Who is the current face of lacrosse? For 15 years, lacrosse fans could all (mostly) agree on one name; Paul Rabil. From the time he graduated from John Hopkins in 2008 until he retired in 2021, Rabil was the face of lacrosse. Let’s be honest, the biggest story in lacrosse this past year was still focused around Paul Rabil, even if he wasn’t playing.
Rabil was brilliant on the field. His accolades can make anyone blush.
- 2x All-American in high school
- 2004 Washington Post Player of the Year
- 3x USILA First Team All-American
- 2x National Champion (2005, 2007) at Johns Hopkins
- 10x All-Star
- 2x Champion
- 2x MVP
- 2x World Champion
- All-time leader for total points (657)
- 2nd all-time in total goals (355)
Off the field, Paul was one of the first to become a true professional lacrosse player. He leveraged YouTube and social media to grow his brand and more importantly grow the game. From shooting drills to dodging, to throwing a ball across the Baltimore Inner Harbor, Rabil put lacrosse on the map.
In 2018, Paul made his biggest move. He started a new lacrosse league, the Premier Lacrosse League. Rabil sought to create a new professional league to showcase and bring lacrosse to the next level.
“We’re building a professional sports league that lacrosse deserves. The best players in the world will be showcased like never before, thanks to a unique touring model, a robust media-rights partnership, and player content strategy. Additionally, our players will be owners in the PLL, contributing to the build, competition, and ultimate success of the league. This is a product that aligns a league and the players like never before, serving a passionate fan base that deserves access to the sport nationwide, at state-of-the-art venues, and on screens everywhere.”
-Paul Rabil, October 22, 2018, PLL Press Release
As I reflect back on the first PLL season without Paul Rabil on the field, I notice that something is missing. Who is there to carry the torch? Who is considered the new face of the PLL? When you ask that question today, you may get a variety of responses in your group chats, Discord channels, and even in the replies to this story on social media.
The truth is, lacrosse is currently missing that face. It is our job as writers and fans of the game to help find that face. The sport needs us. Paul Rabil made himself the face with his own hard work and determination. The next person to succeed hasn’t done that yet. If they did, I wouldn’t have to be writing this article.
Here are five names that I would put out as the 2023 face of lacrosse.
1. Blaze Riorden
2. Lyle Thompson
3. Trevor Baptiste
4. Charlotte North
5. Joey Spallina
I will begin the discussion by casting my bid for Blaze Riorden, plus I promised Carc that I would.
This is not detracting from any of the four other candidates as I could make worthy arguments for each of them, but I wanted to pick just one to talk about. Blaze exploded onto the scene for me when he was a goalie at the University of Albany. I still get goosebumps every time I watch the highlights of “Big Blaze splitting the double” in Ithaca.
Blaze has become one of the most elite goaltenders of all time since becoming a professional for the Rochester Rattlers in 2016. He has put together quite an impressive resume ever since.
- 3x Goalie of the Year
- 3x All-Star
- 3x All-Pro
- 1x Champions (2021) in the PLL
- 1x MVP
These numbers alone should put him in consideration for being one of the top players in the game, but we also have to look at his career in the NLL. I am sure Blaze would make a fantastic goalie in the box game. Dillon Ward led the Colorado Mammoth (NLL) and Waterdogs LC (PLL) to championships with big help from his goalie play in 2022.
Blaze doesn’t play goalie though. He is a forward for the Philadelphia Wings. Blaze has tallied 158 points (64G/94A) in his box career heading into the 2023 season. Blaze scored five of the Wing’s eight goals in their opening game loss to the Swarm.
The amount of skill and talent to play and excel at two completely different positions is why I am giving Blaze Riorden my vote for the face of lacrosse in 2023. He can help serve as the bridge between the box and field game as we head into the future.
My challenge to all of you is to keep the conversation going. Do you think I’m wrong? Great. Tell us why in an article, podcast, or reply of your own. We need discourse. We need the discussion. We can have multiple faces, but they need us to help them tell their story. Paul gave us the path, we just have to follow it.