National Lacrosse League Return to Metro Vancouver a Hit
Dec 12, 2011
The National Lacrosse League (NLL) finally made its return to the province of British Columbia Saturday night as the Toronto Rock and Washington Stealth went toe to toe in a pre season game that had mid season flair at the Langley Events Centre. In front of 4,791 fans (largest ever at the Langley Events Centre) the last two NLL championship teams went back and forth with highlight reel goals and end to end action.
Washington jumped out to an early 3-1 lead to start the game however the Rock, with consecutive goals from Blaine Manning and Stephan Leblanc, went to the quarter break up 4-3. The second quarter started much like the first with the Stealth striking early to knot things up. That is when the real fun started as lacrosse legend, and Rock forward, Colin Doyle scored a highlight reel goal from his knees. Not long after, the Rock added another, this time from Kasey Beirnes who capitalized on a smooth 70 foot bounce pass from Langley native Garrett Billings that brought the crowd to their feet.
Just when fans thought as though Toronto had pulled it out, the Stealth roared back with three straight goals to tie things up at 13 - 13 off the stick of Rhys Duch forcing overtime with just a few seconds left in the game. It did not take long from there as 31 seconds in, Lewis Ratcliff of the Stealth spun and ripped a shot that beat Rock goalie Matt Roik giving Washington a 14-13 victory in front of an excited LEC crowd of lacrosse faithful.
The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Billings who was playing for the first time in the Langley Events Centre since his last season with the Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association in 2010.
"It was unbelievable to come home and see the LEC sold out," Billings has worked hard to grow the game in Langley, working with Langley Minor Lacrosse in recent years, "the facility was a great host and I think the number of fans shows just how much people love lacrosse and support the game in this community."
Also in attendance was National Lacrosse League Commissioner, George Daniel who noted that having a team in Vancouver in the near future is a priority for the league,
"There are not many places I have seen that could sell out a pre season game," Daniel was asked about the viability of a possible team at the LEC in the future during a halftime interview with TEAM Radio host Teddy Jenner.
The weekend also had strong support from the BC Lacrosse Association which helped spread the word of the game and whose players and coaches took part in two clinics. Friday night, coaches from around British Columbia were invited to the facility for a Coaches Chalk Talk featuring presentations from the NLL coaches themselves. Saturday, there were two player clinics for kids ages 6 - 16 hosted by players from all four rosters.
The facility was also host to the Calgary Roughnecks and Colorado Mammoth over the weekend. The two teams took advantage of the turf that was in place for the game and hosted a portion of their respective training camps throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That included a scrimmage which was open to the public Sunday morning which was won by Calgary, 12 -10.