Blogs | 4/17/2012 2:59:32 PM | John Gurtler
Some lingering notes while walking the press halo high above the crowd at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Did you know the press box in Edmonton circles the entire seating bowl layout, high above the light rail transit system that runs outside?
Did you know they drill holes in the turf in Calgary and inject them with water through a horse syringe to make the surface freeze on the sub-floor that sits over the ice? Brilliant.
Facts aside, it’s all about numbers now for the Bandits. Two games remaining and it’s nothing but net. Just score, score, score – more than the opponent. That’s all this team has to think about. You can go crazy thinking up playoff scenarios and positions because there is a possibility that any team in the East could still finish with a record of 7-9.
Be prepared for a crazy ending to the 2012 National Lacrosse League regular season.
This year in the NLL’s playoff formation, the top eight teams with the best overall records make the playoffs. So that means if the fifth place team in the West has the better record than the fourth place team in the East, they take the East’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Before we get into season series and head-to-head goal differential tiebreakers, the bottom line for the Bandits is “just win, baby.” Don’t look at the scoreboard, or even the clock for that matter. Just play from whistle-to-whistle and score as many as you can.
I still think this year’s edition of the Bandits can beat any team in the NLL, including Colorado and Calgary. Saturday night’s 11-8 loss to the Rush was a mystery, but it didn’t take long for the team to start looking ahead to their next game at home on Saturday night against Rochester.
As soon as the bus left Rexall Place, quiet discussions about the next game started seat-by-seat – who plays where, how many games are left, and what the team needs to do.
Buy into the system, play as a team and do it for the entire length of the game.
We might have to bring in automobile dealer Billy Fucillo before Saturday night’s game at First Niagara Center to serenade the Bandits with his trademark “HUGE, Buffalo, it’s HUUUGE!”
A bad moment came in Saturday’s game with 5:19 left in the first quarter. With the Bandits trailing 3-2, Rush forward Tom Johnson took his mid-flight freak show into the left knee of goaltender Mike Thompson, forcing him to fall one way, with his knee bending the other. While he made the save, Thompson was badly injured and forced to leave the game.
No penalty on the play. Even the two local newspapers, the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun, ran photos of the collision, one of them with the headline “Taking One for the Team.” Both game recaps reported that no penalty was called. While I did not suggest it during the broadcast, after further review, it was illegal contact by Johnson. (See rules 68.1, 69.1-2-3-4 of the NLL 2012 rulebook.)
Anthony Cosmo, with his wife expecting a baby at any moment, did a respectable job in relief. To top off his M*A*S*H unit-like fly-in on the day of game (and leaving later that night on a red-eye flight), the airline lost his equipment bag en route from Toronto to Edmonton, only to deliver it right before gametime. Most people would be a bag of bolts in that situation, coupled with travel fatigue and angst about the whereabouts of his equipment. But Cosmo is a cool, calm cat.
Speaking of which, how cool was the John Tavares “sneak leap” goal from behind the Rush net? Just inches off the ground in a flight pattern, Tavares timed the stick swipe at the right moment to arch the ball in past Rush goaltender Aaron Bold. Only JT with his wit and creativity.
The Edmonton Journal ran a great story on Tavares in Saturday’s sports section, which included a comparison to his same-named hockey star nephew, John Tavares of the New York Islanders. It was a very complimentary story to the greatest player in indoor lacrosse.
I think the day-long snow and icy streets kept a lot of Edmonton fans away from Saturday night’s game. They certainly had a marquee player in town with the “other” John Tavares.
The Rush play in the rink that Wayne Gretzky built and are certainly second-fiddle tenants behind the NHL’s Oilers. But that does not stop this hardworking franchise from keeping the enthusiasm going and their fans happy. From the game presentation to the volunteer Rush Ambassadors who walk the concourse to make sure everybody has a good time, they all did a great job.
My thanks to Jason Gregor, the play-by-play voice of the Rush, for joining me at halftime and providing some interesting insight about the 2012 NLL season and the changing roster of the Rush.
The home team on the field responded as well. Rush head coach Derek Keenan, one of the original Bandits in 1992, set the tone right out of the gate by not dressing one of his star players, Scott Evans, who was a healthy scratch.
Former Bandits defenseman Chris Corbeil had to find out just how hard Brandon Francis throws a punch when Corbeil came to the aid of a fallen Rush player. Following a blood shower of the face, Corbeil received seven stitches after the fight. Francis will likely miss some time with an automatic suspension stemming from a number of game misconducts this season, including the two that he received in Edmonton.
This Saturday, the Bandits will be pulling out all the stops on “Fan Appreciation Night” with giveaways, promotions, parachute drops, and honoring the 2012 Fan of the Year. The winner will receive a Bandits jersey and a pair of season tickets for the 2013 season.
In addition, there will be a “lacrosse ball surprise,” where fans can purchase a $10 ball that will contain autographs either from a single Bandits player, the whole team, a star player from the around the league or an entire NLL team.
Finally, season ticket holders will be randomly selected for the “Jersey Off My Back” promotion, where winners will go on the field after the game to receive a signed game-worn jersey from a Bandits player.
Randy Mearns joins me in the broadcast booth on Saturday night as our coverage begins with the pregame show at 7 p.m. on WWKB 1520 AM before the 7:30 p.m. opening faceoff.
The game will be televised across the U.S. and Canada on CBS Sports Network, which can be found on Time Warner Cable in Buffalo on Channel 130 and Channel 776 (HD). In Southern Ontario, CBS Sports Network is on Channel 160 and Channel 744 (HD).