It took over a decade, but the fastest game on two feet has finally made its way back to downtown Vancouver.
This Friday, the new-look Vancouver Warriors will host their West Division rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks, inside Rogers arena for their inaugural home game.
The last time lacrosse was played in downtown Vancouver was in 2004. Back then, the NLL’s Vancouver Ravens were playing in the same building when it was called GM Place. Yet, aside from the building they’ve called home, nothing about this team and this franchise is the same.
In fact, from the ownership, management and roster, nothing looks familiar to that Ravens franchise of 14 years ago or even the Stealth team of last season. Since Canucks Sports & Entertainment purchased the Warriors in June, the idea has been to build an organization that does not at all resemble the teams of the previous Stealth franchise.
Under the team’s new general manager Dan Richardson, they have made many bold moves to try and resuscitate this club following a 2-16 season last year.
“When you take over a 2-16 team, the way I look at it, you can’t stand pat,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to make some changes, and in our case, we needed to make substantial changes.”
Some of the key changes included signing goaltender Aaron Bold, trading away Corey Small in exchange for the Buffalo Bandits Mitch Jones and releasing long-time Stealth star Rhys Duch.
As new head coach Chris Gill noted, roster moves also included signing several rookies and players with little NLL experience. With the shortened training camp, these players were learning on the fly in their first NLL game last weekend against the Roughnecks in Calgary.
“It was a learning curve for a lot of our guys,” Gill said. “We have a lot of guys that don’t have a ton of experience in this league and a lot of rookies as well.”
Rookie defenders such as Zack Porter who notched his first career NLL goal and assist, Owen Barker who also tallied his first professional goal, and Dallas Wade who scooped up six loose balls and forced a turnover helped the team to its thrilling come-from-behind 14-13 win.
“I was happy with quite a few guys,” Gill said. “Zack Porter did a really good job for us. He opened a lot of eyes and made a lot of friends on our team with the character of hard work, never-die attitude that he has. Dallas Wade came in as a young guy. Man, he came in and delivered as well.”
The Warriors needed a strong team effort in the 2nd half. After the first 30 minutes the visitors were down 9-6 in part due to giving up eight penalties that led to three power play goals.
A more disciplined 2nd half with no penalties and proficient ball movement allowed the Warriors to fight back from a five-goal deficit in the final frame. Aside from an important extra attacker goal from Logan Schuss for his 2nd score of the period, four other men found the back of the net in the 4th.
“Everyone chipped in,” Jones said. “We had goals coming from all over the floor — we’re going to need that throughout the whole year. That’s something that Coach Gill and the rest of the management has put in place as a way for us to succeed as a group. It’s not just feeding the ball through one guy. Hopefully this win is just a start of good things to come.”
If the Warriors can continue their winning ways on Friday, they will match last season’s win total within their first two games. It would only be the 4th time in the Stealth’s/Warriors’ history that one of their teams started the season with two wins. All three of those previous teams (2010, 2013 and 2017) made the postseason and two of them (2010 and 2013) went to the NLL Finals.
“For us, it being a home opener in a new arena, it will be exciting for us,” Gill said. But, we have to make sure we channel our energy and our ready to play at the first whistle.
“I’m honestly excited for all of the fans,” Bold added. “This is an event that some people in downtown definitely aren’t used to. We’re hoping to bring in some new, young fans.”
We’ll see if the Warriors can keep their emotions in check and continue where they left off in Calgary to edge out a victory. Fans can catch the game live on Friday at 10:00pm EST via the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire