If we could bottle energy and sell it, we could put Kevin Finneran’s face on the label and that’d be about as true as advertising can get. The man who played 13 seasons in the National Lacrosse League absolutely personified energy for the game and there’s one real simple explanation for it: He loves the game. He’s not running the floor today professionally, but he’s still very much involved and his passion and drive are 2 big reasons for the emergence of the Americans and the U.S. National Indoor team hanging with the world’s best when it comes to the indoor game of lacrosse. He went hard and he went fast, living that cliche to play every shift as if it were your last. And ya know what? The game of lacrosse is far better off for it, as fans in Philadelphia will tell you. Turn the page to read reflections of playing days.
1. How did a kid from Ohio Wesleyan find his way to the National Lacrosse League?
“Two of my assistant coaches at Ohio Wesleyan, Charlie Blanchard (New England Blazers) and Rob Alvino (Detroit Turbos) had played and my first job out of college was in Worcester, Mass. I was driving around one day and I noticed the arena so I thought I’d give it a shot and I made the team in 1991.
2. How was that first tryout?
“To be honest, I don’t really remember it. I must have been a tazmanian devil, running around all over the place. That’s all I did the first year and it’s what we all did. I remember seeing Dan O’Neil, the goalie coming out looking like some Michelin Man. He was a goalie at Ohio Wesleyan a few years before I was there.”
3. So the adjustment process was kind of a blur for you?
“I felt pretty confident until the third game that season. We were playing against Dallas Eliuk in Philadelphia and I remember seeing the ball I shot going to the net when outta nowhere, Dallas’ stick comes in and says nope, that’s not going anywhere.”
4. So when did it all start to click for you?
“I went to Detroit in 1992 and was coached by Medo Martinello. It was a true Canadian game there and they moved me to the right side because we had so much on the left with the Gaits and Brian Nikula there. We had a sick team.”
5. You ended up in Philadelphia in 1993.
“I like to say I was the player to be named later in that trade that sent the Gaits to Philly. I played for Dave Evans my first year and it was the first of 6 straight years in the playoffs. We played in the Spectrum and the crowd was right on top of you so it was really loud. We had guys like Paul and Gary Gait, Chris Flynn, Rob Shek and Dallas … I loved it there. I felt like a real pro playing in that town.”
6. First year there and you end up in the Champion’s Cup game.
“There was about a minute-and-a-half to go in that game (against Buffalo) and Paul Gait and I are on a 2-and-1 break. I threw it to Paul and then out of nowhere he throws it back to me and I was like, man, I better finish this! I faked high and went low to 5-hole Ross Cowie. I thought we had it. But Kevin Alexander wound up tying it and then Darris Kilgour scored the winner in the final seconds. It broke our hearts.”
7. Most intense player you faced?
“There were lots in Rochester, Buffalo and Toronto. But I’d have to say Pat Coyle. He was on my grill a lot and he was tough to beat and he was a SOB! He hurt you. I got to end my career with him as my teammate, though, and you hear so many stories about people. You hate them when they’re not on your team but then they’re on your team and they’re cool. Pat was a great teammate.”
8. Give us the memory that sticks out most in your head.
“My first championship, that’s special, But I would have to say 1998 when we won, beating Baltimore in that best 2-out-3 series. Nobody gave us a chance that year. Gary had been traded to Baltimore but we we went down to their barn and won.”
9. Make us laugh with a good story.
“I remember in 1994 when we were getting ready to be introduced before a game in Buffalo. Game was on TV. Our backup goalie was Andy Piazza and it was dark because all the lights were off. He runs out and trips, right on his face. We had a quick laugh on that and I mean quick because we were about to meet the world champs. We didn’t laugh with him until after the game and we were sipping champagne.”
10. We know how good Dallas Eliuk was in goal. But tell us about his artistic skills.
“In 1994 or ‘95, one of the ways he’d enjoy a road trip was to take the barf bags on the plane and he’d do caricatures of each player. He’d include little nuances for each guy and for me, he drew a bunch of suitcases under me because that was my 3rd team in 4 years. For Jake Bergey, he drew him like Frankenstein with bolts in his neck. I remember after we won the 2001 title (vs. Toronto), he did a team picture and on top of it, he had an effigy of Colin Doyle because he’d said some things to the press.”
11. So you look back on your playing days fondly.
“Lacrosse is my life. Playing in the NLL made me a better field player, by far, and it was a key reason I was able to make the U.S. National team in 1998. I would still play today if I could. The highlight, though, was my family. They came to see my games and the championships we wre able to celebrate together, that’s what I look back on and cherish.”
Finneran played 13 NLL seasons and won 4 Champion’s Cups with the Philadelphia Wings. In 163 career games, which includes 20 playoff games, he tallied 644 points on 262 goals and 382 assists, according to NLL.com. He was the NLL’s Iron Man with 138 consecutive games played until Rochester’s Steve Toll broke the record in 2008. Today, Finneran is USIL Director of Player Personnel for the U.S. National Indoor Lacrosse team that will compete in the 2011 World Games in Prague.
From firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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