Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
|When did you start playing lacrosse?|
My first of minor lacrosse, I think I was 12 years old and played bantam. I was an avid baseball player leading up to that.
|It's a bit of a late start compared to a lot of guys. It's not like you're Mark Steenhuis starting in high school, but it is a later start than the guys who played from peanut.|
I always owned a lacrosse stick. I always had a lacrosse stick in the back yard. My dad played a lot of lacrosse as a kid. So it's not like I never had a lacrosse stick in my hand. I was quite experienced coming into the game, which was a lot of backyard lacrosse with my brother and my dad for years..
|And who was the best of the three of you.|
Not to be immodest...my dad was a good player back in the day from what I hear. I never had a chance to see him play. My brother started after me so I had the years' experience on him and I've been a little more successful.
|You mention experience and that is a big factor that you bring to the Toronto Rock at this point. The team is going through a lot of change. One big question I have for you in terms of your role with the team is, what do you feel your role is with Josh Sanderson and Colin Doyle retiring? How does that affect the team on the floor and off the floor especially?|
Definitely it's going to be a new role for me. With Colin and Josh there, they're both veteran leaders and that's not just on the floor. Their game on the floor is one thing. Their presence in the dressing room after is a whole new realm that a lot of people will never get the opportunity to see which I've had the privilege to see and play with and do all that with both of them for several years. It does change my role. I'm hoping as one of the older guys, if not the oldest guy on the team, that I can help bring some of that to some of the young kids, try to guide them in the right direction.
|What's it like on the floor, in terms of having two of the best to ever play the game leave within a few months of each other. It's been trending that way with Shooter being banged up a bit and Colin being banged up a bit, but all of a sudden they're gone and there's a vacuum to be filled.|
|It's a big change. For the Toronto Rock it's going to be a big adjustment. It's going to be a big opportunity, I think, for several people, myself included. It's going to give me an opportunity to maybe play a bit of a different style of game, try to do some things that I haven't done in my career. I'm looking forward to it. Obviously playing with Colin and Josh throughout the years, you don't need much space to be considered open when they've got the ball in their stick with their ability to playmake and find you. It's definitely going to be trying to find some new chemistry with some of the players, with [Stephan Leblanc] and [Turner Evans] over there on the left side. Hopefully feed off a little bit of what Colin and Josh were good at. It would help my game a lot, and hopefully it will help grow their game as well.
|Having watched you play a lot over the years, I've called plenty of your games, what we say a lot is “There's the Doyle to Beirnes or Sanderson to you, especially Colin to you, pass that we've seen hundreds of times.” It seems like you guys just had an innate sense of where each other was on the floor. Like you said, you didn't need much space to be considered open. We've seen games where you'd score three or four goals and the ball would be in your stick for a total of about 10 seconds the whole game, it seemed like. Is that the kind of stuff you're thinking, you might have to carry the ball more, and how do you try to develop that kind of chemistry with somebody else??|
Exactly. Obviously Colin and I for some reason have very special chemistry which we're lucky to have. It benefitted me and it also benefitted him in his game; that was his strength. I recall one game, it was the summer, I think we were playing down in Ajax. Colin was just back that game and he made some no-looker behind-the-back pass right in my stick where I had just sprung open and I caught it and put it in the net. This young kid on the team came over and said, “Yeah, you guys have played some games together.” I said, “Yeah, a few.”
|In terms of changing my game, I am hoping to carry the ball a bit more myself, having possession of it and trying to be a bit more of a playmaker myself. It's going to be a change for me. I'm definitely not going to change my game 100%. It's what got me here and has kept me around for 16 years, so I don't want to change it too drastically.|
Like you said, you've played 16 years, you've scored 25 or 30 goals a bunch of times. You've played that certain style. You're really known I think in large part for your off-ball game, for knowing exactly when to cut to an open spot, to a spot that's going to become open. How do you go about changing that when you've been playing a certain role for so long?
|It's a good question. I definitely think what's kept me around, some people say smarter not harder and that's definitely a bunch of what my motto is. If you're in the right place at the right time, then you're going to be successful to get the pass and get a quick shot off. Will that change? No, I'm still going to try to be smart and keep defenders on their toes and not knowing?|
|What I'm doing, but a bit of a change. Whether that be taking some more outside shots compared to being tucked right in to the net. That's one thing I want to work on. It's still going to part of the game because when you get a little older your speed goes down a little bit and you've got to use your smarts to take advantage of some of the defenders.
|We've talked about Doyle and Sanderson but you guys are also going to be without Rob Hellyer this year, which since he's another guy on the right side has maybe even more of an impact on how you're going to wind up playing.|
Yeah, definitely Robbie's going to be a big loss on the right side. He's a proven player. Obviously, he's come out of his shell in the last few years to show how strong his abilities are and what he can do to help a team. With Hickey coming back—he was hurt a bunch at the end of last year—and Lintner having a year under his belt, hopefully the three of us...and if they had some additions to the right side; I don't know what that's going to be at this point...it should be good. We've had a year to kind of gel and now hopefully we can build on it from there.
|You talked about changing now and having been in the league for 16 years. I curious about what you think the changes are in the league over the last 16 years, having a chance to watch it. How do you feel the style of play, the quality of play, the pace of play, all those things have changed?|
It's definitely seen a big change. The one that comes to the top of my head the quickest is the athleticism. Kids coming into this game nowadays are pure athletes. Sometimes their athletic skills are a lot higher than their actual playing skills but they still are able to crack a spot just because of that. Back in the day it was more you needed to have the playing skill and the athletic part will just follow after. It's a fast game. Transition has become the top notch for every team building a team now, you have to be quick out the back door and push the ball. Those would be the two biggest things that have changed that I would say have changed since when I first started in comparison to now.
|The one other question that I'm curious about with the team, Colin Doyle's been the captain of the Rock for several years now. When he was out with injury, Josh Sanderson wore the C. With them both being gone, the team needs a captain. To me, the initial obvious choices might be Sandy Chapman or yourself. Again, you've said you've been around 16 years, you're an older player, I'm not sure how many years you plan to keep playing. To me there'd be some sense in getting a younger guy who can carry the team as the captain for a while. What would be your thoughts on who would be a good captain and a strategy for picking a captain.|
I think this is going to be a big choice for our coaches and executive. With having such a young team coming together here, they're going to need a leader who can push these kids so they can play at the top of their potential. Another guy who you didn't mention that I can see, who has a lot of experience being a captain, is Brodie Merrill. He obviously was the captain for several other teams before coming here to Toronto and now that he's been in Toronto for a couple of years, he'd be a pretty good choice I would say. In terms of the young guys, the future of the Toronto Rock in terms of captains, a guy like Jesse Gamble I think would be a young pick. Not all that loud in the dressing room but his work off the floor is incredible and his work on the floor is excellent, too. He would be a good choice for now or in the future. I think they wouldn't go wrong with that choice.
Stephen Stamp is the co-editor of IL Indoor and was the Tom Borrelli Award winner as the National Lacrosse League's Media Person of the Year in 2013. He also does play by play and/or colour commentary for the Toronto Rock, Major Series Lacrosse, the Canadian Lacrosse League and in 2015 called 27 games at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. He hosts Boxla Beat, the leading lacrosse podcast, on NLL Radio.