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The Merrill Brothers Are the Sun and Moon of the Seals’ Solar System

Patrick and Brodie Merrill are as synonymous with San Diego Seals lacrosse as Pechanga Arena and the golden-crowned seal that so brilliantly adorns the team’s logo. From the minute the Southern California-based franchise entered the National Lacrosse League, 45-year-old Patrick has constructed and molded the organization, serving as head coach and general manager, with 42-year-old Brodie, an 18-year NLL veteran defenseman, serving as the club’s captain until his brief retirement at the end of last season.

“Brodie and I are best friends,” explained the Seals’ sideline boss. “He’s a pretty special person and [has played] in this league for many years. When you’re building a franchise, no matter if he’s part of my family or not, when you have a chance to make a player and person like Brodie Merrill your first-ever captain, you’re starting in a good place.”

The younger Merrill, who returned to the Seals’ active roster mid-season after experimenting with retirement after the 2022-2023 campaign, shares a reciprocal level of admiration for the type of devotion and leadership his brother, his elder by three years, embodies on a daily basis.

“Patrick has put his heart and soul into building this team,” Brodie said. “Everyone in the organization recognizes that. He has such a high standard, so you’re trying to meet that standard.”

One of the more interesting subplots surrounding the Seals’ dream of planting a flag on the NLL mountaintop involves Brodie’s quest to secure his first-ever league title, a scenario that sits in stark contrast to Patrick, whose resume features three championships as a member of the Toronto Rock. The narrative is enriched even more when considering the fact that Brodie is the longest-tenured player (still active in these playoffs) who has yet to raise his sport’s most prestigious piece of hardware over his head.

Patrick Merrill as a member of the Toronto Rock in 2015.

“Winning a championship would mean a lot,” expressed Brodie. “This is the case at any stage of your career. All the players put so much into it. This is a big commitment with a lot of sacrifices. I’m just like everyone else in that way. Every NLL player starts the year with that goal and I’m no different.”

Brodie’s aspirational, yet realistic, approach to achieving his long-desired championship dream runs parallel to his boss’ understanding of the gravity of situation, both as it relates to sharing something extraordinary with his beloved brother, as well as with the surrounding group of hard-working Seals who also imagine their names permanently etched into the annals of history.

 “We’re just so lucky to be a part of this game and league. A lot of things have to go your way in order to win a championship. It’s everyone’s ultimate goal. To get to share it with him and everyone else in this organization would be super special,” Patrick said. “At this point in the year it’s way bigger than Brodie and me; you’re playing for a collective cause, purpose and goal. You have to put your personal dreams aside and focus on the collective. It would be a special moment for all of us to do it together.”

When it comes to the family business, the Ontario-born Merrills wholeheartedly believe that the greatest personal and professional fulfillment that would result from a Seals’ triumph would come from seeing everything they have built from the ground floor finally come to its ultimate fruition. Through expansion, Covid-19 and a string of successful regular seasons offset by the sting of playoff disappointment, the brothers have been integral to the franchise’s journey through the sometimes choppy waters of the NLL.

“It would mean the world to our organization and to me personally, but I think that’s everyone’s goal. Some teams go a lot longer without winning a championship than we’ve been around for. We’ve definitely had regular season success from day one,” opined Patrick.

The Seals’ coach further recounted the strikes and gutters experienced by a squad that always seems to run into teams operating at the highest levels of performance.

“Our first two shots in the playoffs we lost to Calgary and then Colorado, teams that went on to win the championship that year, followed by a disappointing loss to Colorado last season, after having a great regular season. We’ve definitely had some heartbreaking losses, but we’re hoping that experience, adversity and those scars help us learn and grow to the point that we can get over the hump here and win a championship. It’s not an easy task.”

CALGARY, AB – MARCH 15, 2024: The Calgary Roughnecks against the San Diego Seals at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Photo by Jenn Pierce/NLL)

Before Brodie can play and Patrick can coach for a title, the Seals have to get passed a dogged Albany FireWolves bunch determined to show the league that their young core of stars is on the verge of taking over. Both younger and older sibling know full well that they will have a fight on their hands, where absolutely nothing can be left on the table.

“They are a really well-balanced team. They have a great goaltender in Dougie Jamieson and are really well coached,” shared Brodie. “They have a young and energetic feel to them where they play really hard. They are really spread and balanced offensively, have a good transition game and a solid defense. They deserve to be here. We have a lot of respect for them and their turnaround. It’s going to take our best to advance.”

The man in charge of the Seals’ X’s and O’s shares a nearly duplicate mindset when it comes to San Diego’s best-of-three adversary.

“I think it’s going to be a scrap, one of those black-and-blue series. We’re going to have to match their work ethic if we’re going to beat them. They play with a lot of team speed, so we have to be aware of their transition game, as they’ll probably try to push the pace on us. They’re pretty dynamic in transition and score lots of goals that way.”

Patrick also said that “we’re built to play any style of game, but we’ll have to be super disciplined against them. They work hard, play as a team and are well coached. This will be a tough series.”

Not looking past the daunting task that lies in front of him, Brodie is fully cognizant that he is no longer 22, or even 32, meaning that his physical and mental playoff preparation for the FireWolves has to be both measured and realistic.

 “At my age, with the quick turnaround and living in Toronto, it’s a really far flight, followed by a lot of travel this weekend playing on opposite ends of the country. For me, the margins are pretty slim in terms of my preparation. We’re fortunate in that they take really good care of us here in San Diego with Joe Tsai (Seals’ owner). They always try to set us up for success.”

Pondering one last time the unique circumstance that has allowed cherished siblings the opportunity to pursue a much sought-after common goal, Brodie is occasionally able to step back and reflect, knowing full well that the weeks, years and decades ahead will allow a multitude of additional possibilities to realize how truly special the Merrill partnership is to those at the center of it.

“We’ll probably reflect when it’s over to appreciate it. We have appreciated it several times, getting to enjoy a win like we did last week with Panther City. You enjoy those moments when you can. There’s so much that goes into it you kind of get lost in the process of it.”

The Seals and FireWolves showdown continues Sunday at 3pm ET/6 PT. Buckle up for game two!

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