I cannot stress enough the importance of supporting the Toronto Rock lacrosse club.
In case you live under a rock (pun intended) The Toronto Rock is the lacrosse team which plays in the National Lacrosse League (NLL). The franchise was originally founded as an NLL expansion team for Hamilton which begin play in the 1998 season, known as the Ontario Raiders. The Raiders finished that season 6-6, barely missing the playoffs and at the end of the season they were sold to a group of investors led by Assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bill Watters, and Tie Domi and the team moved to Toronto to become the Rock. They played out of the historic Maple Leafs Gardens beginning in the 1999 season.
It was that first season in Toronto where I took in a game with my colleagues from Equifax and we were hooked, purchasing season’s tickets which I still have to this day!
It’s hard not to love this sport. It’s fast like hockey, back and forth like basketball but it is also rough and tough and there is no taking a shift off. I regularly bring along someone new to lacrosse to join me and I have not had one person leave after a game and think it was boring. The game is great the atmosphere is incredible, there are activities, music playing the entire game and loads of beer consumed – meaning loud, rowdy fans in a family environment – so it’s safe to bring your kids, and there are a ton of kids at each game.
All that mentioned above, plus when you have teams like the ones the Rock put out from 1999-2005, which were a dynasty as the team appeared in six league finals and won five championships in those seven years. From 1999 – 2003, the Rock appeared in an NLL-record five straight championship games and have a 14-5 record in playoff games all time. Geez, they won the NLL Championship just last season for a record-tying 6th time.
So with much optimism I look forward each year to a competitive team with expectations of playoffs and hopes of a championship – both which are rare in Toronto’s other professional sports teams not named the Toronto Blue Jays (see 1992 and 1993).
But this year’s team suffered some early setbacks with injuries to Blaine Manning and Colin Doyle and with the retirement of world-class goalie Bob Watson. They had a goalie named Matt Roik who looked great sometimes and disinterested at other times. In a particular difficult 2 game stretch, the talent-challenged Rock were pressing hard against their opposition during most of the game and getting robbed by the other teams goalies and when they were rewarded with a goal, the other team would march down the floor and the first shot would go in. That is a tough way to play and the team, the coaching staff and the fans were frustrated.
So I missed the Rock’s last home game this year – it was Passover and the Rock’s next 3 games were on the road and the I believe they went 3-1 in that stretch which was great heading into the playoffs, and I was shocked when I came to the game this past Saturday night to find that Roik was not in the Rock’s net, nor on the bench, but instead there was a new goalie on the team, #66 Rose.
Rose looked confident, engaged and agile. With his timely saves, the Rock came back from a 4-0 1st quarter deficit to defeat the Buffalo Bandits 7-6 to advance to the semi-finals against the Rochester Night Hawks this Saturday night, May 12th at 7pm at the Air Canada Centre.
Sources close to the team have advised me that there was a confrontation between Roik at some key members of the Rock coaching staff which led to his release – not trading – and that Roik was as frustrated in the team as they were in him.
So where did Nick Rose come from?
Turns out #66 helped the Orangeville Northmen to Canadian junior championships in 2008 and 2009, was drafted by the Rock, but spent his first three pro seasons as a backup with the now defunct Boston Blazers. His first professional start was as a member of the Rock when he led the team to a 13-7 win in Rochester.
Nick Rose was drafted by the Toronto Rock in the third round, 28th overall, of the 2008 NLL entry draft and attended the training camp held before the 2009 season, released after the fifth practice. Boston invited him to try out and he made the team until the Chicago team folded and in the dispersal draft Boston got a more experienced goalie, leaving Rose third in line. When Boston folded last year, Calgary snagged Rose.
The underperforming Roik prompted the Rock to make a call to Calgary on the Sunday before the March 20th trade deadline where they swapped their 2014 first-round entry draft pick for Rose and then the Rock released Roik.
Rose made the most of his first NLL start and got the win. He’s got the size, he is 6-0 and 285 and it looks like he has the poise to be a good goalie.
How far can this team go? A championship would be great. In a year when the Leafs failed, the Raptors are rebuilding and the MLS Toronto FC just set a record for the most losses to begin a season with a 0-8 record, Torontonians need the Toronto Rock to show fans how a successful, hard-working team operates. Let’s just hope MLSE, or the Rogers / Bell conglomerate don’t get their hands on this team and take them down into the valley of despair.
In the meantime, the semi-finals are this Saturday at 7pm at the Air Canada Centre. Get your tickets, I have mine, and come support the Toronto Rock!
You can also follow the team on twitter @torontorocklax. You should follow Shannon Kelly, the host of the team @shankell, and heck follow me too @urbandaddyblog.
Go Rock go!