Jeff Zywicki Of The San Jose Stealth

Jeff Zywicki

Photo courtesy of M40 Images

This week on “Ask The Pros” we speak with one of the pure goal scorers in the game today; the San Jose Stealth’s Jeff Zywicki. The pride of Nepean, Ontario currently leads the Stealth in scoring, and is 8th overall (having played less games than all but one scorer ahead of him).

Jeff has proven just as he states, that when you want something bad enough, you can attain it. Coming out of a small town, his desire to play the game, has afforded him the opportunity to get a great education / career, and take his game to continual new heights.

Jeff has always performed at an extremely high level wherever he has played. In Canada’s Field Championship game win in 2006 (it’s first in the 28 years prior), he was instrumental scoring 5 goals and 1 assist in the 15-10 win against the United States. Furthermore, he was named to the “All World Team” as an Attack man, and was voted the “Best Positional Attack Player”.

Enjoy!

GM: Describe for us your Minor Lacrosse years and where you played.

JZ: I played all my minor lacrosse for the Nepean Knights. In my 2nd year at age 10 we won the Provincial C Championship beating Orillia in the finals. As I got older we started getting more and more hockey players on our team and eventually jumped to A in my 2nd year of Bantam. I think we won one game and tied one in the qualifiers, which for a team from the Ottawa area was pretty impressive. I finished my minor career with a Provincial B Championship by beating Owen Sound in the finals in a thriller.

GM: What lacrosse players did you look up to when you were younger?

JZ: Growing up in Ottawa there wasn’t a lot of lacrosse to watch but I definitely looked up to John Tavares. I went to a camp that he and some other MILL/NLL/OLA players ran and was in awe every time I saw him.

GM: You also excel in Field Lacrosse. Have you played the two games for the same amount of time and do you prefer one game over the other?

JZ: I had only played Field Lacrosse a handful of times before I went to UMass but had been playing box since I was 9. I love both games but my heart is definitely with box lacrosse.

GM: You had a very good field career at UMass. Describe your time attending school and playing lacrosse there.

JZ: The best decision I made was to attend UMass and play lacrosse there. I was able to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering and had a great time over the course of my four and a half years. I had great coaches and teammates and we were pretty successful. We made the NCAA tournament quarter-finals 3 times and won our Conference (ECAC) twice. I still keep in close touch with many of my friends/teammates from UMass and couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

GM: What advice would you pass on to kids looking to attend a U.S. College?

JZ: Go to recruiting camps in the U.S. Coaches have started to look a lot harder at Canadians now but if you really want them to notice you, go down there and prove you can play with the best American Field Players.

GM: You were selected 8th overall in 2005 by San Jose. Do you recall your first game for the Stealth?

JZ: Yeah, I remember my first or second shift in Edmonton I was running onto the floor through the middle and someone jacked me up pretty good knocking my helmet off. Right then I knew I was playing with the big boys. I ended up playing well and even scored the winning goal in Overtime which was pretty special.

GM: Describe playing offense with guys like Colin Doyle, Luke Wiles, and Gary Rosyski.

JZ: I love playing with these guys as well as with the rest of my team. They’re all so good and they make me a better player, I’ve learned a lot from playing with them

GM: This season, San Jose is doing quite well, yet the fans do not seem to be coming out as much as in past seasons. Do you find this has affected the team at all?

JZ: I don’t think it affects us in a negative way but if we had more fans I think it would help. At the end of a tight game it would be nice to have a packed house cheering us on and giving us that adrenaline boost to help us on to a win.
Jeff Zywicki

Photo courtesy of M40Images

GM: You were also a member of Canada’s National Field Team that won in London in 2006. Give us your thoughts on that team and the accomplishment.

JZ: We had so many great players on that team that at first it was hard to not get caught up in it all. Everybody wanted to
win so badly that we all made a lot of sacrifices and took on roles that would lead us to victory. I think the win did a lot for Canadian Field Lacrosse. It opened a lot of NCAA coach’s eyes to start looking at Canadian players and it also showed that we are right there with the Americans now.

GM: So explain to anyone out there that might suggest that small town kids don’t have a chance to make it in the Pro’s.

JZ: There are a lot of opportunities out there for anyone that is willing to make the sacrifices. Whether it’s moving away from home and your friends for a summer to play Jr. A ball or going to College in a different country, if you really want to make it happen, you can.

GM: Are you able to get back to Nepean often, and do the people there react at all to you being there?

JZ: Yeah, I’m back there quite often and it’s pretty cool when I’m around lacrosse people and some of them know who I am and are proud that a good old Nepean boy made it and is successful.

GM: You can score goals, and lots of them. What’s your secret? What do you do to be able to score so much?

JZ: I think the biggest thing is that I’ve really worked hard at continually adding new things to my game. I try to do different stuff all the time so I’m not predictable. I am always looking to learn new stuff from teammates, opponents and coaches. I also take as many shots in practice as I can to get better. Instead of taking water breaks or chatting in between drills I shoot on the goalies.

Fun Questions (you cannot mention any Stealth team mates).

GM: The goalie that gives you the most trouble is……

JZ: Rob Blasdell. He’s got a different style than most goalies that I’m still working on figuring out…

GM: The best / toughest defender you’ve played against is….

JZ: Billy Dee Smith. For some reason every time I go against him he ends up with the ball and I’m on my rear end

GM: If you were not at the arena playing lacrosse, where would we find you?

JZ: Hopefully on the golf course

GM: In your opinion, the best player you’ve ever played with and against.

JZ: John Grant Jr. No one can take over a game the way he can

GM: If you could sit and interview anyone (alive or deceased), who would it be, and what would you want to know?

JZ: Alive: Barry Sanders. I’d want to know why he retired and broke my heart.
Deceased: My grandfather. He died before I was born and I’d want to know everything

GM: Jeff, thanks for doing this for us.

JZ: Thank You

Minnesota Swarm’s Craig Point

Craig Point
This Week on “Ask The Pro’s” we had a chance to chat with a player whom many feel will be the 2008 NLL Rookie Of The Year; the Swarm’s Craig Point.  The rookie who just turned 22 last month was highly touted coming out of Ontario Junior Lacrosse (winning a Minto Cup) and has stormed into the NLL making many take notice early.

Born in a hotbed of lacrosse, (Six Nations, Ontario), he surprisingly did not start lacrosse like most youngsters at a real early age.  Instead, he started when most kids had been already playing for three or four years.

As mentioned, Craig has really impressed all who have seen him this season on the lacrosse floor.  But what is even more impressive is his dedication to his family and “real job” as an Iron Worker.  As with almost every player in Professional lacrosse today, Craig has had to balance playing the game he excels at, his family life, and his career.  Luckily for fans of the game, and in particular the Swarm, he can!

GM: Tell us a little about your Minor Lacrosse experiences as a youngster.

CP: I started playing lacrosse when i was in Novice. Wasn’t the best player in the league but through a lot of practice and listening to different players and coaches they molded me into what i am today.

GM: Who did you look up to or idolize when you started playing?

CP: Delby Powless Jr. has always been a player that i looked up to.

GM: There are so many folks that have no idea about the lacrosse culture in Six Nations. Explain if you can the atmosphere in the summer (and now even Winter months) in the lacrosse arenas.

CP: There are always a lot of kids looking up to you and always wanting your attention…The fans at Six Nations are the best fans anyone could ever ask for.

GM: Your last four seasons of junior lacrosse were very successful for you. Describe the feeling of capturing the Minto Cup in your last season of Junior.

CP: It almost didn’t feel real…It was quite and adventure but i finally did it…It might have taken 4 tries but it is a memory that i will have for the rest of my life.

GM: What has surprised you the most about playing in the NLL.

CP: I am very surprised at how well I have been playing as I didn’t think that I would be as successful as I have been. The players and the fans are giving me a lot of respect and acknowledgement and I didn’t expect that because this is my first year in the league.

GM: Compare the National Lacrosse League to Junior A lacrosse in Ontario if you can.

CP: There are a lot of similarities in both leagues. Both make you feel like you’re a part of a big family.

GM: How have you found lacrosse in Minnesota so far?

CP: I really like the crowd there…they are really into the game. The people are nice and welcoming to us newcomers. It is more surprising because people know who I am.

GM: Do you feel there has been pressure put upon you being a 1st overall draft pick? If so, how are you dealing with it?

CP: No…I don’t feel pressured at all…If anything it makes me play harder. I go out there and play the game and play it like it’s my last.

GM: Explain playing for coach Duane Jacobs.

CP: He is pretty straight forward. He tells us what we need to do when we fall into trouble…he always seems to be able to pull us out.

GM: Give the kids out there that dream to play in the NLL any advice you feel could help them attain that dream.

CP: Practice as much as you can and never think that you are better than anyone else. You should never put your stick down or mistreat it because if you are good to your stick then it will be good to you.

Fun Questions

GM: What do you enjoy doing outside of lacrosse?

CP: Spending irreplaceable time with my family, playing other sports and working.

GM: Give us your most memorable lacrosse experience to date.

CP: Winning the Minto Cup.

GM: If you were not a Professional Lacrosse player, what other sport would you play?

CP: Basketball or Football

GM: If you could interview any sports related person, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you ask them?

CP: Michael Jordan. How do you handle so much pressure?

GM: What is the one thing you’d like people to know about Craig Point, that they may not know?

CP: That I never played lacrosse as a real young child…and I never started until I was 9 playing Novice

GM:  Craig, thanks for your time.

CP:  Thank You.

Derek Malawsky of the Portland Lumberjax

Derek Malawsky
In our next session of “Ask The Pro’s we head west again to speak with one of Coquitlam, British Columbia’s native sons, Derek Malawsky. Derek is in his 10th season playing Professional lacrosse and was picked up by Portland in the Dispersal draft from Arizona.

Derek has been a top scorer in both the Junior and Senior ranks of the Western Lacrosse Association. He’s won 2 Mann Cups and continues to excel offensively in the National Lacrosse League, (currently 3rd in team scoring for Portland).

Derek is also helping me currently own first place in my division of my NLL Fantasy Pool (yes I know how to pick ‘em).  Another addition in the growing list of good guys in the game today, Derek Malawsky.

Enjoy.

GM: When did you start playing lacrosse and where?

DM: I first started when I was 6 years old, in Coquitlam. British Columbia

GM: Describe who you feel were your biggest influences in your early lacrosse days?

DM: Biggest influence – My uncle Al, who influenced my brother to start playing; my brother then needed someone to throw the ball around with and so there you have it, we became lacrosse brothers.

GM: Give us a few lacrosse players you idolized as a youngster?

DM: I would go watch all the Sr. Adanacs games

Jim Veltman –w/ Coquitlam Adanacs

Paul and Gary Gait

GM: In 1994 you were the top scorer in the Western Lacrosse Junior A ranks. Describe that accomplishment and who some of your team mates were from that year.

DM: I played with a great group of lax players during my three years of Jr. ball – 1994 was my last year of Jr. and we had a great young crop of players come in and really worked well as an Offensive unit- Chris Konnopolis, Fyaz Bardai to name a few.

GM: You repeated that same accomplishment in 2000, this time in the Senior A series with Okanagan.

DM: In Kelowna, I was a go to guy and saw the ball a lot. At that point of my Sr. lacrosse career; I was really starting to come into my own and was very excited and inspired to make Lacrosse grow in the Interior of B.C.

GM: In British Columbia you’ve played on a few senior teams (New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, North Shore, and Okanagan, Victoria). Why so many moves?

DM: It sounds like a few teams but the reason for that was; as for the Port Coquitlam Team, it was a Senior B club and it was a one game stint; my good buddy Tosh played there and he wanted me to come out and play a game with him.

New Westminster was where I started my Senior lacrosse career; I played in 3 seasons, and then was involved in a trade to the North Shore Indians. I played a season there and the team was moved to the Interior of B.C., Okanagan (Kelowna) Thunder. We had a tough time financially keeping the team in the Interior. I was then approached by Lloyd Robbie, Victoria Shamrocks G.M. at the time and he asked if I would like to play in Victoria. I obliged, made my home on the Island and captured my dream of winning the Mann Cup!!!

GM: You’ve had the fortune of winning two Mann cup Championships with Victoria in 2003 and 2005. Describe the feeling of capturing that Championship. Was one sweeter than the other?

DM: One word – Jubilation, actually two – Relief. I went through 2 Minto’s and 2 Mann’s before I got my ring. You always dream of winning a championship but a lot of great players have gone their whole career without drinking from the holy grail. The first one was priceless, the sacrifice it takes from each player to achieve that common goal and finally get it – brothers forever!!

The second one just solidified that the first one wasn’t just luck! No, but really, you get to appreciate all the little things that you missed during the first experience; like the fans reactions, the players around you, and the emotions they are feeling. You live in the moment a little clearer and take away a lot. Each one has its own unique memory.

GM: In the National Lacrosse League you’ve played with Buffalo, Rochester, San Jose, Arizona, and now Portland. Excluding Portland, can you give us a few comments about your time in each city?

DM: Buffalo- The most exciting and entertaining brand of Lax I’ve played to date. We were a “Run and Gun” team through and through. The way Lacrosse should be played.

Rochester- We had a very talented team, some of the best fans to play for. What an advantage it is to play in such an environment as Roch cha cha!!

San Jose-We had a lot of the tools but under achieved. The potential was there to do some damage but we came up short. Hopefully SJ can put it together and grow the sport in the Bay area.

Arizona - Great Group of lacrosse players and people on that team. It would have been sweet to win one with such a great group. We were so close to a very good thing for many years to come. It’s a shame that we had to part ways!!

GM: Speaking of “Run and Gun”; there are reports that Philadelphia this season is running a hybrid 5 up 5 back system. What are your thoughts on the Offence / Defense game versus the old up and back system?

DM: That reminds me of back in the day when you needed to play all positions on the floor. A lot more opportunities can come from your own end as we are seeing today in transition type players. It really opens up the game a lot more and gives it a lot of flow.

It (5 up/5 back) seems to be working in Philly as they are currently undefeated. With the game of Lacrosse it is forever evolving and it continues to grow into an even more exciting game to watch.

GM: You’ve excelled offensively in on every team you’ve played for. Why do you feel you’ve been able to perform at that level for so long?

DM: I have taken great pride in how I prepare myself for each and every game I take the floor in. There are a combination of things that I have worked on throughout my Pro Career. It starts with a healthy diet, a training routine conducive to lacrosse specific movements, mental preparation, and lots of extra practice. I have also had the fortune to play alongside some talented individuals and have learned to absorb a lot of their skills in order to make me a better player today.

GM: Judging by the average age in the league today, you might be considered by some to be a wily veteran. How many more years do you see yourself playing?

DM: Yes I knew there would come a day when I would be called that (wily Veteran). But to me age is not a factor; the players around me keep me young and push me to succeed. When I first got asked that question at 30 years old, (how long do you see yourself playing Lax for), I said if I take care of my body and do the right things I could play until I am 40. Let’s see if that holds true????

GM: Do you have plans to get behind the bench or be involved in some other way when you’re playing days are over?

DM: I always want to give back to the sport that gave me so much in return. I have had thoughts of being an Offensive coach. There are some great coaches out there today and I will continue to learn the game through them and my experiences and maybe come time to hang ‘em up, I will see where I’m at then.

Fun Questions

GM: The one thing many people may not know about Derek Malawsky is…..

DM: I love to cook, with my Fiancée-Audra and drink Wine followed by a solid cigar!!

GM: Give us your favorite activity away from the lacrosse arena.

DM: Golf –relaxing and being outdoors.

GM: If you could play any other sport at this high a level it would be…..

DM: Golf again- the Body would love me for it!!

GM: Give us your ultimate interview (alive or deceased), and what would you ask them?

DM: Wayne Gretzky. Tell me what made you so great from the beginning.

GM: Being honest now, your favorite meal prior to a game (if it was your choice)?

DM: Right now it’s Chicken with pesto pasta; mixed greens with a vinaigrette.

GM: Derek, I thank you for doing this for us.

DM: Thank you.

AJ Shannon Of The Edmonton Rush

AJ Shannon

This week on “Ask The Pro’s” we had the chance to speak to AJ Shannon of the Edmonton Rush.  I know you’ve likely read me commenting each week on how so many Pro’s in the NLL are great guys, very professional, etc.  But it is true, and you can throw AJ in that same category.  I’ve known AJ and his family for a number of years, dating back to his Bantam lacrosse years here in Whitby.  He has always taken the time to say hi, and share a few words with anyone that wishes to talk lacrosse.

AJ started his career in Buffalo and last year was traded to Edmonton.  A devastating knee injury shelfed him for almost the entire season last year, but his will to compete, and his hard work, gave him a new lease on the game.  Now he is back and performing at his pre-injury level with the Rush.  Another in the long list of good guys of the game, and one who certainly knows how to put the ball in the net; AJ Shannon.  Enjoy….   

GM: Describe your playing days growing up as a kid in Whitby.

AS: I grew up playing lacrosse under the Bishop regime. He had the biggest impact on my lacrosse career, besides my parents, and I’m forever thankful for it.

GM: You played with many great players growing up that are now in the NLL. Why do you believe so many of you made it?

AS: Whitby is a lacrosse hotbed, and fortunately we’ve been blessed with great coaches along the way. Also, we played religiously throughout the summer; lacrosse was our primary focus which translates to success on the floor.

GM: You won 2 Minto Cups (1997, 1999) with Whitby. What do you remember most about those wins?

AS: How much of a team effort it took to win. Everyone had to be on the same page and make social sacrifices to win. Bishop instilled this kind of work effort in us, so it almost seemed like second nature. Also, we were fortunate to play in front of the home crowd, which was an awesome experience.

GM: Describe your time attending college in Virginia.

AS: It could probably be described as the best four years of my life. It was a great experience, I would recommend it any young lacrosse player entertaining the idea of attending an American college. To top it off, we won the National Championship my senior year, in front of 37,000 people at Baltimore Stadium. It was a surreal moment, and my most cherished championship.

GM: What would you say to kids thinking of that same route that you took?

AS: Keep your grades up. The primary reason why Canadian kids don’t make it down there is because of their grades. Also, it is a significant commitment, that means cutting back on your social life a bit and working on your game. More kids are playing the game, and unfortunately, the scholarship quota remains the same, which means less money to go around. So in order to make it down there, you have to do something better than your fellow peers.

GM: You had a few pretty good years in Buffalo before getting traded to Edmonton last season. Was that surprising to you or somewhat expected?

AS: It was expected. I enjoyed my time in Buffalo, they were great teams, but ultimately I knew in order for me to reach my offensive potential, I would have to leave Buffalo. No one likes to be traded, but it was a fresh start with a great organization. So I was pretty happy about the whole ordeal.

GM: Describe the knee injury, and your long road back to getting on the floor.

AS: It was pretty devastating. Basically your whole outlook on life changes, it is really a humbling experience, which I would really not want to experience again. The rehab is a test of your resolve and mental fortitude. There was definitely some moments along the way that I didn’t believe I would get back to being what I was before my injuries. However, I think I had many positive things that I took away from it.

GM: So there is a renewed energy in Edmonton this season and although 0-3 at this point, is there an optimistic feeling that better days are ahead?

AS: The team is still optimistic, you really can’t afford to get to down because the season is so short. We have the talent and leadership; it’s just the little mental mistakes that are killing us right now. I think offensively, it takes a while for people to get used to each other, so hopefully we can overcome these speed bumps and get our first win against Portland this weekend.

GM: What do you find to be the greatest part of playing Pro Lacrosse, and at the same time, what is the least pleasing?

AS: The greatest part is going out there and competing every week. I still love playing the game. No too many people get the chance to play a pro sport, so you make the most of it while you still can. Also, playing in front of a packed house is a pretty neat feeling. The least pleasing part is the travel. It can take its toll on you after a while.

Fun Questions

GM: Your favorite place to play (not including Rexall Place)….

AS: Air Canada Center. Love playing in front of friends and family.

GM: The toughest goalie you’ve played against is…

AS: Box – Anthony Cosmo and probably Chugger (Steve Dietrich)
Field – Tillman Johnson and Greg Cattrano

GM: If you could go back and change anything lacrosse related, would you and what would it be?

AS: We lost in 2OT (NCAA semi-finals) to Syracuse in 2002, which ultimately, was the championship game because Princeton, who was awaiting the winner, was not much of a match. Felt like it was our day to win and we just came up short.
And the Champions Cup in 2004 when we lost a tough game to Calgary, I felt like we didn’t play our best game and that kind of loss sticks with you for a while.

GM: Who is the best player you’ve ever played with?

AS: Tough to name one so I will have to go with three guys here: John Tavares, John Grant and Casey Powell.

GM: If we let you sit and interview anyone in history, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?

AS: A little off the beaten path but I would have to say Mao Zedong.

“How could you cause so much pain, suffering and ultimately death, upon the people of China in order to satisfy his ideological pursuit of the tenets of communism?

GM: AJ, thanks for your time.

AS: Thank you.

Dan Dawson of the Portland Lumberjax

Dan DawsonIn the first of our 2008 “Ask A Pro” Interviews, we had a chance to chat with Dan Dawson of the Portland Lumberjax. With the Arizona Sting not entering a team in 2008 Dawson was quickly selected first overall in the dispersal draft by Portland.

In his first game in a Lumberjax jersey this season, he certainly had an immediate impact for his new team, and Portland fans should be excited of what they saw from him in his first game.  While I have not had the pleasure of meeting Dan, he is widely respected in the game for his dedication to the sport, but just as important for his professionalism on and off the floor. For having not started to play lacrosse until he was 12 years old, I’d say he is a true example of what anyone can do with some god given talent, and a whole lot of desire to be the best.

One of Oakville’s native son’s, and an offensive force in the NLL today, enjoy….

GM: At what age did you begin playing lacrosse and where?

DD: I started in grade 6; we didn’t have a minor system in Oakville until I was 12yrs old.

GM: Who do you credit most with learning the game?

DD: Learning the game growing up in Oakville Bruce Donavan played a huge role in my early lacrosse development. He did so much for the Oakville minor system and was great for the game.

GM: Give us your lacrosse hero or two when you were younger.

DD: Hands down the Gaits and JT (John Tavares). Maybe because that was the only 3 names I knew in lacrosse as a kid or maybe because they are the 3 best players to ever play the game.

GM: You’ve won a number of MVP awards, and Championships in OLA Junior and Major Lacrosse. Is there one that you are most proud of?

DD: This past summer representing Canada in Halifax at the World Championships and winning gold is my proudest moment.

GM: What do you think is your best attribute that allows you to be such a force on the lacrosse floor?

DD: I am always striving to become better. Whether it is studying game film, having my stick in my hands all day or working out hard in the weight room. My work ethic is my best attribute.

GM: What advice do you have for kids that aspire to play in the NLL?

DD: Start with a goal and if it is playing the NLL you must believe you can achieve your goal. You must work hard at your game in order to take it to the next level. Be willing to do what the next guy is unwilling to do. Remember hard work is what separates good from great.

GM: How has the adjustment gone so far for you playing in Portland?

DD: It has been an easy adjustment. We have a great organization and team. They have made me feel right at home from day one.

GM: You and Derek (Malawsky) both had an impressive start to the season in your first game, although it didn’t end the way you had hoped I’m sure.

DD: We played a good New York Titians team and they were the better team that night. Stats don’t mean anything to Derek and I; all we care about is winning.

GM: What would you say is your highest point as a lacrosse player to date?

DD: My highest point as a lacrosse player to date was winning the Mann Cup in Victoria 2005. Playing 6 games in 7 nights and not being able to walk normal for a month. Winning the Mann Cup in front of our home fans was something special. I’m going to miss my summers out west that is for sure.

GM: What is the highest compliment you could receive if someone was describing Dan Dawson on the lacrosse floor?

DD: Fun to Watch.

Fun Questions

GM: Name two players; the best player you have ever played with and against.

DD: Played with -
Josh Sanderson’s performance in the 2002 Mann Cup best ever.
Anthony Cosmo 2005 Mann Cup

Played against-
Dan Carey 2006 Mann Cup.
John Grant every game I have ever played against him

GM: Your favourite Arena to play in the NLL (excluding Portland or Arizona) is….

DD: Calgary; it’s a great city on and off the floor (ask any player).

GM: If you could play any other sport at such a high level it would be….

DD: Hockey – Toronto Maple Leafs (just waiting for open tryouts).

GM: What is one thing lacrosse has done for you that you likely would otherwise not have had the chance to do?

DD: Too many things to count. I would say travel the world and see so many great places.

GM: If you could interview any person (sports related or otherwise) in history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you want to ask them?

DD: Nelson Mandela. How did you stay so strong in your fight for freedom?

GM: Dan, thanks for your time

DD: Thank You.

Rush Looking To Improve Record Again This Season.


Jim MilliganThe Edmonton Rush are entering their 3rd season in the National Lacrosse League. For two straight years they have improved their team and their win / loss record from the season before. Although not yet considered a powerhouse team, they are making strides each year, and in the coming 2008 season they may make that leap.

With several off season moves, and signings, the Rush are picking up key players in key positions to help solidify their lineup.

I had the chance to speak with Assistant Head Coach of the Rush, Jim Milligan about the team and the coming 2008 season.

GM: Edmonton made a few off season moves acquiring the likes of Mike Accursi, Ben Prepchuk, Kyle Goundrey, and Matt Disher. Tell us how you see these players helping out the team in ’08.

JM: I see the likes of Accursi, Prepchuk and Goundrey bringing a strong balance to the offense. In the last couple of years the Rush offense lacked depth and balance (long shot, cutters and grinders) and these players have shown these qualities with their respective other teams before coming to Edmonton. Therefore the hope is they will bring these qualities to Edmonton to make it a more balanced and stronger offense consistently.

Disher is a proven starter and offers the Rush another element in net. It is also good to have 2 proven goalies that have already played and established themselves in the league. This gives us depth and options in this position as Disher and Palidwor both have distinctive different goaltending styles.

GM: In this year’s draft you also traded up and took Steve Hutchins. What was it that you saw in Steve to make that move?

JM: Steve is a big, strong and talented right shoot that had a strong summer. What I liked about Steve this summer was his competitiveness and aggressiveness. I believe anytime you can get a big, strong aggressive offensive player with a nice touch around the net, this will help your team.

GM: So how has the squad looked so far in the camps you’ve had to date?

JM: The Edmonton Rush squad this season has looked very strong. With the off-season trades and the pick up from the Arizona team there has been 11 changes to our line up. This has really improved the skill level of the team and most important the all round game sense of the team. Of the changes made 9 have already played in the league before and this experience will really improve the Rush in the 2008 season

GM: Have any of the rookies caught your eye?

JM: All the rookies have caught my eye because their skill level has really elevated due the skill level at camp. Hutchins and Wilhelm have really competed for a spot on the offensive end and Poly and Hartzell have worked hard on the defensive end. (Wilhelm, Polny and Hartzell are all Edmonton players that have really shown well at camp).

Kurtis Wagar has really impressed me even though he is not a rookie and saw limited action last year; he finished on the practice roster. Kurtis played for the Brooklin Redmen last summer and he has really improved his game to another level. Kurtis has looked really strong in camp and has really impressed the coaching staff with his improvement and maturity as a goaltender.

GM: The Rush are now entering their third season in the NLL, and have improved in each of the first two seasons. What can fans expect to see from the team this season?

JM: I am hoping fans can see a very much improved, competitive and hopefully a potential champion in the Rush this season. I believe the goal is to get better every year and make progress towards every teams ultimate goal which is to win the Champions Cup. I believe if our team stays healthy and focused that we will do some damage in the league and hopefully close the gap in achieving this goal.

GM: Who can we look for to potentially have a breakout season in Edmonton in 2008?

JM: I think you will see the likes of Stobart, Grimes, McElroy, Quinlain and Daly have strong season. These guys have had a strong camp and will definitely take a stronger and more important role with the team this year. These players will have to step it up and be solid every night to allow our team to be competitive night in and night out.

GM: Jim, thanks for your time and good luck this season.

JM: Thank You.

“Riggers” Look To Cordingley To Right The Ship

In our next visit with the NLL Coaches we move to Western Canada to meet with the new Head Coach of The Calgary Roughnecks, Troy Cordingley. Troy played in the NLL for nine years, before calling it quits in 2001, and beginning his journey behind the bench.

In Calgary, Cordingley takes over a team that ended in a 3 way tie for second place behind Colorado in the Western Division in 2007. He will be joined by former Toronto Rock Head Coach Terry Sanderson.

Calgary started 2007 going 4-1 and then went into a bit of a slump going 5-6 the rest of the regular season. The “Riggers” made the playoffs but lost their divisional semi-final game to Arizona, ending their season. But there is a lot of optimism going into 2008, with the addition of Steve Dietrich, and Curt Malawsky, and the re-signing of their top scorer, Lewis Ratcliffe.

As an aside, I think that they and Portland share the best looking team logo in the NLL (check out the next poll question coming soon).

Enjoy the read….

Troy Cordingley
GM: You are taking over a 2nd place team in Calgary. What will be your approach to the coaching the Roughnecks this season.

TC: Our approach this year will be to strive for consistency through hard work. The league is as strong as it has ever been, especially with Boston and Arizona taking a one year hiatus. Every team has made themselves a lot stronger with their dispersal picks which means you have to be prepared to play 60 minutes to win. We won’t be taking any short cuts in practice and we will stress accountibility to ourselves and our teammates.

GM: You have now had a couple of camp sessions. How do things look so far?

TC: The guys have come to camp with an amazing attitude and work ethic. They have done everyting we have asked them to do and more. We are trying to implement some new systems and the players have been very receptive and have really worked hard to understand what we are trying to accomplish. Having said that, we still have a lot to work on and improve, but overall we are excited at what we see right now.

GM: Describe the importance of re-signing Lewis Ratcliffe, and at the same time how you will deal with the loss of Jesse Phillips (work commitments).

TC: Obviously re-signing Lewis is huge for our team. I believe he is the best pure goal scorer in the league today. Anytime a player can score 50 or more goals in 16 regular season games is pretty amazing. The thing I like the most about Lewis is his work ethic and willingness to do whatever helps the team to succeed. He is in phenominal shape and he pushes his teammates to work as hard as he does. We expect him to be one of our offensive leaders again.

Losing Jesse for this year was unexpected. We will definitely miss his experience and hard nosed style on the floor and his leadership in the dressing room. However, we have brought in Kyle Couling from Buffalo and some young and aggressive defensive players itching to make their mark. Hopefully it fills the void of losing a great competitor in Jesse.

GM: Steve Dietrich and Curt Malawsky were key acquisitions. How do you them contributing this season?

TC: These two acquisitions were huge for us. Their leadership alone makes this team a lot better. Both have played in the league for a while and have a lot to offer on and off the floor. They are extremely good at what they bring to the team. “Chugger and “Mouse” are ultimate team players that expect themselves and their teammates to play at a high level every night.

GM: What will Calgary fans see in the 2008 Calgary team?

TC: The fans in Calgary will see a team that will leave everything we have on the floor. We will play hard, smart and stay disciplined at the same time. We are going to play an up tempo style of lacrosse.

GM: Are there any rookies, or players not as well known that Calgary fans should keep an eye on this season?

TC: A player that comes to my mind right away is Mike Carnegie. He is a defensive player that was on Buffalo’s practice squad last year. He continually improves defensively and is a very smart ball player. I have been fortunate enough to coach him already and I know the fans will like what he brings every game.

GM: Troy thanks and good luck this season.

TC: Thanks Gary!

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