Top 20 stories for 2012: No. 1 through 10

The Peterborough Lakers won the 2012 Mann Cup, but there was more to the story this year than lacrosse. (Photo: Dave Fryer)
The Peterborough Lakers won the 2012 Mann Cup, but there was more to the story this year than lacrosse. (Photo: Dave Fryer)

Still reflecting? Yesterday, we gave you the first half of our Top 20 stories for the 2012 indoor lacrosse world. Today, we’re here with the Top 10. It was not an easy list to sort. So much went on and between the National Lacrosse League and all the summer circuits in the Great White North. And like we said yesterday, the stories were mixed. There great stories of triumph, saddening stories of loss and frustrating stories of mystery. All of them are what makes the lacrosse world go ’round, though. And we at ILIndoor are here to cover them to best of our ability. We thank you, readers, for visiting our site regularly. And now, the Top 10.

10. Orangeville wins third Minto Cup in 5 seasons: They lost 3 of their first 4 games and 2 of those losses were to Kitchener-Waterloo. But games in May often are lacking the players who aren’t finished with their NCAA teams and while it’s not common to see Orangeville sporting a 1-3 record, it was very common to see how the season ended for the Hornheads.

Winning 31 of their next 34 games, including a 5-0 mark in the Minto Cup in Whitby, the Orangeville Northmen were lords of the Junior A world once again. Anchored defensively by goalie Dillon Ward and offensively by Mitchell Jones, Robert Hellyer and Jeremy Noble, the Orangeville Northmen regained their supremacy in dominant fashion.

9. WILC championships coming to Buffalo, Syracuse for 2015: Canada won gold the last time the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships were played in Prague in 2011. Rumors were swirling for the 2015 games and early in September we learned that not only is the tournament coming to North America, it is coming to an area that made a ton of sense.

First of all, the Onondaga Nation will host the WILC, and it’ll utilize facilities in Syracuse and Buffalo. With more than 300 athletes from an expected 10 to 12 teams, fans in the hotbed areas of Western New York and Southern Ontario will be treated to the tournament featuring teams from around the world, including possible new participants from Israel, Thailand and Turkey. Early games will be played at the Onondaga Nation and the semifinals and final will be in Buffalo.

The tournament will be played Sept. 18-23 and information can be tracked at the tournament’s official website.

8. Big names on the move: It all started back in February, when forward Athan Iannucci never played for the team he was traded to (Edmonton), then was traded to the Washington Stealth, where he happily signed and played.

Dan Dawson
Dan Dawson

After the NLL season was complete, GMs kicked it into gear. Kevin Ross had a career year for Minnesota, then was traded to Philadelphia. Shawn Williams was traded from Edmonton to Minnesota, which then traded him to Buffalo. The Rush also dealt Aaron Wilson to Buffalo, and sent stud transition man Paul Rabil to the Knighthawks for Jarrett Davis. Then came the whopper of them all as the Knighthawks sent Rabil to the Philadelphia Wings for brothers Dan and Paul Dawson.

Big names, big moves for the respective teams, who hope the moves pay big dividends in their pursuit of the 2013 NLL championship.

7. Chris Hall returns from cancer treatment: The Washington Stealth announced shortly before the start of the 2012 NLL season that coach Chris Hall would be out indefinitely with the stunning news that he was undergoing treatment for throat cancer. The team he led to back-to-back Champion’s Cups, winning the 2010 title, was sent reeling and started the season with a 1-5 mark before its valiant effort to rally and make the playoffs ultimately was denied.

But in a victory unto itself, Hall was back on the bench in February and is full-steam ahead with preparations for the 2013 Stealth, who open the season on Saturday at home against Rochester. Here’s to many more seasons of coaching for Hall, a coach and leader admired by many.

6. New fighting rules passed by CLA: The Canadian Lacrosse Association announced in early December some new rules designed to cut back on fighting in lacrosse. This has been a hot-button issue in the game for some time, with a camp entrenched in tradition and another entrenched in a progressive view.

Beginning next summer, all leagues affiliated with the CLA are to assess a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty to any player who fights during a game. Provisions are in place to differentiate between instigators and non-instigators, but the purpose here is clear: fighting in Canadian lacrosse is being phased out.

Rules are tweaked along the way from season to season, but this one by far elicited the most chatter, much of it heated. Players and coaches voiced their opinions and it seems many of the current players aren’t in favor of the new rule for fear of cheap-shot artists not being held accountable. We’ll find out in the summer of 2013 what sort of effect this rule will have, and whether it helps the game.

The Six Nations Rebels won their second straight Founders Cup with heavy hearts. (Photo: Casey Vock)
The Six Nations Rebels won their second straight Founders Cup with heavy hearts. (Photo: Casey Vock)

5. Six Nations wins Founders after death of teammate Carney Johnson: It was heartbreaking news out of Six Nations in early August, when the Six Nations Rebels announced that Carney Elijah Johnson had died. Johnson was a solid contributor to the Rebels and his death came during OLA Junior B finals.

The inspired Rebels went on to win that series, then went on win the Founders Cup for the second straight season. Hearts were heavy, but the motivation was clear for the Rebels. As coach Stu Montour told the team: “If we run together today, we walk together forever.”

4. Chris Sanderson dies: It was early in the morning on June 28 when we learned of the passing of legendary Team Canada goalie Chris Sanderson. His battle against brain cancer was something we all were aware of and impressed by considering he dodged the odds when he was told in 2008 that he had 9 to 12 months left to live.

But it was no surprise that he not only lived another 3-plus years, but also continued to play and helped Team Canada win gold at the World Games in 2010 in England. His spirit and determination was an inspiration to all. The community mourned his passing but celebrates the impact his life will have on future generations of lacrosse players, and people.

3. Rochester wins NLL title: The Knighthawks entered the NLL playoffs with a 7-9 record. They left the playoffs as the last team standing, winning their third NLL title and first on their home floor. Tough decisions were made along the way, including the release of longtime veteran and hometown boy Chris Schiller, but the Knighthawks pulled it together at the most important time of the year to play their best lacrosse. Young forward Cody Jamieson solidified his status as one of the game’s best scorers and leaders, and goalie Matt Vinc finally got the ring he lacked after crafting together some dominant seasons.

Were the Knighthawks the best team in the NLL last season? Probably not. But they were the best when it counted most, and no one can take that away from them.

2. Season of John Grant Jr.: Some dared to entertain the notion that this 37-year-old left-hander out of Peterborough was washed up. Junior heard the talk and didn’t respond. At least not vocally.

John Grant Jr.
John Grant Jr.

He opened the NLL season with an 11-point game and ended the season with a league-record 116 points and his second MVP award. He became the third NLL player with 500 career goals and the fifth to reach 1,000 points. And he wasn’t done there. He scored 106 points in 23 games with his hometown Peterborough Lakers, including 30 points in 6 games against the Langley Thunder to lead the Lakers to their second Mann Cup in 3 seasons. So is John Grant Jr. washed up? Maybe we better hope so. Can you imagine what he’d do to the record books if he weren’t?

1. Peterborough wins Mann Cup: The top story for 2012 is about the Peterborough Lakers winning their 14th Mann Cup. But as great as the tournament was against the WLA’s Langley Thunder, it was an active scene off the floor as well.

It all started with the announcement that the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports was on scene to conduct drug tests. It got very confusing and tempers flared during the process, leading to the temporary suspensions of Peterborough coach Jamie Batley and Langley coach Rod Jensen in the middle of the tournament. Those initial suspensions were stayed, pending an investigation, and the coaches were allowed to finish the tournament with their teams.

The issue wasn’t drug testing in itself. Rather, it was the confusion surrounding the process and team executives apparently took issue with the way it all went down. There weren’t a lot of clear answers as the scenario unfolded, and lots of speculation led to even more confusion.

When the dust settled, the Lakers were indeed champions, and we learned in early December that 2 unidentified players were reprimanded for use of cannabis. But even more, we can only hope that future communication is more clear and that participants one and all are clear on what’s expected so the focus can remain on why the players and coaches are there, and why fans buy tickets: Lacrosse.

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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