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The Expansion Draft Brings Difficult Decisions for the Defending Champs

They sacrificed together and they won together. But when the 2019-20 National Lacrosse League season begins, they won’t all be together – at least not entirely.

The NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks won’t receive any special treatment when it comes to losing players in the upcoming expansion draft as the New York Riptide and Rochester Knighthawks fill out their rosters.

Calgary will lose two players from a team that captured the city’s first championship in 10 years.

“Probably one of the hardest things we’ve done as a team,” Roughnecks General Manager Mike Board said. “But the players understand that this is the business part of the sport. So, they understand a good part of the process. It doesn’t make it any easier though.”

Some of Calgary’s decisions were easier than others as players like Most Valuable Player candidate Dane Dobbie, prolific scorer Curtis Dickson and Goalie of the Year candidate Christian Del Bianco further enshrined their stardom in leading the Roughnecks to a championship.

Other decisions were a little more complicated.

Rhys Duch, who compiled 27 goals and 47 assists in the regular season before scoring the overtime championship-winning goal in May, was left unprotected. The 32-year-old Duch suffered an apparent season-ending injury while playing for the Victoria Shamrocks in the Western Lacrosse Association, but his absence on the protected list was still eye-opening.

Duch’s residence, being a British Columbia native, could be another factor in driving teams away from selecting him to play on the East Coast.

Board didn’t speak directly on Duch, but offered his philosophy on crafting his list, which was similar to his strategy with the 2018 expansion draft.

“There are lots of things to consider,” Board said. “Where the depth of your team is, where your players live, free agency, player age, and any other number of factors so the process doesn’t change.”

Another thing that doesn’t change is the amount of thought that’s put into each painful decision that affects players and their families.

“Lacrosse is a team sport, and everyone plays a role on a team,” Board said. “It’s a difficult process to try and build a team and then maintain a team with expansion. There’s no doubt the decisions are tough.”

Board said the price in losing four players over two expansion drafts in a span of one calendar year is steep but necessary for the league to continue to grow.

“It is always tough to lose players, but the league is growing and the price that teams pay is helping to stock the expansion rosters,” Board said. “As a league we want expansion teams to be successful and be competitive. The expansion draft, in part, helps make those things happen.”

Broadcast live on NLL social channels, the NLL Expansion Draft Selection Show will be held at 12pm ET on July 9th.