March 4, 2011

National Lacrosse League Notebook: Calgary's Future Remains Uncertain

by Neil Stevens |

A private donation has allowed the Calgary Roughnecks will to make the trip to Philadelphia, but payment of players and the ability to complete this season remain questionable.

© Graig Abel

The cash-starved Calgary Roughnecks, whose owner Brad Banister says might not be able to afford to complete their 16-game National Lacrosse League schedule, is getting some help to get to a game in Philadelphia on Saturday.

An individual who chose to remain anonymous responded to Banister's public plea for financial support by helping to cover travel costs to get the team to its ninth game.

Calgary's 10th game is at Washington on March 13. If Banister can get that far, his team's next three games are at home: March 19 versus Edmonton, March 25 versus Toronto and April 1 versus Minnesota.

The Roughnecks are then to play at Minnesota on April 2, at home against Colorado on April 8 and at Colorado on April 15 to complete their schedule.

The collective bargaining agreement between the NLL and the Professional Lacrosse Players' Association provides for a $100,000 escrow fund to be created annually for use in the event a club defaults in its payroll obligations to players.

A player can ask to be declared a free agent if he doesn't get paid. He first has to give his club written notice of default. The club then has 10 days to pay up or submit the matter to arbitration.

If pay is still not forthcoming, a player can petition the league for immediate free agency.
An example of this happening in the past was when the New York Saints folded following the 2003 season. Players hadn't received full pay and some applied for free agency. Gavin Prout got it and, after being pursued by several teamsm signed with the Colorado Mammoth.

Scoring race heats up

With six players bunched between 50 and 56 points, it appears as if the NLL scoring race will go down to the schedule's final weekend before being decided.

Boston's Casey Powell leads the way with 56 points, and teammate Dan Dawson is close behind with 54. Tied with 52 each are Toronto's Stephan Leblanc and Blaine Manning and Washington's Lewis Ratcliff. Toronto's Garrett Billings is next with 50.

The single-season record, 115 points, was set by Buffalo's John Tavares in 2001. Boston's Josh Sanderson won the scoring title with 104 points last year.

Powell and Minnesota's Ryan Benesch are tied for the lead in goals scored with 25 each. Leblanc and Washington's Rhys Duch have 24 each. Powell has a league-high 10 goals on power plays.
Philadelphia's Athan Iannucci scored 71 in 2008, and his record appears safe.

Ryan Cousins rejoins Swarm

The only captain in Minnesota Swarm history is back in the hive.

Ryan Cousins was activated Wednesday. The 29-year-old defenseman missed the first half of the season due to commitments as a firefighter in the Toronto region.

"Going into the second half of the season with Ryan back in the lineup will be a big boost for us on the floor and in the dressing room," said GM Marty O'Neill. "Ryan brings lots of confidence to the whole group, and it couldn't come at a better time."

Cousins has been captain since the team's inception in 2005. He was NLL Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and again in 2008.

Watson still hardest to beat

About the Author

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He retired from the CP in 2008. That year, Stevens joined the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime LM writer -- as the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame. Follow at

Bob Watson of the Toronto Rock continues to sport the NLL's best save percentage, .813, despite allowing 13 goals to Philadelphia in his team's 16-13 win last Saturday. No other goalie is above .800.

Tyler Richards of the Washington Stealth has quickly jumped towards the top and now has a .792 save percentage.

Next in line (minimum 200 minutes): Matt Vinc, Rochester, and Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, each at .788; Nick Patterson, Minnesota, .785; Chris Levis, Colorado, .781; Mike Thompson, Buffalo, .779; Anthony Cosmo, Boston, .778; Mike Poulin, Calgary, .775; and Matt Disher, Edmonton, .755.

Levis said he made some changes during the offseason that have helped him during the 2011 season.

"I played a lot of hockey last summer and didn't play lacrosse for the first time in over 20 years," he said. "Our strength and conditioning coach, Joel Raether, put together a program that gave me some new insights into training. Doing those things in the offseason allowed me to come into 2011 refreshed and feeling healthy."

Buchanan wears a halo

Boston forward Kevin Buchanan hasn't been assessed an NLL penalty since 2009 when he played for Minnesota. The 24-year-old native of Maryland wore a halo all last season and still had it on going into the Blazers' home game against Buffalo on Sunday.

Other prominent forwards with zero penalty minutes in 2011 going into weekend action were Washington's Lewis Ratcliff, Boston's Josh Sanderson and Rochester's Shawn Williams. Sanderson took only one minor penalty last season, and Ratcliff and Williams were each nabbed twice.

Colorado's Mac Allen is the most penalized player so far this season with 45 minutes. Minnesota's Rory Smith has 37. Smith finished last season with a league-high 104 penalty minutes.

March schedule light on games

The NLL avoids competing with NCAA basketball for attention during March.

After this weekend's full slate, there are only three games -- March 12 when Boston is at Buffalo, March 13 when Calgary is scheduled to play at Washington and March 19 when Edmonton is scheduled to play at Calgary -- until things get back into full swing on the March 25-27 weekend.

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