NLL squad wants lucky number seven Champion’s Cup
Keep the winning tradition alive.
That’s what Toronto Rock forward Garrett Billings and recently acquired goalie Matt Roik said when asked about what their role in the community is.
“I think the Rock has such a strong following in Toronto and obviously a great history winning championships here,” Billings said. “We’re like the New York Yankees of lacrosse for Canada.”
Indeed, the defending 2011 Champion’s Cup holders are looking to go back-to-back. Last season, the Rock beat Roik’s former squad, the Washington Stealth in the final 8-7.
It was a rematch of the year before where the Stealth won 15-11.
Roik, originally hailing from Dunnville, now calls Toronto his home and after spending three seasons in the Western Division, he’s happy to be back.
“For me it’s a refreshing start,” he said. “I’ve been on the West Coast for quite a few years.
“I really look forward to going back and play Washington,” he added. “I’m going to circle that on the calendar.”
With the regular season starting Jan. 8 against Calgary, there’s bound to be some newbies in the Air Canada Centre. Billings dissuades those who are shocked by the everything-hockey-disallows being allowed in lacrosse.
“Everyone comes and they see the slashing and hacking, but it really doesn’t hurt, they’re just trying to get the ball,” he said. “Just focus on the skilled play out there, don’t focus too much on the fighting.”
Parallels can be drawn between lacrosse and hockey, Canada’s two national sports.
With former NHLers Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Adam Oates along with current players Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos having their roots in lacrosse, there’s plenty of respect between the sports.
“I think a lot of people take pride in that because of the physicality and because of the skill level involved with it,” Roik said. “It goes hand-in-hand in upgrading your skill level in the game of hockey.
“It’s a lot like basketball too with the aspect of pick and roll, go forth and with the shot clock.”
It will be an intense season with 16 games scheduled, but Billings doesn’t seem to mind.
“Offensively we’re pretty unselfish,” he said. “If you try to take the game too much into your own hands, it kind of takes away from the team.
“I’ll do the exact same thing as last year, play hard and be unselfish and have a good year with the rest of the guys.”