Forward Jeff Shattler has been on the Saskatchewan Rush for two years and won the NLL Finals MVP last year, scoring seven goals and notching six assists in the Rush’s win over the Rochester Knighthawks in three games for their third NLL championship in four years.
For Shattler, it was his second time holding up the cup after winning it all with the Calgary Roughnecks in the 2008-2009 season.
“It was bittersweet winning with these guys,” Shattler said. “These guys know how to get there and win it.”
Since signing as a free agent with the Rush before the 2017-2018 season, Shattler’s numbers have been consistent with his career numbers – 24 goals and 36 assists in 2017-2018 and 18 goals and 17 assists so far in 2018-2019 as a 34-year-old, right on par with his career averages of 23 goals and 36 assists.
Flanked by top goal scorers such as Shawn Evans, Dane Dobbie and Rhys Duch in Calgary, Shattler was expected to carry the load and be a top goal producer. He did so by winning the MVP in the 2010-2011 season, scoring 29 goals and totaling 74 points.
But with the Rush, it’s been a different story. He joined a veteran team coming off back-to-back NLL championships. He didn’t need to be the alpha dog – Mark Matthews was already that. Shattler just had to figure out a way to mesh his game with all of the other role players on the Rush, namely Ben McIntosh, Robert Church and Ryan Keenan.
“(Our system) is very unselfish,” said Shattler. “The ball swings. Everyone is moving and the ball doesn’t die in people’s sticks. It gives you more confidence as you are touching the ball every shift. It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as we’re winning.”
“We all respect each other on the floor as goal scorers. Sometimes Ryan or Mark is hot so we just ride with them, and it’s worked with us the last two weekends.”
Having grown up in Toronto and having called Calgary home for the past 14 years, Shattler has been thinking about making the move to Saskatchewan full-time in the coming months. One of the reasons is because he wants to devote more time to his side job, the Shattler Lacrosse Academy, which launched three weeks ago.
Sanctioned through the Saskatchewan Lacrosse Association (SLA), the Shattler Lacrosse Academy is a privately owned elite lacrosse camp in Saskatchewan, with kids from ages eight to sixteen. The first clinic is already set to take place in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan from April 24th-25th.
Eventually, Shattler says, he’d like to get teams set up and travel to Ontario and British Columbia to play against some of the best lacrosse players in Canada.
“We want to make sure the kids understand the basics of lacrosse and I think this Elite Program will have a big impact in the province,” said Shattler. “I’ve talked to a bunch of people in the Saskatchewan area and they are all on board with developing the programs in the area. I believe there is such raw talent in Saskatchewan and I want to help them develop their game.”
What inspired Shattler to create it?
“I always wanted to give back to the kids and give them a memorable experience,” said Shattler. “I remember being in Jim Veltman’s camp with pro guys teaching me. I want these kids to look back and say I went to that camp and I had a blast. So, really, just giving kids good experiences.”
On the floor, the Rush are 5-4 and are in first place in the Western division. Entering week 12, they have won two games in a row after falling into a three-game losing skid, which included back-to-back road losses to the Toronto Rock and Georgia Swarm and allowing 17 goals in a road loss against the Calgary Roughnecks.
Thankfully for the Rush, a 5-4 record is good enough for first place in the Western division. In the East, they would be in fifth place, behind the 6-4 New England Black Wolves, 7-4 Georgia Swarm, 7-2 Toronto Rock and 9-2 Buffalo Bandits.
At this point in the season the previous three years (all years the Rush advanced to the NLL Championship), the Rush were 8-1 in 2018 and 6-3 in both 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.
Shattler isn’t worried about his team’s play. He says they hit some bumps in the road, but that the team will figure it out in the second half of the season.
“We had a rough start but we came back,” said Shattler. “It’s early. I think we’re absolutely deadly and we can win the NLL Cup again. In a must win game our team will step up and we won the last two games against Western teams that we had to beat. People were counting us out and now we’re in first place in the West over the course of two weekends.
“We just had a rocky start but we have a lot of time to get back on track and get better. No one is worried. ”
With their next two games at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, there is reason for optimism in the second half for the Rush.