The Edmonton Rush are 2015 National Lacrosse League champions while the Toronto Rock came up just short in the team’s bid to reclaim glory. Both teams had plenty to play for this season and overcame adversity en route to the Champion’s Cup Finals. Preview Bob Chavez’s feature below and find the full story on Inside Lacrosse via IL Indoor.
“The word adversity is thrown around a lot, but really, has it ever been more appropriate than for the National Lacrosse League season we just witnessed?” Chavez writes. “Even if the Edmonton Rush is not the team you pull for, how could you not feel good about seeing Aaron Bold hold the Champion’s Cup high? Or Derek Keenan?”
It’s a championship that’s been a long time coming for the Rush, who swept the Toronto Rock in 2 games with Friday’s 11-10 win in front of a record crowd in Edmonton. But this was a season like no other in the NLL. As if a championship isn’t enough of a theme, there was so much else going on behind the scenes.
Bold is the goalie who played much of this season with thoughts of his life partner on his mind as she begins a second battle with cancer. Keenan, as coach and general manager of the Rush, missed the first couple of games following the death of his wife.
Of course, the Rush were not alone. Toronto played this season with heavy hearts after the death of Terry Sanderson in November. T is the man behind the Rock’s push to reclaim glory, and while they ultimately did not win the trophy, that they were here is a testament to the team he put together. Not just in terms of putting together the wins needed to play for a championship, but also in terms of the heart it takes to get here.
“There has been unbelievable adversity that both teams have had to deal with from Day 1,” Toronto Rock coach John Lovell told the Edmonton Sun. “It’s incredible. I respect the strength of Derek Keenan and Aaron Bold. What Derek had to do to start the season, to lose his wife, that’s incredible. We dealt with a similar thing with losing Terry. I lost my best friend and another guy in Josh loses his father and still has one of the best seasons he’s had in five or six years.
“Both teams were playing for a lot. It carried us a long way this year. When times were tough, we carried Terry’s spirit with us. We thought of him and played for him often. Both teams certainly had a lot to deal with.”
Indeed, Bold and Keenan and Sanderson were the headlines, and rightly so. But these were just the leaders in a long line of inspirational story lines.
Edmonton assistant coach Jimmy Quinlan is finally an NLL champion with the team he’s been with since it started. Matthew Dinsdale, the former first-round draft pick who struggled to find his role in Calgary, was traded to Edmonton this season and scored the winning goal.
“I’ve never seen a guy fit in so well in my life,” Rush forward Mark Matthews told the Edmonton Journal. “(Dinsdale) came in like he’d been there for three or four years. Everything off the floor and on the floor, he’s been awesome.”
In Toronto, the Rock dealt with the absence of veterans and leading scorers Garrett Billings and Colin Doyle, who were out with injuries. And when Billings was cleared to return, a contract squabble resulted in his being traded. Doyle returned in time for the playoffs and helped lead the push like we thought he would, but then on the morning of Game 2, leading scorer Brett Hickey rolled his ankle bad enough to sideline him for the game.
“Anytime you lose a guy like that, it’s going to hurt,” Rock goalie Nick Rose told the Toronto Sun. “But the guys rallied around it.”
A long list, to be sure, but there’s one more situation to face head-on, and now that the season is finished, it’s only going to grow in intensity: The future of the Rush in Edmonton.
News came out during the finals that owner Bruce Urban was…
Click here to read the full story by Bob Chavez on IL Indoor. Photo by Dale MacMillan.