Things did not go very well for the New York Riptide when they were an expansion team during the 2019-20 season. They had a record of 1-12 and were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak when the season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The return of box lacrosse to Long Island certainly experienced some immediate growing pains and it led to a massive shakeup within the organization.
Following the season, the Riptide made some significant changes by hiring National Lacrosse League Hall of Famer, Jim Veltman as their new General Manager and eleven-year NLL veteran defenseman Dan Ladoceur as their new Head Coach. As the Riptide prepares for their second NLL season, they have turned over about 70% of their roster from their expansion season as they look to build a championship team for the lacrosse hotbed of Long Island.
“This is what we live for if you’re a lacrosse junkie like I am,” said Veltman. “This is my drug. I can’t wait to get started. It’s been too long. We’ve been rebuilding this thing for over 15 months now.”
The pandemic not only cut short the 2019-20 season without crowning a champion but it also forced the cancellation of the 2020-21 campaign so the hiatus has given the Riptide plenty of time to examine what went wrong during their expansion season and what needed to be done to the roster to have a chance at contending for a playoff spot. The first big move was when the Riptide selected forward Jeff Teat with the first overall selection in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft.
Teat is ready to get back to box lacrosse after he played his first season in MSL in 2019 for Brampton, leading the league in goals scored and points. He began his professional career playing outdoors this past season in the Premier Lacrosse League, tied for second in points at 32 and winning Rookie of the Year.
“Definitely very excited,” said Teat. “It’s been a long time for everybody who has played box lacrosse. I haven’t really played a box lacrosse game in over two years so it’s going to be exciting to step out on the floor. I think the PLL definitely prepared me well. It was awesome to play in that league.”
Teat is just one piece of what the Riptide is hoping to be a potential championship puzzle at some point in the near future. They also brought in NLL veteran forward Callum Crawford as a free agent and swung a deal with San Diego to acquire forward Connor Kearnan. The Riptide also shored up the back end by signing free agent defenseman Damon Edwards and acquiring defenseman Leo Stouros in a trade with Georgia.
There were a number of other moves made in assembling the 2021-22 roster after an extensive examination of what transpired during the 2019-20 season.
It’s almost as if the Riptide hit control-alt-delete and are ready for a second shot at making a first impression.
“It does feel like an expansion team again,” said Veltman. “But at the same time, we want to compete. We don’t want to play like an expansion team. We want to be competing for a playoff spot. That’s our goal. We took a look at a lot of video and a lot of film. We liked some things. We didn’t like a lot of things. It was time to make some changes. 1-12 is just not acceptable in any league no matter what sport you’re in.”
Despite the record from their first season and the many changes in the front office and the roster, there is an optimistic feel for the coming season within the organization. From ownership down to the front office to lacrosse operations, a lot of work has gone in to returning to play and sending a message to the rest of the NLL that the Riptide will be a team to be reckoned with this season.
As the Riptide’s hashtag says…#WarningIssued.
“I think we have a lot of potential on our team,” said Teat. “We’re very confident about what we can do this season. We’re on a mission here.”
Veltman and the Riptide have a pretty good base to work with as they have Teat joining 2019-20 NLL Rookie of the Year, Tyson Gibson, to form a solid young 1-2 punch of former number one overall picks. Gibson had 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points in his rookie season and Teat brings with him a plethora of box experience from his junior days in Canada. What will make this dynamic duo especially tough for opposing teams is that Gibson is a right-handed shot and Teat is a lefty shooter.
Teams won’t be able to load up on one side of the floor to defend Gibson and Teat.
“They have to be paying attention to all sides of the floor,” said Veltman. “The vision that both of those players have is probably their best attribute.”
Both Teat and Gibson, along with the rest of the Riptide players, will have the opportunity to strut their stuff in the lacrosse crazy region of Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum, an arena that is rich with box lacrosse history having previously been the home of the New York Saints and the New York Titans. With the NHL’s New York Islanders leaving the Coliseum for their brand-new home at UBS Arena, the Riptide becomes “The Barn’s” new primary tenant. The facilities in the building received a major transformation between 2015 and 2017 so anyone who played or coached at Nassau Coliseum back in the days of the Saints and Titans will be pleasantly surprised when they see what’s there now.
“I remember that building,” said Veltman, an NLL Hall of Fame defenseman who won eight championships as a player during a sixteen-year career and was a visiting player at Nassau Coliseum a number of times.
“It had a really good vibe to it. We have the main dressing room that the Islanders used to have so we’re excited about that. Taking over that space is exciting.”
There is a real buzz about the Riptide within the lacrosse community on Long Island and also for those nostalgic sports fans who still want to go the Nassau Coliseum even though the Islanders have left. The Riptide have tripled the number of season tickets sold compared to what they sold in 2019-20. After the PLL merged with Major League Lacrosse and the New York Lizards ceased operations, the Riptide is now the only pro lacrosse team in town and now “The Barn” is going to be a destination for youth and high school lacrosse players and coaches as box lacrosse continues to grow on Long Island.
“Long Island is definitely a hotbed,” said Teat. “I have a lot of friends that have played lacrosse there. They’re saying it’s the best place on earth so I’m excited. Bringing the box game back there will open some more eyes and now for kids it will open some new doors for them to kind of have that option to play the box game.”
For many years the rafters at the Nassau Coliseum were filled with banners honoring the Islanders’ four Stanley Cup Championships and the retired numbers of the many great players that were part of that dynasty from 1980 to 1983. Those banners are no longer at “The Barn” as they have moved seven miles west so the rafters at Nassau Coliseum have plenty of room for some new banners.
The New York Riptide plan on filling those empty spaces in years to come with NLL championship banners and some retired numbers like Jeff Teat’s, 51 and Tyson Gibson’s, 19.
Yeah, that’s a warning issued from Long Island to the rest of the National Lacrosse League.