New England & Colorado begin Champion’s Cup quest with training camp
The National Lacrosse League’s preseason has officially opened with the start of team training camps in preparation for the 2015 NLL season. Two teams opened up first as the Colorado Mammoth hit the turf in Denver along with the highly-anticipated debut of the New England Black Wolves who held weekend-long events in Connecticut as they prepare for their first season at Mohegan Sun Arena.
‘It’s intense,” Harrison told The Day. “Whether you have other things on the side, it’s all about winning. You don’t have the luxury of having an 82-game schedule. Every game is a playoff game. You can’t afford to lose. We lost five or six by one goal (last year) and you go back and think, ‘wow, that one shift might have been the difference in us going to the playoffs.'”
With the start of the preseason a reminder of the strong dedication needed over the next six months, the focus on lacrosse and attention to detail with the long season ahead can be a time-consuming endeavor. But it’s a sacrifice that NLL players, coaches and staff are willing to make for the game that they love.
“Every year, I sit down with my wife and say here it is: Starting in mid-November through, hopefully, June, every weekend is going to be tied up. Are we still on board? We make the decision as a family,” Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison told the Norwich Bulletin. “She holds the gun to my head and looks for a check or two to be thrown her way. Hush money I guess.”
The Mammoth began their 13th season as the team opened camp on Saturday in Denver. Thirty-five players are competing for 20 roster spots during the four-weekend competition, which started Saturday morning at 6am.
“Players will have an early wake-up call, and will have to start competing for jobs from the get-go,” said Mammoth president & general manager Steve Govett.
The team returns two former National Lacrosse League Most Valuable Players (John Grant Jr. [’07, ‘12] and Athan Iannucci [‘08]), a 2014 NLL Second-Team All-Pro (Adam Jones), and reigning All-Rookie Team member Dillon Ward. This summer, Ward was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships as he led Team Canada to the gold medal.
“We saw flashes of brilliance from Dillon as a rookie, and it continued in the international competition,” said Govett. “He enters the 2015 campaign as the starter between the pipes.”
The netminder inked a five-year contract in September, matching the longest in franchise history.
Nearly two months ago, the team selected the top left-hander (Eli McLaughlin), top defenseman (Robert Hope), and top-rated goaltender (Alexis Buque) in the NLL Entry Draft. They make their professional debuts this weekend.
Colorado enters camp with 13 forwards (including Eric Law, who will start the season on the Injured Reserve List), four transition players, 15 defensemen and three goaltenders. The team will participate in two training camp weekends in Canada before rounding out the preseason with a late-December stint in the Mile High City.