and the penalty box was a popular place for the remainder of the game. The third period was still rough, as almost all of the period was played with a penalty. We even got a fight (sorry, no video). So there were multiple ejections from the game from both teams. The Burrards ended up with 115 penalty minutes and the Lakers had 53.
Game 3 (Monday Sept 10)
This game started out more the way I expected the series to be played: great pace and some great plays. The Lakers led 3-2 after 1 and then 6-4 after 2 periods. The Burrard goalie was again keeping them in the game as they were outshot 46-29 in the game. In the first game, it was the Burrards that went on a run early in the third, but this time it was the Lakers scoring 3 goals in just over 30 seconds to put away the game. The first goal was scored on a great pick and roll play. On the ensuing face-off or draw, the Lakers scored on a give and go play. On the next draw, the trailing player scored from distance. The Burrards would get 2 goals back, one on a great fore-checking effort to pin the Lakers deep in their own end. But that would be the end of the Burrards scoring as they would lose 11-6.
I’ve deliberately stayed away from player names as most of the names won’t mean anything to y’all, but going to break from that for a second. One of the Peterborough players, Shawn Evans broke the all-time assist record during this game. He started the night needing 4 assists to break the record and he ended up with 8 assists on the night. The old record was held by John Tavares. No, not the hockey player, his lacrosse-playing uncle. I consider the elder Tavares the best lacrosse player ever. He played well into his 40’s with a career that spanned over 23 years and he holds numerous records. He even suited up this summer, and while didn’t score, still got 3 assists and didn’t look out of place. And that was at 46 years of age. Simply insane to be playing at the highest levels at that age.
Game 4 ( Tuesday Sept 11)
With a possible sweep on the line, this game was almost a sellout. Over 3,700 people were on hand to see the game. Again this was a close game all the way through. The Lakers led 5-3 after one and then 7-6 after two periods. Near the end of the first period, the announcer kept calling out license plates and to have the owners of these cars come see them. This announcement happened a few times. This is why
Note that my car is parked about 4 cars away, but luckily un-damaged.
About 2 minutes into the 3rd, the Burrards tied up the game at 7. They weren’t going to go away that easily. After 4 minutes of scoreless game time, the Lakers scored 2 goals in 15 seconds.
This goal is Peterborough ( in white and red ) on the power play.
Another Peterborough power play, the goal was scored by what’s called a “quick stick”, where the ball is only in the stick for a second.
and this happens after every goal.
Also a great shot of the back of my melon head.
And then they got another goal about 3 minutes later in the game to make the score 10-7. The Burrards would get a nice goal in transition mid way through the period, but that’s as close as they would get as the Laker defense stood tall and didn’t allow another goal. The final Laker goal still makes me laugh. With about 60 seconds remaining in the game, the Lakers were passing the ball around in their end to burn off the shot clock. With about 10 seconds left in the shot clock, the defender launched the ball up the floor from behind his own net. The intent was to be like icing the puck. However the Burrard goalie had come out of the net to try to pressure the Lakers in the offense end, and thus wasn’t watching the ball. The ball when over all the players heads and dropped into the net. The reaction of the Burrard players told you that the game was over. Final score was 11-8 for the Lakers and a sweep for their 7th cup in 15 years and back to back Mann Cup champions. The Lakers, with a deeper, more talented team and playing at home, were simply too much for the Burrards.
Looking at some series stats, one that jumps out at me the most is that the Lakers won 74% of the draws. That’s crazy. If you think of hockey face-offs, that’s a lot of extra possessions. Which led to Peterborough out-shooting and out-scoring Maple Ridge in every game.
The “Mike Kelly” award for series MVP was given to Shawn Evans, for the third time, who led all scorers with 24 points ( 3 goals, 21 assists). I don’t have a vote, but would have given it to the Burrard’s goalie. The way the Burrard’s were out-shot every game means that he kept them in games that, with a not as good goalie, would have been a blowout.
So, that’s it for the summer leagues for this year. The winter league starts up late December, and I will try to make it to a few games and write about them. And looking at next year, I’ll be at the summer league games again, but won’t be able to cover the Mann Cup as it will be out West next year and I think that DFO has a smaller travel budget than the lacrosse teams do, which means that I won’t be there in person to see the games. So, I will cover the MSL playoffs, as I’ll be there in person for many of the games.