Not All NLL Fights Are Created Equal

joel mccready nll box lacrosse rochester knighthawks lax
McCready getting in on the action. It's a box game.

Bradley Ryder Owens, the fake “BRO” blogger over on LPG, recently wrote a post about a “fight” at the Rochester Knighthawks Training Camp, and below in italics, you can find the entire post:

“Josh Ruys, who stands at 6’3″ 245lbs., and Scott Rouse came to blows at their own training camp for the upcoming NLL season. Yes, two teammates fought each other and the team is promoting it. Does anyone see a problem with this? It is Canada after all. Maybe in-house fights should be allowed for the NFL. That way, everyone on the Philly Eagles could take their anger out on DeSean Jackson.

“By the way, the Knighthawks signed an Anti-Bullying pledge seven days ago. More lacrosse fights.”

Ok, I like that a writer on LPG is taking a stance against fighting in lacrosse.  That’s a good first step.  Of course the writer goes on to link to old lacrosse fights at the end of the post, so that kind of negates the anti-fighting sentiment, but whatever.  That’s not the main point here.  The main point is that this fight makes a LOT of sense and is NOT the big deal B.R.O seems to think it is.  Here’s why:

Fighting is currently legal in the NLL.  You need guys on your team who can throw down.  So when two guys are both trying to make the team, and both want to be known as enforcers, it makes sense that they would get into a practice fight at tryouts.  The coaches want to see you score, pass, hit, play defense and throw down.  It’s the NLL.  This is what happens, and it’s nothing new.  Want to be indignant about NLL fights?  Talk about the scrimmage brawl last year involving the Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock.  But this fight is simply not on the same level.  It’s not even close.

And when you continue watching and the fight ends, you actually see that the guy who ended up “winning” helps the other guy up.  So it was CLEARLY a practice fight.  This public service announcement is brought to you by LAS’ desire to NOT create stories out of absolutely nothing.  Not bad for a Yank, eh?  Really getting to know our boxla!

Now I’m an anti-fighting guy, and I’ve consistently said this over and over again.  I don’t think it adds to the sport, and the idea of players self-regulating cheap shots through fighting is ridiculous.  If that were actually the case you wouldn’t need refs at all.  Fighting is just a cheap thrill added on to an already violent game.  Of course all of that is just my opinion.  But I’m also aware that fighting IS currently a part of pro box lacrosse, and it’s not going to disappear tomorrow.  So I can tell the difference between an embarrassing brawl and a gentlemanly fight.  So while I will continue to make a push for the abolition of fighting in box lacrosse, I will also pledge to stay realistic.

And this fight simply isn’t something that needs to be made into a big deal… because it’s not.

joel mccready nll box lacrosse rochester knighthawks lax

There are fights, and then there are FIGHTS!

About the author

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.


  • Labeling this as a “practice fight” is very misleading.

    “So when two guys are both trying to make the team, and both want to be known as enforcers, it makes sense that they would get into a practice fight at tryouts.  The coaches want to see you score, pass, hit, play defense and throw down.  It’s the NLL.”

    They aren’t ‘practicing’ their fighting ‘skills’. But you are correct in stating that these guys want to be considered reliable, team first, guys. Sticking up for team mates and not letting other teams take liberties on skilled players is what being a ‘team first guy’ is all about. If you deem that as being an enforcer… so be it. But, that is not necessarily the only reason you are on a team. Each of these guys are very athletic and are able to move the ball. They also have the additional asset of fighting and being team guys.

    As you will see on the comments from the LPG post – this thing happens all the time. Both in the NHL and the NLL. Even more so in the AHL, ECHL, CHL, and SPHL. 

    From watching the fight you can obviously tell that both of the participants are mutually engaged and respectful of each others safety.

    Connor, I respect your “push for the abolition of fighting in box lacrosse. However, realistically, until you have had titanium smash against your neck, teeth, and nose more often than not you need to protect yourself from injury. Referees do not always see it. So as a player and a team mate you need to take it upon yourself to prevent further injury.

    The harsh reality is Box Lacrosse is an extremely aggressive sport and you are able to manipulate your stick and body in a way to purposely cause physical harm within in a confined set of rules and boundaries. As athletes we are told to break boundaries often time purposefully or accidentally. Sport, often as in life, Penalties, Power Play Goals Against, and Fines are often not enough of a deterrent. Sometimes it takes a punch in the face or a broken nose for someone to realize that “Hey, you can’t cheap shot me anymore”.

    So until there are no more high sticks, checks from behind, slashes to the shins/knees, sticks to the throat, and punches to the cage fighting is necessary. But this being BIG news, no. Fun news, news that Rochester has an intense camp, which has the potential to make them a better team in 2012, definitely.

    • Love hearing your thoughts on this as always!

      the term practice fight may not have been apt. but I think there is a difference between two guys showing off their fighting skills when trying to make a team and two guys throwing down in a game because of flagrant fouls or cheap shots.

      So yes, calling it a practice fight may not have been perfect, but it was as close to the real thing as you can get without being the real thing (games), and I call that practice!

      As to the argument for fighting in box lacrosse.  We’ll have this discussion soon.  But on your home turf!!!!

  • I agree with all the talking points on this article. The sport would be better without fights, but “it’s not going to disappear tomorrow.”

    I like NCAA hockey more than NHL hockey for that reason, fights are absolutely not allowed in the college game.

  • Believe it or not fighting does make a big difference in the number of cheap shots in lacrosse. When I was a rookie in junior Scott Rouse and Travis Irving were both on my team and it really limits the liberties other teams can take on your skill players or your young players because they know that those guys will hold them accountable for what they do. I would definitely second guess hitting a teams top scorer if I knew one of those guys would be giving me a talk at the next faceoff.

    In a sport where defensive players are taught how to hit guys where they don’t have pads the refs will never catch everything. 

    One difference you have to remember about lacrosse and hockey is that in hockey you can only hit the player who has the puck whereas in box lacrosse you can hit anyone on offense. This makes it a lot easier for hockey refs to keep track of the checks taking place in hockey. Even with this advantage high level hockey leagues still use a 2 ref system. As we all know even this system is not perfect.

    So unless lacrosse switches to some 8+ ref system for games (obviously not going to happen) there will always be uncalled cheap shots and there will always be a need for self regulation.

    I know that as a rookie I felt a lot safer and more confident on the floor knowing that Rouse and Irving had my back at all times.

    • Tommy – thanks for chiming in!  Much appreciated and you make some great points, especially as it relates to the constant contact allowed in box lacrosse.

      Here’s an outside the box question for you… what about limiting the amount of off-ball crosschecking?  Would that work?  Or are people worried it would turn the game into something that it simply isn’t?

      I played soccer in HS, football in college (poorly), basketball in HS, lacrosse in HS and college and I’ve ALWAYS found cheap shots to occur, so my question really boils down to this:

      If other sports and athletes can suffer cheap shots without resorting to retaliation via actual fights, why can’t box lacrosse?

      That is a 100% serious question, with no intention to offend!  I’m still learning the game, and the history, and I appreciate it when people are willing to help me get educated!

      • Connor, simply put, lacrosse and hockey use weapons. Unlike any other sport lacrosse and hockey players are legally justified to use their sticks as aggressive tools. 

        In football, you see bunching to the helmets and slaps to the face mask. Because of the stop and go action of football and in game altercation is very unlikely. The play stops before anything can really get started. Additionally, football helmets are glued on.

        In lacrosse and hockey, the action is non-stop and continues. Additionally, off-ball checking is allowed and necessary in lacrosse. Set a pick using a push/cross-check, expect a push/cross-check to prevent you from setting that pick. Combine the non-stop action, agressive nature, and throw in a stick that is used to manipulate your opponent, tempers flare and sticks are raised.

        There are a lot of fights that occur due to high hits with the body, arms, and stick. A fight simply expresses, but your stick down, and lets see how tough you are.

        And to go more in depth, there are ‘fights’ in all sports when someone breaks ‘the code’ or ends up giving an outrageous cheap shot, or throws a ball at a batters head. But, these fights are escalated into brawls. Hockey and lacrosse permit fighting, so instead of banning fighting and risk full out brawls constantly, hockey and lacrosse allow fighting to control isolated incidence.

        Fighting is necessary because of cheap shots and the use of sticks and it controls tension from escalating into ridiculous drawls. Now you will say brawls happen in hockey and lacrosse. Your right, but the refs do have to ‘control’ a game, which is usually not the case in the events building up to 99% of all hockey and lacrosse fights.

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