The Top 30 Lacrosse Stories of 2009

Where does the Roughnecks' Cup win rank amongst this year's top stories? (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Where does the Roughnecks' Cup win rank amongst this year's top stories? (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

2009 was one helluva wild ride at every level of the sport.

Major Cups were won by Calgary, Brampton, Orangeville and again, Calgary, resulting in some of the greatest moments and greatest controversies the game has seen in recent seasons.

Names like Cody Jamieson, Colin Doyle, John Grant, Mark Steenhuis and Geoff Snider grabbed the headlines, with countless others helping define the game during both the winter and summer seasons. After the jump, check out the past year’s top 30 stories from 30 all the way to 1, looking at the news that rocked our sport since January ‘09.

30 – Laundry list of retirees leave the pro game
Every year a couple guys hang ‘em up, but we lost a helluva lot of good warriors this year, including Curt Malawsky, Rich Kilgour, Dan Stroup, Kyle Couling, Chris Seller, Troy Bonterre, Shaydon Santos, Ken Millin and Bryan Barrett.
2010 and beyond… Will John Tavares, who after the Bandits’ early playoff fall-out mentioned it might be time for him to leave the game, retire after this winter?

29 – Geoff Snider vs. Tim O’Brien finally happens
The most anticipated title fight in recent box lacrosse history finally happened this year, but didn’t have the fireworks everyone was hoping for, resulting in a consensus draw. Doubtful those two will ever tangle again.

2010 and beyond… How many times will Snider even dance this year, telling Inside Lacrosse he wants to concentrate on the rest of his game more this season?

28 – Steve Toll new NLL Iron Man
Although it took a bit of extra time to figure out (and technically happened a year earlier), Toll passed Kevin Finneran as the league’s consecutive games king, playing yet another full 16-game season in ’09.
2010 and beyond… Another year older and a roster spilling over with talent, can he fit in another 16 straight and extend that record even further?

Sid Smith left Syracuse as a champion, now shifting gears to pro ball in Rochester, this year's first overall draft pick.
Sid Smith left Syracuse as a champion, now shifting gears to pro ball in Rochester, this year's first overall draft pick.

27 – Ryan Benesch and Toronto Rock’s old regime part ways
It was one of’08’s biggest dramas toward the end of the season and followed us into the early part of ’09, Benesch and the Rock coaching staff not seeing eye-to-eye, Toronto surprisingly scratching the former rookie of the year in some important contests. Benesch, along with an unused Derek Suddons, were moved to Edmonton for a first and second rounder, just weeks into the season.
2010 and beyond… Now in Minnesota, will Benesch help repair a broken Swarm offense?

26 – Sid Smith taken first overall in entry draft
Only the fourth ever player of Iroquois decent taken with the first overall pick in league history, Smith was Rochester’s easy first choice on the day and is expected to be one of their biggest impact defenders during his rookie year.
2010 and beyond… Will good friend and longtime teammate, Cody Jamieson, be joining him in Rochester next year?
Plus… Who goes after Jamieson?

25 – Refs & NLL fuss and feud
With the NLL looking to move to a two-man gameday format and the NLLOA not wanting to go down that road, period, not only did talks break-off after the league’s final offer was made, but the NLL went the route they wanted to anyways, putting a crew together of existing and new officials.
2010 and beyond… Will a two-man crew affect the importance of power-play scoring in the NLL, an asset that has been hugely important to success in the pro game over the past several seasons?

Adam Jones crashed NLL Insider's JOTY nods, Canadian hardware and also grabbed his second Minto Cup. (Photo: Cristan Anderson)
Adam Jones crashed NLL Insider's JOTY nods, Canadian hardware and also grabbed his second Minto Cup. (Photo: Cristan Anderson)

24 – Adam Jones wins JOTY, Playoff Performer, Minto Cup and potentially a spot on Team Canada
Jones suffocated the junior loop this summer both provincially and nationally, winning major individual & team hardware through NLL Insider and the OLA en route to his second Minto Cup triumph. Domination doesn’t even begin to describe it.
2010 and beyond… Can he score a rare three-peat with the Northmen, all while potentially dealing with an important trip to Manchester, England?

23 – Founder’s Cup upset/fiasco
Depending on what province you hail from, this year’s Jr. B finale was either a classic Cinderella story or highway robbery of Snatch-level proportions, the Calgary Mountaineers knocking off the heavily (heavy to the infinity) favoured Green Gaels in the final.
2010 and beyond… Always considered Canada’s most prized Jr. B gold, will Ontarians consider it a national tourney again when they roll over the competition in Mimico next summer?

22 – Edmonton Rush coaching carousel
Given just over a year to fix a sinking ship, the Edmonton Rush axed the very respected Bob Hamley after a 5-11 season that saw Edmonton the closes they’ve ever been to the post-season (two W’s shy). The Rush hired Derek Keenan after Toronto’s coaching scene took an outta left field turn, Keenan putting his stamp on the franchise with enough postage to find its way to Zimbabwe by the New Year.
2010 and beyond… Most would agree Keenan’s done a great job improving the Rush lineup, but would Hamely have had similar success after Portland closed up shop and had access to a strong entry draft, using picks he himself helped garner?

21 – Athan Iannucci returns, reinjures, plays on zero ACL, and then is under the knife again
It’s been a crazy couple years for Iannucci, who was on top of the world as one of the NLL’s elite scorers, now sidelined for a full year to rebuild his game back to what it was when he was scoring 71 in 16.
2010 and beyond… What will a healed up Iannucci look like on the rug in 2011?
Plus… ACL related injuries also takeout John Grant, Scott Evans, Tyler Codron and Travis Hill. Are ACL tears to the NLL what concussions are to the NHL? Just ask Scott Frizzel.

20 – Jamie Dawick buys Rock, hires Troy Cordingley and Terry Sanderson
With attendance numbers falling almost as fast as their placement in the standings, the Rock were purchased by Oakville-based businessman, Dawick, who brought with him the Champion’s & Mann Cup winning tandem of Cordingley and Sanderson, to a city Sanderson was chased out of by former ownership.
2010 and beyond… Can Cords and T pull-off the same two-year makeover they hatched in Calgary, bringing a one-time admired franchise back to where Sanderson last led them?

Dan Dawson landed MVP honours in expansion Boston, setting a new single season assist mark. (Photo: Boston Blazers)
Dan Dawson landed MVP honours in expansion Boston, setting a new single season assist mark. (Photo: Boston Blazers)

19 – Johnny Mouradian unexpectedly steps down weeks before the start of the season
In an extremely oddly timed departure, Mouradian left the Stealth franchise about a month outside of their season opener, a high profile trade and signing coming soon after. Although still on board in a bit of an advisory role, 2010 will mark one of the few recent seasons Mouradian hasn’t been involved in the league full-time.
2010 and beyond… Will Mouradian, who the Stealth said left them to pursue other business ventures, and Co. continue to be the driving force behind Team Canada past the 2010 games?
Plus… Speaking of oddly timed moves in the Stealth’s camp, the team demoted head coach Jeff Dowling mid-season, Dowling later stepping down as an assistant under Chris Hall.

18 – Robert Church has epic BCJALL rookie season
Doing things on the scoresheet that hadn’t been done since Kevin Alexander played junior ball, the Coquitlam Adanacs’ Church threw down a legendary rookie season playing for the BCJALL champs.
2010 and beyond… With some big name grads gone come May, and Church coming home (likely later) after a freshman year at Drexel, can he repeat his rookie campaign? Better yet, can he be that O leader the team will need with the likes of Corbyn Tao and Trevor Moore gone?
Plus… Although he put in his rookie season as a 15-year old (!!!) underager in  ’08, Six Nations’ Arrows Randy Staats has strung together similar runs in Ontario, and looks to be the next phenom in the making. Look out for both of ‘em this summer.

17 – Colin Doyle, Josh Sanderson and Dan Dawson chase scoring record(s)
Doyle came uber close to matching John Tavares’ record book leading 115-points, both Sanderson and Dawson breaking Shooter’s old assist mark, the Mann Cup winning teammates hitting 74 helpers last year. Both chases came down to the wire to close-out the regular season.
2010 and beyond… With a hefty offensive load to carry in Toronto, can even more intensive work demands push Doyle past JT this year?

16 – Rhys Duch vs. Daryl Veltman rookie of the year battle
Even closer than Craig Point and Jordan Hall a year earlier, Duch and Veltman not only likely split votes in the ROY race, they also both took serious runs at Gavin Prout’s rookie scoring record, Duch pulling ahead and going seven better than the former New York Saints’ top rook.
2010 and beyond… With rookies looking to play prominent offensive roles this winter, can the likes of Ilija Gajic, Zack Greer, Kevin Huntley and Garrett Billings make things as interesting as last year?

15 – Orangeville Northmen make monstrous OLA final comeback
Yeah, that second Minto in two years was nice, but the battle the Northmen had on their hands during the OLA final series against Brampton was far more impressive. Down three games to nothing, Orangeville ran off four straight, showing the rest of the country that they are as mentally tough as they are skilled, not willing to go to the Minto with a pre-stamped ticket.
2010 and beyond… Some really good grads lost, but the Northmen bring back a ton of weapons from last year. Is a third straight Minto (which hasn’t been accomplished since the Peterborough James Gang ’81 – ’83) in the cards for Canada’s most dominating Jr. A program?

Mark Steenhuis went-off a few times last year, including a 17 points night against Rochester. (Photo: Chris Scherrer)
Mark Steenhuis went-off a few times last year, including a 17 points night against Rochester. (Photo: Chris Scherrer)

14 – Mark Steenhuis can’t help but pickup helpers, breaks single game assists and points mark
Every time the ball passed through Steenhuis’ stick, it seemed like seconds later it was buried behind the Rochester Knighthawks’ cage, Buffalo’s clutch sniper finishing the night with four goals, 13 assists and 17 points.
2010 and beyond… If given the green light, could Steenhuis give Iannucci’s 71 a run, or, after a career best 50 assists last year, Sanderson and Dawson’s 74 helpers?
Plus… Shawn Evans posts 14 points against the Toronto Rock, holding down 11 points at the half, seemingly ready to break Steenhuis’ almost short lived record.

13 – Portland Lumberjax exit stage right
An always enthusiastic, motivated and lax loving ownership group & staff and an on-floor product that has continuously competed with the league’s best, was not enough to keep the Jax in the Rose Garden, the team leaving Oregon, probably for good.
2010 and beyond… Will this year’s version of the Lumberjax, known now as the Edmonton Rush, pick up where they left off on the rug?

12 – Toronto Rock gas coaching staff after just three games
The Toronto Rock decision makers evidently needed an additional three games before they could decide on the fate of Co-Head Coaches Glenn Clark & Jim Veltman, along with assistant Terry Bullen, removing all three from the bench, but keeping Veltman on in an advisory role. Between off-floor dramas, trading franchise players (at the oddest times), seeing attendance numbers plummet, and franchise lows both on offense and in the standings, the past three seasons in the city, that not so long ago owned an organization envied by all in lacrosse, are a shell of their former selves.
2010 and beyond… Will the Rock ever hand the reins over to former players with little high level coaching experience ever again? Will anyone?
Plus… Somehow, yes, there is a “plus” behind the scenes in Toronto over the past year. After bringing in Jamie Batley to fix what was very much broken, the team gave Batley even less time than Hamley had in Edmonton, letting him sail away after another season went sour. And after seemingly handing over the coaching/managing duties to Derek Keenan, the franchise is sold, and (see #20). Unofficially, the Rock have had five different head coaches “in place” since this time last year. Mike Kloepfer stepped down from the team prior to the sale of the franchise.

11 – Mitch Belisile obliterating Jarett Park with a hit that made the rounds on the web absolutely everywhere

2010 and beyond… Has the B’s logo impression that Belisle left on Park’s ribcage disappeared yet?
Plus… Zywicki’s beauty blow below…

10 – The return of Gary Gait
With key pieces on the shelf even before calendars were changed, the Rochester Knighthawks flipped the switch on the unlikeliest of deals, which saw the very legendary Gary Gait step out of retirement, traded by the Colorado Mammoth for prospect (and eventual JOTY contender) Andrew Potter, and a pair of first round picks.
2010 and beyond… With 37 points in 11 games last year, what kind of impact can we expect this year on a Rochester roster that is very much healed and improved all over the floor?
Plus… Paul Gait also returned to the league, taking over the Hawks’ bench after Paul Suggate stepped out early leading into the ’09 regular season. Expected to be a one-year lease, Gait is back for his second season at Blue Cross War Memorial this winter.

9 – Stealth & Titans pack their bags
With enough wiggle room to give your ass, jacket, program, purse/fanny pack and popcorn their own seats at the HP Pavilion, Madison Square Garden and the Prudential Centre, the Stealth and Titans looked to hopeful greener pastures in Everett and Orlando respectively, closing operations down in their previous homes. Early reports already sound more positive than ticket sales figures in Cali and The Big Apple.
2010 and beyond… Will they come?

Man or machine? Cody Jamieson spent most of '09 rewriting the record books.
Man or machine? Cody Jamieson spent most of '09 rewriting the record books.

8 – The year of Cody Jamieson
He’s still a year away from going pro, but he’s been the most talked about player at the past two NLL entry drafts. He rocked the socks off of the MSL during his rookie year, capturing individual honours only names like Gait had done before. He also scored a pretty monumental goal during a national championship that will go down as one of the greatest ever college lacrosse finales. At only 22-years, Cody Jamieson was the most talked about lacrosse player on the planet this year and had the resume to justify it.
2010 and beyond… During what months will Jamieson cure cancer, fix the economy, and find Osama bin Laden during 2010? Our picks in the pool; February, April and those couple days between tearing the MSL apart and being drafted first overall by the Knighthawks.

7 – Jim Jennings quits
A week after the ’09 NLL season kicked off, it was down one commissioner, Jennings leaving his gig with the league to be closer to his family.
2010 and beyond… With “Interim” ripped off his office door, what can we continue to expect from George Daniel moving forward?

6 – Calgary Roughnecks win the Champion’s Cup
After a season to allow the pieces to fall into place and incorporating a new defensive system that handcuffed the league for most of last year, the Calgary Roughnecks dominated from almost start to finish, culminating in a much deserved and hard fought pro title.

2010 and beyond… Can they repeat without Cordingley running the show?

5 – Chris Sanderson battles back
This December marks a year exactly that former Virginia & Orangeville stud keeper, and All-World gold medal winning tender, Chris Sanderson, underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor that could have easily taken his life. Sanderson’s surgery was a success and the Wings assistant coach was back on the bench in Philly (complete with helmet to protect his dome), also being named to Team Canada’s coaching staff.
2010 and beyond… In what is becoming a comeback for the ages, can Sanderson land a spot in Canada’s cage before they pack for England?

Chris Sanderson starts on a road to recovery that could see him playing again this summer. (Photo: Dave Sanders)
Chris Sanderson starts on a road to recovery that could see him playing again this summer. (Photo: Dave Sanders)

4 – Colin Doyle traded back to Toronto
It was rumoured, expected and needed, but after trade talks appeared to hit the wall, most were still surprised when Colin Doyle was swapped for Lewis Ratcliff, Tyler Codron and Joel Dalgarno in mid-December. Although the Rock have given the league some of their biggest trades over the past three plus seasons, this latest one mighta been the biggest, shockwave inducing deal yet.
2010 and beyond… There really only is one question here. Can Doyle not only make them better, can he get them back to the playoffs this year?
Plus… Another one of the league’s elite, Gavin Prout is moved not once, but twice during a single off-season, now in Edmonton after leaving Colorado and passing through Rochester.

3 – Mann Cup brawl
Whether you jumped outta your seat to cheer or jeer, this year’s all-on-the-floor brawl at the Mann grabbed more mainstream attention than anything this sport has done in one helluva long time.

2010 and beyond… Black eye or more fans?

2 – John Grant misses season, career on the ropes
He’s back and potentially better than ever, but the news of John Grant’s major knee injury/surgery, which started during the summer of ’08 but encompassed much of the last 365 days, left the sport wondering if they’d lost one of the greatest ever. Never has a player that barely touched the court received so much publicity, interest and concern as Grant did while on the shelf this past year.  
2010 and beyond… After returning to the floor and dominating only the way he can, it’s probably not worth asking what kinda form he’ll be in starting next month. He’ll be as good as he always is.
Better question… Although hyped as a part-time sport, are players who play in the NLL, MLL, MSL/WLA, on national teams and high profile field tournaments in the summer, burning themselves out?

In one of the greatest Mann Cups of all time, the Brampton Excels took it in seven against the New Westminster Salmonbellies. (Photo: Steve Kojima)
In one of the greatest Mann Cups of all time, the Brampton Excels took it in seven against the New Westminster Salmonbellies. (Photo: Steve Kojima)

1 – Mann Cup for the ages
Although Game 1’s brawl sparked controversy and set the stage, the rest of the Mann Cup this year had enough drama and stories to go down as potentially the greatest national final in the sport’s history. Highlight reel boom goes the dynamite worthy goals, comebacks, players missing, comebacks, players stepping up, comebacks, a packed Queen’s Park, comebacks, an OT like you’d never expect, comebacks, and yeah, fights, highlighted a seven game war that left onlookers wondering how our sport isn’t clamored for by the masses. If the brawl turned heads by outsiders to see what the game is about, the next six games definitely left them wanting more whether you like fisticuffs or not.
2010 and beyond… The on-floor product has never been the problem. Can we capitalize on this year’s unreal Mann Cup, or has the ship already sailed… again?

What was your top story of the year? Did we miss anything? Any projections to the questions above? Hit the boards and let us know what some of your favourite moments from ‘09 were.

The foremost boxla writer, Tutka is a former NLL scout and a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at paul.tutka@nllinsider.com.

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