Helmets, Fighting And Some Lacrosse: A Week In The NLL

NLL goalie fight
Seriously? Did he slash you, keeper?

The NLL’s second week is in the books and there were a number of exciting games, and quite a few memorable moments.  Buffalo beat Toronto 14-10, Colorado beat Minnesota 20-14, Calgary beat Washington 13-10, and Rochester spanked Philadelphia 22-12.  I’ve seen most of all four games now (thanks to the NLL’s deal with Livestream), and there was some great lacrosse being played out there.

Other games might have featured better teams or talent, but the Philly-Rochester game was clearly the biggest game of the weekend for the league.  It was big because Philly had a whole new cast of characters, and because Johnny Powless made his pro debut for Rochester, but mostly because the US Lacrosse convention was in town that weekend, and a ton of lacrosse people were in attendance.  At first it was a great game with Rochester going up early, and Philly fighting back, and Rochester surging and finishing them off.  Then it became more of a spectacle as Rochester and Philadelphia literally fought each other in the final minutes.

Pretty much every single player on the floor got involved and when you see this, you know what I’m talking about:

NLL goalie fight
Seriously? Did he slash you, keeper?

I understand the argument for fighting in the NLL.  You get slashed in the face on purpose, your team takes exception to it, and then two guys fight.  That I can deal with.  See?  I’m willing to compromise a little sometimes on my no fighting stance.  But when the goalies get involved and every guy on the floor ends up fighting someone, and it happens in the last minute of a blowout, it means the game got out of hand, and the refs probably failed to do their job.  The game was chippy and intense, but the brawl was still over the top and totally stupid.  Is that really what is going to bring new fans to the league?  I mean here we are talking about the NLL and we’ve only focused on a goalie fight and a brawl.  Is that good for the sport?

Obviously I’m to blame here as well because I’m talking about it, but I was quite shocked to see it all go down, and had a hard time not wondering what the hell went wrong…  A fight in the middle of the game can provide a switch of momentum, but a brawl at the end of a blowout?  Well, that’s just really poor sportsmanship.

As for the lacrosse action in that game, it was a lot of fun to see Johnny Powless play and put up 3 goals and 2 assists in his debut.  He’s going to be an exciting player to watch for years to come.  He could even be the next John Tavares!  Powless is only 18 years old and is playing against seasoned pros but he looks like he’s been at it for years.  Rochester’s offense was impressive for much of the game and if they can keep that up they could be the team to watch this year.

Speaking of John Tavares, the old man has still got it.  His 1 goal was an absolute near side snipe, and his 7 assists were almost double the next closest player’s total in the game.  I feel like one can become a better player just by watching John Tavares operate.  So cagey.

Toronto seems to have lost Blaine Manning to injury for a while and that’s a big blow.  The Rock are now 0-2 and looking vulnerable.  You can bet every team in the league will be looking to get some revenge this year and Toronto needs to regroup before it gets out hand.  Both Buffalo and Calgary are tough teams to be sure, but there won’t be any easy wins in the NLL this year.  And without Bob Watson in between the pipes, a certain consistency may be gone with the Rock.  Only time will tell if they can reload.

And to address my earlier point about the brawl, it wouldn’t be fair to judge the whole NLL on the Philly – Rochester fiasco, because a lot of teams were doing it right.  Jeremy Thompson of the Buffalo Bandits shows you how it’s done: one fan at a time.

Jeremy Thompson signing autographs
This is how you Grow the Game.

I watched less of the Colorado – Minnesota game for one reason: the video wasn’t that good.  Grainy full screen just doesn’t work for me. But the Mammoth did have the first team HeadWrapz in the NLL.  So that’s kind of cool.  Almost as cool as them winning!

NLL HeadWrapz Colorado Mammoth

You want another gear/helmet note?  Ok, the Buffalo Bandits have black helmets with orange accents.  Tracy Kelusky however had a black helmet with red accents on.  I’m sure they’ll fix that up next week, but it was weird to think they couldn’t get him a team helmet in time.  There has to be at least ONE extra laying around somewhere, right?  I guess there was, and it was black and red.

My final note is that there is a non-Reebok helmet in the NLL right now on the head of Geoff Snider.  It seems that if a doctor determines a player needs better protection, that player can choose to wear a Cascade Sports M11 helmet instead, as long as they cover the logo.  GREAT to see the NLL is valuing head protection above all else!  Protecting the players in your league has to be a top priority.  So kudos for that!


  1. Brawling with another team because you got spanked on the floor certainly sends a message, and that is: we are sore losers.

    The only team that sent a message in that game was Rochester.  The message was: we just beat you by 10 goals.

    If the sport needs brawls to grow, then I worry for our future.  It’s extraneous, and a remnant of a beer league mentality.  One on fighting, fine.  I can deal with that.  But brawls are a waste of time, and pure spectacle in my opinion. If I want to watch Slap Shot, I can rent it.

    Thanks for commenting. Happy to keep the discussion going.  I know I’m in the minority here but go ahead, let’s have it anyway! 

    and here are some of my thoughts from a past post: 

    The fighting has to be reined in as well, at least a little.  Personally, I’m of the school of thought that would like to see fighting go away completely, but I realize that may not be realistic.  The NHL makes it work more or less, so I’m sure the NLL could too.  But right now it doesn’t work.  Some people actually go to games to see the fights.  Fight highlights get more views than game highlights.  There are guys out there who basically just boxers in pads.  Listen, I love Slap Shot as much as the next guy, but it’s not professional by any standard, and if the NLL wants to truly be successful, they need to look at this issue a little closer.Maybe the refs should just call more penalties.  EMO is always good for some beautiful passing goals.  And that way all these “tough guys” might not feel so slighted all the time and end up fighting each other.  I mean, why have rules if you’re not going to enforce them?  Why even bother to pay the refs?  This self-regulation business is actually quite silly when you think about it.  And if you tighten up the calls a little bit, these more thuggish fighters will quickly find they have no place in the league anymore, and the game can get back to lax, and away from MMA.The attitude should be, “You want to wear an Affliction shirt?  Be my guest, but don’t come to a lacrosse game looking for a knock out“.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the direction in which the league is heading.  Personally, I’d be much more inclined to watch more NLL games if I just saw lacrosse players out there playing the game and trying to score goals.  Once in a while there might be a fight, and it would be news and then die down.  Some of the stuff that goes on now just looks like a baseball brawl, and those guys are as soft as they come.  Do we really want to emulate baseball?So tighten up the calls a bit, like hockey did, reduce fighting and increase scoring.  Increase the amount of lacrosse players out there, and reduce the number of pure thugs.  Suspend players who can’t seem to keep from fighting.  Send a message, and clean up the sport.  When the biggest news from 2010 was a pre-season brawl, a botched halftime show and a big trade for a team that eventually shut down for a year, you KNOW the product on the floor has to be improved.  I love boxla, but all this other stuff is really getting in the way.So IF the NLL were to make these changes, and started calling games a little tighter, they’d be ready to showcase their product to the wider lacrosse world. 

    • And I think that’s exactly where we disagree.  I think more fans would be interested without the brawling.  A fight once in a while is fine, but this kind of thing doesn’t bring in new fans of lacrosse.  It brings in fans of over the top behavior, and in order to keep them interested, you have to keep fighting.  Vicious cycle.  Time to break that in my opinion.

    • I’ve been a player/fan of lacrosse for as long as I can remember and I’ve never been interested in the NLL. It’s always seemed to me like that whole league is geared towards the hockey style game. The goalies with massive pads, the fighting, even the small things like calling man up penalties “power plays” or wearing hockey helmets. The point that was made about the fights having more views then the highlights in my opinion is just pathetic and is not what lacrosse needs right now. Bottom line is if I want to watch hockey I’ll turn on the NHL and if I want to watch real authentic lacrosse I’ll wait until march for college and summer for the MLL.

      • It is unfortunate that you do not realize that we are blessed with two versions of our sport. Both having their own rich history and importance to the sports collective future. Unless you are watching games that pit teams of hundred against each other, bare foot, with no pads, you are very misconstrued on what represents ‘real authentic’ lacrosse.

        What lacrosse ‘needs’ right now is its true ‘player(s)/fan(s)’ to understand; why box lacrosse goalies have massive pads, why there is fighting in the game, why it is called a power-play, and why box players wear hockey helmets. These questions and their logical explanations ‘authenticate’ the NLL and box lacrosse.

        Truth be told, box lacrosse has vast and rich history. On the generous side, about 5% of the box lacrosse world knows of its history and origin. So, I can understand ignorance plays a part in most dismissals of the version.

        Ignorance is bliss and everyone has a bellybutton. 

  2. There are ore than just that M11 helmet floating around the NLL. Carey in Toronto is using a different bucket. I’d have to see the game again to reference which helmet it it. But much like Kelusky’s CCM helmet last season, it is due to concussion prevention.

  3. Fighting in sports is tough to wrap your head around unless you have been directly involved in it.  It is a mutual agreement between two adults, a decision that takes more courage than any decision in sport.  A way to answer disrespectful play and send the message that you’re not going to hurt one of ‘my’ teammates.  The amount of respect gained from these decisions is unfathomable to someone who hasn’t been on the floor or the bench during a game.  Is it dangerous? Sure.  Do some people hate it? Yes.  Does it keep players from running around and doing whatever they want?  Absolutely and it would be silly to think otherwise.