Interviews with Members of the
Philadelphia Wings Professional Lacrosse Team..
Kyle Sweeney, Defense
Kyle hails from Springfield, Delaware County. After a highly successful and dominating high school career in Delaware County, Pa., in which he was elected as the All-Central League MVP and All-Delaware County in lacrosse as a senior … He also was the National Honor Society Spanish Award winner … He played football and basketball at Springfield High School, but we are certainly glad that he chose to stick with lacrosse......... he went on to play lacrosse at the next level at Georgetown University.
At Georgetown, he enjoyed a highly successful career and picked up one or two awards there as well, such as... An Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Yearbook Preseason First Team All-American selection … he was also selected as 2003 pre-season ECAC Defensive Player of the Year......Stands 28 groundballs away from being Georgetown’s all-time leader … Two-time ECAC Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American … Named a USILA First Team All-American in 2002 … Led the team in ground balls, picking up 75 on the season, making him second all time on the Hoyas’ single season list … Earned ECAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his games against Bucknell and Brown … Third Team All-American as a sophomore and was the ECAC’s Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-Conference performer … Led the team in 2001 with 60 ground balls.
Kyle has proven that he has the ability to transition to play both indoor and outdoor lacrosse, a feat many can not successfully do, or it takes awhile to achieve, if ever.
When he isn't wowing people playing lacrosse, he is the Director of Operations for Maverik Lacrosse, LLC and he is also Owner of The Town Tavern, NYC. Kyle has been with the Wings for 2 years, and he is a widely respected defensive player.
Both of his parents and his sister are all teachers and he wanted to break the mold a bit, so he chose to play lax rather than to fall into the family profession. One of the most important role models Kyle molded himself after was Michael Jordan.
He wanted to “be like Mike”. He says of Jordan that he was always a winner, even when Michael lost, he did it with class and dignity. The sport of lacrosse is growing at a tremendous rate, and the upcoming TV contract will only contribute to its popularity. Kyle feels that from a business aspect, it will be great for the league - but it could also create additional confusion to people not familiar with the difference between box lacrosse and field lacrosse.
He isn't quite sure, but when asked about his perception to the fans, he thinks they view him as a courteous local guy that is grateful for all the fan support. (Dead on.) He grew up watching Wings games and has been a fan all of his life so he knows what it’s like to sit in those seats. He said he always tries to be as friendly as possible to all the fans all the time, but it actually is just something that naturally comes across. (Did I mention he has a reputation for being a bit crazy too?) He also hopes the fans view him as a player that goes hard all game long and all season long. (We do.) When asked if he will become like other celebrities or other athletes and still bother with his fans if and when he is approached for endorsement or advertising contracts and becomes a big time celebrity athlete, rich and famous.....He just laughed.
Kyle is definitely a down home, good natured guy and the personality changes we have seen in other athletes will most likely escape him. He currently has an endorsement contract already and he assures us that he is still the same old goofball, so the fans need not worry......and, we believe him!
The talent is there on the team, something just does not gel and when asked, "What steps need to be taken to ensure the Wings make the playoffs next year after missing them 3 yrs in a row.... Something is missing, what do you think it is? Specifically..... offensively, defensively, attitude?... what will make this team a championship caliber one?" He responded, " It is strange to say but we really are one of the best, if not the best team in the league. If you look at the championship game, we went 1-0 and 2-1 against Colorado and Buffalo respectively. We should have swept Buffalo. Anyway, I love our team and we really started to play better as a team as the season moved along. I’d go right back to battle with the same guys next year and I think we have an excellent shot of making the playoffs."
Kyle responded quite definitely when asked if he had the choice to obtain any player in the NLL as a free trade prospect, "Who would he want to pick up? Who would you give away?" He would take John Grant Jr. "He is by far the best player in the league." In his opinion, hands down. He’d give away (Marc) Morley……."he gets me in too much trouble on road trips. HAHAHA"
What does Kyle think about the draft & what it will mean to the Wings this year? Well, he wasn't very familiar with the indoor draft, and he is not familiar with the Junior players in Canada, so he has elected to let Lindsay handle that aspect of the question....." All I know is that Lindsay drafts very well, and I’m sure we’ll do just fine in the draft."
Personally, Kyle's objective for himself is to get stronger and work on his one vs one defensive game. Also, he wants to develop his shooting skills more.
Kyle has alot of other interests outside of lacrosse, when he gets the time. He loves spending time down the shore with his family. Two of his hobbies are wakeboarding and boating. He is always joking around and has a great upbeat personality. That personality always shines through, especially during this interview. When asked how he willl spend his time during the off-season... "Off season? What’s that? I am currently in full swing with the Philadelphia Barrage of the MLL. That will run me up until September and then I’ll be getting in shape for Wings camp in October. That about sums up my “off season”." There are a few lacrosse players who had options in playing other sports, such as professional football, hockey, etc., Kyle jokes that, " I’d love to be a professional football quarterback, but we all know that is unrealistic."
One of his fondest memories playing lacrosse was beating Toronto at home, "It was incredible." Our team waited a long time for that. Personally, he has set his standards high as far as professional goals...." I’d like to be an All-Pro and All-Star but more importantly, I want to win an NLL Championship. That is the primary goal every season." The goals he has set are certainly achievable and inconceivably could happen within the next few years as well.
Kyle coud not make a definitive commitment to me on how they will bring home the Cup for his fans, but if anyone will die trying, He will. And, he wanted everyone to know........"Thanks for your loyalty, all of us really appreciate it. " And, hey Kyle, thank you!
Sean Greenhalgh, Forward
This is Sean Greenhalgh's first year as a professional lacrosse player, and the Philadelphia Wings were fortunate to sign him as a Forward. He had an extremely successful college career at Cornell University. He was the unanimous selection for the Ivy League first-team, & he was a major part of a high-powered Cornell offense that had been ranked second in the country after averaging 12.08 goals per game. He had 30 goals an 12 assists his senior year, including 17 goals and four assists in Ivy action, Greenhalgh is one of three Big Red players to reach the 40-point mark. He also lead all active Division I players in career goals with 132 and is tied for 11th in the nation his sr year in goals per game at 2.50. His achievements earned him the Title 2005 Ivy League Player of the Year.
If that isn't enough to get your attention, he continued during his debut year in the NLL to earn Rookie of The Week titles (8 times ), culminating in his award for a spot on the 2006 All Rookie Team and then on to receive the 2006 Bowflex NLL Sportsmanship Award. He has achieved quite alot in a few short years and will have plenty to celebrate on his birthday in July, when he will be 24.
Alot of people do not realize how instrumental Sean's family support has been to him. He attributes everything to them. His family always tries to find ways to gather the whole family outside of the regular holidays, so making the decision to play for the Wings was easy because it gave them all another excuse to get together. When Sean isn't playing lacrosse for the Wings, he is employed by Binswanger, Commercial Real Estate.
He had many different role models in terms of athletes, it seems like they were always changing, "But my Dad was the one role model I always had. He taught me that hard work pays off and to never be satisfied.. always strive to get better." When he went to College he really looked up to his Coach, Jeff Tambroni. "He was just a class act in everything he did and his work ethic was unparalleled."
Since there is much talk regarding the upcoming TV contract to televise some of the games, we wanted to know what impact it could have on him and the league. "Well obviously this is a great step for the sport. I think lacrosse is a game that really draws people in once they actually see it, and to be able to televise games nationally can only heighten the awareness and create more interest in people who are not familiar with the game. In regards to how it will affect me, I don't think it will, it just means that now that we are on a national stage we have the responsibility of working hard to promote the game in a good light to allow it to grow."
Sean hopes that when his name rolls off the lips of the fans, they see him as a guy that gives everything he's got, every night he's out there. His self description is actually very accurate, as well as humble too.
"Will you become like other celebrities or other athletes and still 'bother' with your fans if and when you are approached for endorsement or advertising contracts? We've all seen how stardom has gone to alot of athletes or superstars heads.... " " Absolutely, in the NLL and especially here in Philadelphia, we are very aware how important our fans are,. The endorsers and advertisers can wait, the fans always come first."
In preparation for next season, after being asked what he thought was missing or could be added to the team....(Another tough question he says) " I wouldn't say that something is missing in terms of a player or coach because I really believe in what we have on our team right now. I think if you really look at the season, we dropped some games that we shouldn't have and they really came back to hurt us at the end. So, all we need to do is commit to playing every game as if it were our last, and it was against the best team in the league, and we'll be fine. I know the guys are all working hard this off-season and just chomping at the bit for next year to begin."
When specifically asked what could improve... offensively, defensively, attitude, he responded, "Again I would say it's just a commitment to one another to go out and give it everything we have every night and we'll be just fine."
Sean said one thing he would like to do for next season is, "Bring Chris Sanderson back as a player. He saw him at a True North Lacrosse Camp a couple weeks ago and they think they could work a great pick and roll on the left side...."
He is looking forward to the draft for this year as well. " I think it means the same as every year, another chance to add a great player to a great core group of guys."
The ever modest, humble, gentleman that he is, answered true to form when asked, "What do you think you personally have to work on next year?" "Everything. You can always get better at anything even at this level. So I'm just working on getting in the best shape I can and playing as much lacrosse in the off-season so that I'm sharp right from the beginning next year.
Sean loves to play hockey, and golf. "I love to play golf if anyone wants to play a round contact the Wings I can make myself available, haha. " There is a charity tournament being run by Anthony Becht of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for a school in Delaware County coming up..... (Sean, check your email for the invite..)
When he isn't working, he continues to work out and playing lacrosse as much as he can to prepare for next season.
"Some of the best memories for me last year were definitely my first game playing in Colorado in front of 18,000+ fans and the retiring of Gary Gait's jersey." Also, my first game with the Wings, getting introduced and then hearing the fans when the other team came out, that was awesome." They were also memorable moments in his rookie year for those of us who were lucky enough to witness them.
It had been rumored that the Wings had a special 'angel' in the tunnel who walked in after them for the last 3 games, bringing them much needed luck. Without that luck, it was also rumored, they would not have been successful..........Bringing that angel back may take a commitment from the team, and Sean's promise was, "I will personally ensure that you are in the tunnel prior to every game because we all know that's what really determines whether we win or not."
With a smile that booms and lights up the room he walks in, I believe this kid's future is one of the brightest, and personally can't wait to see what the next few years bring to him. I'll be in that tunnel watching and cheering as always, trying to capture the memories.
Erik Miller, Goalie
Erik is no stranger to working hard. His family has always worked hard, extending from his grandparent to his parents they have always been excellent workers who love the challenge of doing things well. Erik has been a goalie for 19 years, and he was a welcomed addition to the Wings in 2005. He may not have known much about IT when he chose that profession, but the ethics he developed has enabled him to overcome any challenge. He is the Development Director for IT Consulting Firm.
Erik has had a few role models to look up to in his life. "My role models were my grandfathers and Dad. They always were good at whatever they did and I wanted to be like them. Sure I had sports hero's who I loved, but when it comes down to it, my work ethic came from the men in the immediate family. " Erik has one brother who plays lacrosse recreationally, and he enjoys playing music with his band, "Lawn Chair".
Erik is looking forward to next season, with the expansion teams and the recent announcement of television coverage, there are good things coming for this league. " If you know the world is watching or even the U.S., the intensity of the game grows." He believes that every player goes that much harder and each game will be a war, especially with the upcoming television coverage. "Not to mention the game will grow in the US, exposing more field lacrosse players to it and thus helping with expansion with all the young guys who want to going our great league."
As everyone knows, Philly fans can be the toughest anywhere. Any player that has come into Philly, is well aware of that. The fans always seem to know how to play the game better than any of the professional athletes we pay to watch, and with that being said......Erik doesn't think he falls into the "Fan Fav" Category. We have to wonder though, outside of Dallas Eliuk, what goalie here really was ever given a chance?
" I thought I played a decent game in Minnesota, but it was my first after a year off. Should I have won, Sure, I always feel that way. But the other games I came in to a 6 to 8 goal deficit and you just do what you can do. I think I found myself in Rochester, but we were already out of that game. I plan to make ammends for that this season if given the chance." He deserves the chance and we hope he gets it.
Erik was the Two-time overall NLL Player of the Week Amateur, He was a member of the 1994 NCAA Division III Championship team while at Salisbury State and was named MVP of that title game … most will agree he has had an incredible year for only starting lacrosse as a senior in high school.
Erik also was selected as a First Team All-American and was Goaltender of the Year in 1994. As all true die hard fans know, any one playing on one of their beloved teams are open for discussion....they love you when you win, they blame you for all the losses.
Erik insists that without the fans, "We don't have a team, or league, or pro sports at all!!" So, it seems as though we won't have to worry about stardom getting to any of these athletes heads. They love their fans and will remain loyal.
When asked what the team needs to do in preparation for next season, there was no hesitation at all. "That's actually an easy one. We have to have more intensity. You have to play 60 minutes every game. I think we are at 55 minutes now. With 5 more minutes we can get over the hump and make it happen."
I asked, "If you had the choice to sign any player in the NLL as a free trade prospect, who would you pick up? And I also asked.....Who would you give away?" His response. Typical, simple, very thoughful. " Man that is tuff. If I could get Paul Gait back when he was 30 I would love it. He was the best shooter I have seen. I saw him do some amazing things and even play dragging one leg behind him. He still got it done. Imagine what he could due healthy again! As for losing anyone…I love our team. I wouldn't want to get rid of anyone. That's a question I can't answer."
He knows that the draft could be huge for the Wings. " It all depends on who comes back and who we lose to expansion."
"Focus, I have to prepare myself to come off the bench better," and he intends to work on that for next year.. "That's my role. I accept it and love it. I am there to help Matt in any way I can and what ever I can do to make him better and fill holes when I have to then, so be it." There were quite a few game situations he was put into that did not end in a positive outcome for the Wings. Even with a marginal deficit, he accepts the loss as his without hesitation. He is a team player and willingly accepts his role, along with the responsibility that goes with it. He is looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.
Erik enjoys Live music, and travel in addition to playing lax..... During the Wings off season, he is playing for the Baltimore Bayhawks in the MLL. He will hit the beach, play golf and enjoy time with friends and family.
He never had any desire to play any other professional sport, it was always lacrosse for him. In commenting on his other teammates and their abilities to play other sports, he has the best of wishes for Brad Self. " I hope Selfer does great in Europe with Hockey though!"
Most athletes have collected alot of memories over the years. Erik has quite a few since he began playing professionally. "It is hard to pinpoint sometimes favorite memories," but I made him chose just a few to share. " I have 2. One was the double overtime loss in the semi's against Toronto when I played for Washington. I scared the hell out of Toronto that night and showed that an American goalie CAN play in this league. The other was making Canada's version of plays of the week with an empty net same on Colin Doyle in a must win when I played for Colorado. I was #2 behind Mike Weir winning the Masters. As of a Professional Goal…….get to the Championship game and win."
"It's a wonderful idea." when asked what he thought of the NLL's impending plans to have a summer league next year. "This league takes great care of it's players and has grown so much. Jim Jennings has done an awesome job and hopefully the 2 leagues merge like the NFL and AFL did. Monday Night Lacrosse would be awesome!"
Again, knowing that I had an opportunity to work with another pro team in Philly, but turning it down to stay with the Wings mid season.....I had to ask Erik how stupid my decision was & why should I bother with the Wings next year? And, I was received 'pressure' from the championship team to photograph them, and to convert, which I declined gracefully. As usual, Erik is such a thoughtful, classy, awesome guy...... and when I asked him what he would do to personally get that Cup next year.............. " WOW, that's a tuff one because I know you will hold me to it. All I can say is I will come in with a more focused mind set and do a better job when my time comes. Also I will do what ever I can to help Matt and the rest of my team mates back and hopefully talk my fellow Seagull alum to give it one more year!"
Jeff "Rat" Ratcliffe is considered to be one of the town's favorite players. He arguably has one of the nicest personalities on the team, quite possibly, the National Lacrosse League. Being a fan favorite is an acknowledgement that he modesly accepts. Jeff has worked hard and has achieved this status with his style of play. Accolades for his achievement have not affected his personality. He attended college at UMBC, where he averaged 3.90 goals per game and is still in the Top Ten for All Time Goal Scorers. In 1988 he lead all United States NCAA Division I teams in goals scored percentages. His outstanding college career provided him the opportunity to take his ability to the next level with the Wings, as he was drafted in the first round, 4th overall in 2000.
Rat's bobblehead was the 2nd designed in a series featuring the players. Rat is always being called upon to make Charity appearances, and wows almost everyone he meets with his gentle and honest nature. He has an awesome smile and the ability to put everyone at ease with his laugh. He served as assistant captain this year and won the Championship during his first year here in 2001. Since being acquired by the Wings first round 4th overall, Rat has achieved many honors, MVP of games, Player of the Week, lead the team in scoring for 2 years, etc., the list goes on and on and is pretty much well known. Every year when the Wing's release their Player Protected List, Jeff is on it. He is also the Philadelphia Wings PLPA Player Representative.
Jeff has had a few lacrosse models to follow. One of them was his older brother, and the other was a guy on his team named Sean Ritchey. "They were both small but played like there were giants."
Jeff is confident that there will be a definitive impact on lacrosse in the next few years with the expansion teams, as well as the television coverage promised to begin for the start of next season. "Anytime you can get lacrosse into that many homes on a consistent basis, the faster the sport will grow and the better chance it will have to succeed." The tv coverage will also be well received by players who hail from Canada, Novia Scotia, or other parts of the world where they do not have access to local newspapers or information provided in the States. "Personally I hope that my family in Canada will be able to watch me without using the computer. " No one has confirmed that the Canadian fans will be able to enjoy this new feature yet, it is still being discussed.
I asked all the players that I interviewed what they believed the fans thought of them? They all were pretty much in line with the general concensus and Jeff was no exception. "Hopefully they think I put my body on the line for the team and would do anything to win." Anyone attending a Wings game will attest to the fact that Rat is probably one of the most physical players and is the target of many defenders. He gained notoriety amongst the fans and the league with his 7 game goal against the New Jersey Storm, (an unsuccessful NLL expansion team no longer operating.) and for the 'Rat ' show against Ottawa on March 2, 2001 when he was named MVP of the game after his eight goal performance. Generally, during the annual Season Ticket Party, Jeff has one of the longest lines filled with fans young and old anxious to meet him.
He often draws two to three defensive players at a time, and more times than not, it takes that many defenders to bring him down. His notoriety on the offensive side of the ball has earned him the respect and attention league wide. His reputation for scoring sprees has garnered him much attention from the defensive crews he comes up against. And most of us who have been to a Wing's game, have watched him dragging them with him, down the crease and even into it.
(pictured are 3 Buffalo Bandits defensive players trying to stop him)
Jeff currently works as a Sales Representative for Stryker Surgical Company. He has plenty to keep him busy during the offseason and will continue to work during the week and hang out on the beach for the weekends. "I have a child on the way, so everyday I am getting prepared for that responsibility. I can't wait!! "
He enjoys music and relaxing and one of his favorite foods is an old Italian recipe known as "Chicken Divan". (Or as the Canadians like to call it, 'Chicken In The Van.'), he is quite fond of macaroni and cheese too.
Don't be too concerned that the television publlicity will change this man. He is probably one of the most down to earth individuals you will likely come across. Will fame and fortune change him? "Well, I don't see that happening to me anytime soon, but I am sure I will always find time for the fans. "
As far as obtaining any player as a free agent for the Wings, Jeff commented, "I would pick up a player like Merril, (Brody), he can get it done on both sides of the floor and he has a lot years left. " He would not consider trading away any of the players on the team. Each are integral for their part and make specific contributions. It is commitment and dedication that will serve them all well in the long run. Jeff thinks the draft will be another year to improve on depth and he will be consentrating on shooting more next season. "I have a good shot from the outside, but I always think I can get closer. I have to start shooting from the outside plain and simple. "
Jeff is obviously a very talented athlete. He continued with lacrosse, quite simply, "because of his love for the game." He was willing to sacrifice his time to play lacrosse and let the other sports go. A decision that he does not regret for one second, and neither do most fans in Philly.
His fondest lacrosse memory would be winning the Championship his rookie year, and without hesitation, his fondest off field memories are meeting and marrying his wife, and now having a baby on the way.
The Wings have a loyal fan base that will support them, but the faith has been waivering. The hopes of these fans has dwindled after 3 years of not making it to the post season. He promises to stay focused and commited, and it will make an exciting year even better. Would we ever expect any less from a player of his caliber?
I wanted to know why the fans should remain loyal to this team and why we should come back to support them? I mean after all, what is in it for us? Every week, for several years, thousands of fans pour into the Wachovia Center to watch their beloved Wings. There has been alot of disappointment for the players, Wings organization, as well as the fans. But It's All About the Fans in this interview.
"Jake Bergey and I have decided to get a trainer together so that should help us have a good start." responded Ratcliffe when he was told that we needed assurances that next year they will have a playoff run and to bring us back to the Wachovia for another year..
He is taking the necessary steps and made a positive commitment that they will be at their peak for the start of next season.
If there is one thing that I know about Jeff that others may not be aware of, it is when he says he will do something, he does it.
Thomas Hajek - Captain - Defense
Thomas is a former University of Vermont two-sport standout. He was selected ninth overall in the first round of the National Lacrosse League entry draft.
Thomas was the captain in men's hockey, and he was a three-year letter winner in men's lacrosse at the University of Vermont. It is reported that he was one of the finest student-athletes ever at UVM. He was named to the Verizon Academic All-District I first team, He was the 2003 Male winner of the Wasson Athletic Prize at Vermont's annual Senior Letter winners' Dinner, and he was named second-team All-District I in 2001-02. Thomas was able to combine academics and enjoy athletic excellence in his four-year career at Vermont. He was a Business Administration major with a 3.79 grade-point average. Thomas was a three-time member of the America East Academic Honor Roll for lacrosse and the ECAC All-Academic Team for ice hockey. In 2002 and 2003, he was named to the America East Commissioner's Honor Roll for having a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or higher. Thomas was also a member of the 2003 Mann Cup Champion Victoria Shamrocks for the Western Lacrosse Association.
Thomas was voted to the 2003-04 All-Rookie Team. He is a key member of the Wings defense and he was elected Captain of the Wings as a second year defender. Hajek was a starter for the NLL All Star Team in 2006. His image has been immortalized as the first bobblehead in a series featuring the players. He is often called upon to appear at various charities and his aggressive and fearless play has earned him the hard earned respect of many a Phillly fan.
It goes without saying, his talent is exceptional. Thomas has a reputation for defending his teammates, and has never, and probably will never, back down from any opponent. He doesn't know how to do anything at half speed, when the name "Thomas Hajek" comes to mind, the phrase "all or nothing" fits the bill. When meeting Hajek in person, his demeanor is in exact contrast to the style in which he plays. He is mild mannered, thoughtful and speaks softly, everything that defies his playing style. But when he puts the pads on and grabs his stick, he morphs into the fierce opponent that has earned him respect leaguewide.
He is an Assitant Project Manager for a Construction firm in Philadelphia, and one of his favorite things about the City of Brotherly love is its live music scene. He likes to relax to Emo-indi, and his favorite artist is Neil Young. When asked about his favorite group, "Modest Mouse," is the reply. His favorite food is anything Marge cooks, she's a great cook, but especially her Veggie Burrito. Thomas is keeping in shape during the offseason, but he enjoys playing frisbee golf and hanging out with friends.
I asked him what impression he thinks the fans have of him, and he said, "I hope they think I'm hard working and will stand up for my teammates." Usually, that is among the first few responses that roll off of the fan's lips. People have also said, "Wow. That guy really is amazing. He looks huge on the field, and when you meet him after the game, he is just a regular guy, same size as your normal average guy. "
He thinks the expansion will directly affect the Wings. "If New York comes into the league, however, I think it's a positive the league is expanding into major market cities." He wants to
get stronger, faster, and to be more game aware for this season. He thinks the team lacked consistency, "On some nights, we are champions and others, we are play poorly. "
With Glenn Clarke accepting the position of Head Coach for Toronto, this will leave a defensive void. I asked if he thought that will become a consideration in the draft or if he saw another player stepping up into Glenn’s position? "We have many players who are ready to step up to meet the need, but if necessary, Lindsey will fill in the void via free agency or trades." Which lead me to my next question, "What does the draft mean to the Wings this year?" "Hopefully, it will upgrade our personnel skill and depth."
"Andrew Turner and Ryan O'Conner if I can take two," would be his choices for free trade prospects, and I am not at liberty to tell you who he would give away. So, he offered for everyone else that, "I'd give away Foxy, just kidding, I'd never give Foxy away."
"My first home game at the Wachovia Center," is one of his fondest memories since his career began, and a goal he has set for himself that he wants to achieve is, "of making playoffs and winning the Championship."
As a photo journalist, I have the privilege of taking pictures from the tunnel which the players enter the arena through at the beginning of each game. Prior to the Arizona game, I walked up behind Thomas and spoke to him. He had his game face on and I thought I startled him at first, but if truth be told, he startled me. I had never seen Thomas look so intense or driven. I was furious at myself for approaching him at that time, this was something I have never done before a game. I apologized after the game for approaching him to wish him luck, and he just smiled that huge, charming smile and laughed. He assured me in a soft spoken voice it was not a problem. So, of course, we agreed it was meant to be good luck. If they had not won, I would have taken the blame. I am not a superstitious person, but knowing they needed to win the next game, I was behind them in the tunnel again for Rochester and again for Buffalo. I believe I spoke to a few people who mentioned they had lucky socks on, tee shirts or jerseys as well, and they will be readying their collective good luck charms for next year. Sometimes, a little bit of luck does go along way and alot of good hearted fun traditions were born.
Since he is well aware that " It's All About the Fans" this year and the fans want to know what is in it for them to come back another year and cheer their team on..Thomas guarantees us that, "I will work as hard as I can. I will be prepared. And I will try to help and lead the Wings into the playoffs and a successful season."
Thomas Hajek has never made a promise that he has not kept, or a goal he hasn't met.
Jeff Bigas – Defense
Jeff is another local product of the Philadelphia area, he is from Media, PA, Delaware County.
He graduated from Penncrest High School, which is in the Central League, opposing team of Springfield High School (fellow Wing Kyle Sweeney’s alma mater.)
I watched Jeff play football in high school and he was invited to play during the Annual Hero Bowl All Star Senior game for his success on the field. He did not make the Hero Bowl that year because he had to play in the PA Lacrosse Final Four. Jeff believes that playing football helped him develop into a better lacrosse player. “Lifting weights and learning to hit correctly are things that have really helped me. I concentrated on both sports equally in high school, but I knew I wasn't big enough to play big time football in college. I liked lacrosse more anyway.” Jeff earned First Team All Central in Football and Lacrosse, and earned Second Team All Delco in both.
“I tried out in 2005 for the USA National Team, and it was one of the best lacrosse moments of his life. It was an honor to even be given a tryout. One I will never forget.” He has been playing outdoor lacrosse for 12 years now, and he will turn 23 today, June 19th. Happy Birthday! He was recognized by ESPN The Magazine, to the All America 2005 Academic All-District Men's At-Large Team; The Seagulls were 70-6 in his four years, with four straight Capital Athletic Conference Championships in addition to the two NCAA titles.
The Tewaaraton Trophy is awarded annually to the top male and female lacrosse players in the country. The nominations had just one Division III player make the top 16: Jeff Bigas. Jeff is absolutely focused and he is one of the hardest working players out there. These qualities helped him to become the third player in Salisbury history to earn first-team All-America honors three straight times. Bigas was a starter in every one of those games, and a team Captain for the last two seasons. He was arguably one of the best defensive players, not just in Division III, but in the country. The coaches in the Capital Athletic Conference thought enough of Bigas to name him their 2005 Player of the Year.
He has a very close family. Mom (Carol) Dad (Jim/Biggy) and his older Brother (Matt). Matt played football at West Chester University, and they have their loving dog (Jack). “My parents have been supportive of everything my brother and I have ever done. They only missed about 2 or 3 of my college games which was amazing. I always look at them during the National Anthem.”
Jeff has a variety of tastes in the types of music he listens to. “I like all kinds of music. Bob Marley is my favorite, but I like to listen to a lot of punk music too. Alkaline Trio is my favorite punk band.”
He has been on the Sushi kick a lot lately. “I like eating with the chop sticks. “ Whenever he comes home from school though, his dad always has a Philly cheese steak waiting for him.
He is playing in both the MLL (Chicago Machine) and the NLL (Wings). I asked him how hard it is to transition from one to the other? “I don't have much trouble with MLL because I have been playing field lacrosse for so long, but I learned something new at every practice in Box. It helps having an experienced coach like Lindsay Sanderson and some seasoned veterans like Jake Bergey, Peter Jacobs, Glen Clark, Erik Miller, Thomas Hajek to name a few. They give me a lot of tips and are making the transition a little easier.”
I wondered what he liked best about playing for his home town? “I love playing for my home city. The fans are awesome. I know because I was one. I went to a Wings game in third grade with my family. I quit baseball the next day. I think that was Jake's rookie year (which makes him extremely old). I love all Philly sports and it's cool to be a part of one of them."
He has a lot of other interests, beside lacrosse. “I like doing anything that requires physical activity. I play racquetball every day. I think that's my number 1 hobby. I like tennis, swimming, football catches and baseball catches, lifting weights, and playing fetch with my dog. I like the beach a lot too. I like swimming in the water and sleeping on the sand.” It appears as though everything appeals to him.
Right now during the off season, he is coaching at Salisbury and finishing up his Masters work. He is the graduate assistant coach, “So my graduate tuition is paid for. After that Who knows?”
He thinks there will be a definite impact with the television coverage for the sport , “It will hopefully help the sport grow. Indoor or outdoor, lacrosse is a great game and the more people who get to watch it, the better.”
What was the first year as part of the Wings organization like for a local boy? There are now quite a few players from the Philadelphia area on the team. How did it feel for him getting dressed in uniform and stepping on the floor for the first time? “It was fun and a lot of learning. I was a little disappointed because I didn't see much playing time, but, I know you have to pay your dues in this league and I am willing to do that. It is cool to put the uniform on and have your name announced in a place where you used to just watch the games.”
There are now 3 Salisbury alumni playing for the Wings. “What do you think of this becoming a tradition?” “It's cool to play with other Salisbury guys because we have a lot of funny stories to share and it says a lot about the program at Salisbury as well. We are all proud of playing there and we let our teammates that there are more Salisbury guys than any other colleges on the team.”
You played with Josh Bergey at Salisbury, now with Jake on the Wings. What is that like for you? Any chance he would want to play for the Wings? “Josh is one of my best friends. He was one of the best teammates I have ever had in any sport. I was his best man at his wedding. Jake and Josh are both natural leaders. They are fearless on the field or in the box. They are both guys who you love to have on your team but would hate to have to play against them. The Bergey family is great. They are all really nice people and they love to have a good time. They also have an older brother Jason who was a great athlete as well. I'm sure Josh would like to play in Philly.”
He thinks that with the expansion that they may lose some players. “I hate to see guys on our team go, but that's the way it works. Hopefully I will still be in Philly next year.” He knows he has to continue to learn the game and keep working with the short stick for next season, and he can’t wait for the season to begin. There are a few changes he would like to see for himself next year, including some playing time. “Hopefully, I will come into training camp in shape and ready to earn a spot.” If he had the choice to obtain any player in the NLL, “I think Brodie Merrill is a great player. He wouldn't hurt to have on the roster.”
Even though it was his rookie year and he didn’t see much time, I had to wonder anyway. What could it have been like for this kid to be playing for a team that he has watched and admired so often, and now, is a part of that program? “My best memory is when i got the phone call that I was on the roster. It was a dream of mine for years to play with the Wings. He has set goals for himself, and he wants to get out there on that floor and help Philly win a Championship.”
As a photo journalist for Pennsylvania Football News, among a few news outlets I provide info and pics for, I feature the top premiere football talent in Delaware County. Some of the athletes I have featured went on to very productive careers at the next level and beyond. Kevin Jones, former Cardinal O'Hara All Catholic running back, is now playing with the Detroit Lions in the NFL, Bigas was also one of the athletes I featured for football. Now, for lacrosse.
There is nothing that will stop this player when he sets his mind to do it, and nothing that he can not do.
Good Luck Jeff!!!
Mark Morley - Forward
Marc Morley has been playing with the Wings since he came to Philly via a trade from the Anaheim Storm in 2004. Marc had a highly successful career at the Division I level at the University of Massachusetts, where he was honored as an All-American Player in 2002, First Team All League and he received All New England Honors.
His knack for scoring and his keen field skills earned him the Invitation as a Junior at UMass in 2001 to try out for the United States Men’s Lacrosse Team.
He was An All-New England second team selection ... Marc was named ECAC Player of the Week, And he finished third on the team with 37 points ... Second on the team in goals with 29 …yada yada yada… Ok…..on to the rest.
His first year in the NLL was pretty good too. He was named to the NLL’s All Rookie Team in 2003, he was featured on a segment of Fox Sports Net’s ‘The Best Damn Sports Show Period’ hosted by Tom Arnold, and was the team high Top Scorer. So, if anyone is curious, endorsements, television publicity and the like will not affect Morley, he is very accustomed to this already.
In regards to my question of the coverage the NLL will receive next year on television, he replied, “Well, once you have the big time TV, that is when the sport will really take off. This is the biggest thing for the league to work on now,”
Currently Marc is a Trading Assistant and works in the Finance Industry in New York City. “My favorite place to eat is this place in the East Village called John's. It is a little classic Italian place and my go to dish is the Chicken Parm with some red wine.” Marc has promised to bring this back for me when the season begins. He has an eclectic taste in music, ”I listen to all kinds of music, but mostly alternative/rock. My favorite group is Blind Mellon old school.”
The best part of playing in Philly, “Is the fans. The Fans are great, the support couldn't be better.”
When Marc isn’t playing for the Wings, he can be found relaxing on the golf course or playing the guitar, he also enjoys water skiing and fishing too. Throughout the off season, he keeps himself very busy with work and has numerous projects going on.
I tossed in different questions for some of the players and did not ask them all to answer the same one over and over throughout all of these stories. One question I did ask of all of them was very specific I asked each of them what they thought their fans thought of them. Every player that I know cares a great deal about their fans and what the fans think of them. So, when I asked him what impression his fans had of him, he replied, “Depends. If they have met me personally or not. If they have met me, maybe they think I am a bit crazy at times?” Most of his fans think he has an outgoing, playful personality. I have never heard the combination of words such as “shy” “timid” and “Marc Morley” in the same sentence though. He has an impish twinkle in his eye, and a smile bright enough to help light up New York during a power failure.
Marc thinks the expansion “Will have an impact on all the teams. Guys are defiantly going to be moving around throughout the league. It should be interesting to see what teams get shaken’ up.” And, as far as the draft goes, “Not sure what is going to happen, it all depends on the expansion.”
As far as looking toward next year and his expectations, he is ready and willing. “I just want to fill the role expected of me...”
Marc is very confident going into this season about his team and teammates, and is looking forward to another shot. “I think it is obvious that this team has the talent to go the playoffs next year. Coach put a great team together. I think a few things are going too chang by default with the expansion. We should have made it last year, we just need to be more consistent.”
Marc agreed for a bottle of that red wine with the chicken Parm, I will not say who he is willing to give away next year. But he would pick up John Grant, Jr. “I would pick him, he is the best player in the league...and it could also go the other way as well, you could get alot for him.”
Marc has gathered quite a few awards and memories along the way in his career. This question was probably the hardest for all of them to answer, because I really tried to keep it to one. One of his fondest and most memorable since playing for Philly was, “Finally beating Toronto.” And one goal that he hasn’t achieved yet, but will do everything he can to get it is, “Winning that Cup.”
In true Morley style, he was very honest in his response to me when I posed the last question of, “What have you done for Me Lately, Morley?” “Why should we come back again, after three years of No Post Season to Cheer You On?”
“Well, first of all, so you can be part of one the best NLL franchises in history. Secondly, this is the best game to come watch in Philly anyway, and Thirdly, c'mon fans what would you do without us..?”
No worries, Marc. We'll be there.
Dan Finck - Defense
Dan was a four-year starter at Whittier College, California. He was the Captain for the 2004 Whittier Lacrosse Team that went 8-4 and finished ranked #12 in the country.
In his senior season, he accumulated 30 goals and 14 assists. Dan has been playing lax since he was a little guy. He is enjoying a successful career and he attributes his success from what he has learned from his father.
His father played professional lacrosse in the 70’s and he taught him everything that he knows about lacrosse when he was growing up.
Both Dan’s mom and dad have always encouraged him to do what he wanted to do, and they have always been very supportive of him playing lacrosse.
I asked him if he had any role models and what effect they had on him, “My parents were my role models growing up. They taught me to be a good hard working person.“
Dan is also a highly sought after Personal Trainer in a gym located in the Philadelphia area. He is traveling back and forth this summer between Canada and the U.S. because of his OLL commitments and his job here, so his dedication to staying in shape, and to the Wings is quite apparent.
He will continue to keep working on his conditioning. “Playing a full 60 minutes at top intensity is crucial in this league.” and he intends to be ready when they hit the floor again this season..
Dan was drafted by the Philadelphia Wings in 2004, he recorded a hat trick against the Minnesota Swarm, racking up point after point each game which eventually led him to be voted to the 2005 Edge Advanced All-Rookie Team. Finck finished that season with 16 points 10G, 6A and recovered 73 loose balls in 14 games played. The 24 year old Halifax, Nova Scotia native has been a key member of the Wings defense contributing his speed and agility.
He is keeping in shape and playing lacrosse over the summer for the Barrie Lakeshores of the Ontario Lacrosse League, during the NLL off season.
He has really impressed his fans with his dedication to improving his skills, and his speed and knowledge on the floor has not gone unnoticed by them either.
He hopes that the fans see him as a hard worker on the floor and an approachable, responsible person. Most do agree with that description, but he neglected to include happy, refreshingly honest and jovial. When he isn't playing lacrosse, he enjoys playing in a men’s hockey league. He stays very active, and he love skiing in the winter, and golfing in the summer as well.
Dan is a big country music fan, “but I'll listen to just about anything except for rap and hip hop.”
I asked what he liked about Philadelphia, “Philly's a fun city, I would have to say my favorite part about living here is seeing how sports fans treat their teams. I think we have some great fans, who are a lot of fun to play for.”
So, because he likes the team, and the fans and the City itself, I asked him if he has given any thought of relocating here permanently. “I don't know where I plan on settling down, I'm to young to make that decision.”
Dan loves all types of food, and with a grin from ear to ear, his favorites are, “I love filet, chicken divan, baked zitis, macaroni and cheese among some notables, but not exactly in that order.”
Dan said “Brodie Merrill did some great things in Portland this year; the guy is a horse. He would impact any team he plays on. “ when I asked who he would pick up. “I don't know if I could trade away any of my buddies, so it would have to be some of our first round draft picks! (I guess that's why I'm a player and not the GM)” when I asked who he would get rid of.
He is hoping that the television coverage expected for next year will impact his family in Nova Scotia. “It's nice for the guys who are a way from their families and friends who don't get a chance to see them play a whole lot. Halifax isn't really close to anything!” Hopefully, families of the players not situated in the United States will be able to get a glimpse of them. Having the games on TV will be great in the United States. Canada already has televised games on the weekends.” With speculation that the sport will grow because of the tv coverage, I asked him if he will still speak to us, the fans after the broadcasts and they are in households across the country, and he promised, “Of Course!!!”
“I think the team is talking the right steps. We were 1 win from playoffs this year; a lot better then our 6-10 season 2 years ago. We just have to take one step at a time, and to build a team that challenges for the championship every year; that takes time. Success tastes much better when you work for it, and it's not given to you.” was his response to the direction the team is taking for next season. “My goal has always been to grow as a player every year, and be a player that my teammates and coaches can always depend upon to do the job.”
“ I think we still have 3 first round picks, so like last year, the draft will be huge for us this year. It enables us to add a lot more depth to our team; either 3 young players, or a trade for some veteran players will be a positive draft for us.” is what he is expecting out of the draft and the expansion.
Keeping in shape, continuing to stay focused and a promise to do everything he can is what Dan offers to us so that we come back for another year to the good old fashioned, hard hitting, successful Wings lacrosse team we deserve.
Jake Bergey - Forward
Philly’s own. The name is synonymous with excellence. Jake Bergey. His techniques are copied by many, duplicated by few.
His entire family likes lacrosse, including his 2 year old son, and they all love watching the games as much as he enjoys playing. Jake said it was a family group decision for him to continue playing lax, they have supported him all the way.
He won high school State Championships as a freshman and again as a senior playing for The Tatnall School. He enjoyed much success as a two year Captain at Salisbury State University. He earned First Team All-American Titles three years, and he was the North/South game's MVP in 1997.
Spanning his 9 year NLL career, he has picked up a few awards here and there. Here is a brief synopsis to refresh some memories….. 1999-2004 Philadelphia Wings All-Pro. He has been named the MVP, Player of the Month, and NLL Player of the Week too many times to count, he had recorded a 12 point game against Rochester, he is third on the Wings’ all-time goals list (179), third on the all-time assists list (215), and third on the all-time points list (393). Bergey was also a member of two Wings World Championship teams in 1998 and 2001. He garnered several Player of the Week awards, as well as another nomination to the NLL All Star game. Since his rookie year, he has played in 7 all star games during his 9 year career. He is an alternate Captain of the team and leads his teammates in many ways. His image has even made it to the Franklin Institute in the Sports Section as an exhibit for sports fans to enjoy.
Jake also enjoyed a highly successful career playing outdoor lacrosse as well in the MLL for the Baltimore Bayhawks and the Rochester Rattlers. He has traveled extensively and was a member of the U.S.A. Indoor Team. 2001 brought him to Hawaii for the 11th Anniversary Hawaii Lacrosse Invitational in which the team he played on Marin Lacrosse Club won the Championship. He received the Don Gladstone Most Valuable Player Award in 1988 (Other winners of that award, the legendary Gary Gait). He was the 2002 MVP of the Heritage Cup Games helping the USA defeat the perennial powerhouse, Team Canada.
It goes without saying, everyone in Philly knows of your father. He is one of the most talented linebackers to ever play football, his accomplishments are legendary. His contribution to the game and his dedication earned him Hall of Fame Honors by the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as being inducted into Pennsylvania and Arkansas's Halls of Fame; this feat is not come by easily. You play with much the same fierceness, drive and determination. Your last name has brought a lot of positive recognition to the game of lacrosse and you personally have enhanced the game by your accomplishments throughout your career. Some say you are a force in your own right to be reckoned with and you deserve every bit of credit that you have worked so hard for. But, still others find it hard to give you the credit most believe you deserve. They need just check the stats and read this article to see what you have done.
How does that make you feel knowing your accomplishments in lacrosse are sometimes compared to his in football? Did you feel that you had to work that much harder than everyone else, because, hey, after all, your father is Bill Bergey and you have a tradition to carry on? “Well if people compare me with him, it is obviously a great compliment. Unfortunately, I only have tapes and stories to remember because I was so young when he played, but I heard he was special. I would love to hear that people think I am even as close to being as good as him in his sport as I am in mine.”
In 2003 he suffered one of the worst injuries to affect an athlete. He spent time rehabbing the knee and worked very hard to get both body and mind into the shape he is in now. “What did you do to get back into top form?” “I just continued to work hard. The knee has not bothered me to much, but other body parts have nagged me after that and it was tough. Staying healthy is the key to this game.”
I asked Jake what impression the fans have of him as far as he can tell and why? “Well, you never know what the fans are thinking. I hope that they see a guy that was very loyal to the Wings and a guy that gave it his all. I think that they do have some mixed feelings because of the string of injuries that I had for a few years, but there is nothing I can do about that.” Jake’s fans agree with him and they are just as loyal to him, and yes, his injuries indeed were a huge set back.
He listens to all types of music, but when asked, “I would say right now my favorite would be Jack Johnson.” Outside of lacrosse, he loves to fish, play golf and, “anytime that he is playing with his son is great too.” Bergey is a big meat eater, one of his favorite foods would be Filet Mignon, and he enjoys it out at any nice steak house. Right now, he is extremely busy with work, he is a Sales Representative for Exactech Orthopedics and he will continue to keep up a hectic pace as he begins working with his camps at Neumann College that are set to begin on July 9-13th and July 16th-20th.
With all of the discussion regarding the upcoming TV contract to televise some of the games, I asked him what impact it will this have on the sport and if any, an impact on his career. “Well I think it will be great for the sport. I have not seen many people that have been to a game and have not loved it. For me, it comes a little late since my career is winding down, but if I decided to play, I think it will be great.” As far as the expansion affecting the NLL next year and the Wings, he commented, “I think that expansion is great. Jim Jennings is doing a great job and I think that he has found some good spots for franchises. I do think we will lose a player or two that we do not want to lose, but that comes with the territory. “
“I think we are very close. This year really stung because I felt we were as good as anyone. I think another year together and we will have a good shot. I think the coaches are doing a good job with setting the roles for each player,” were his comment to my question of what he is expecting for next season. “I think the draft is always very important and will be an impact on the team as well. There is a lot of talent coming out this year. I think it is huge to have a good draft.”
The following two seasons were difficult for you and the Wings after you were hurt. Last year has been known as your “come back” year. What was a determining factor last year to get you to the form you had been in prior to your injury and what are you doing to maintain it? Rehab, regained confidence, more focus, coaching, exercise regimen? “Well first and for most, I have the coaches confidence. That means a great deal to me. And, again, going back to the injury thing, I was healthy this year. That does wonders to your career when you are not hurting during play. The rehab and exercise were there the whole time. I guess it is the luck of the draw.”
Jake would pick up John Grant if he could. “He is a great player, not to mention he has killed us in the past.”
Memories over the course of 9 NLL Seasons, MLL seasons, and an unbelievable college career have accumulated. I asked him to select only one since playing professional lacrosse. “I would say my best moment was when we beat Toronto, up there. No one gave us a shot and we took it to them. Getting off the plane in Philly, there was about a thousand people waiting at the gate for us yelling and screaming. It was something I will not forget.”
I asked him if there was any goal that he set out to accomplish during his career that he hadn’t achieved, but would like to. “I must say that over all, I have accomplished many goals that I have set. I would love to have one more Championship, but the leagues are getting tougher and tougher.”
Jake is still deciding as to whether or not he will give it a run for yet another year with the Wings. So, I asked him if he has given any thoughts to coaching after his playing days are over. “I have thought about it and will not rule it out, but I have a family and another full time job. I would like to take some trips with them and enjoy my winters as a spectator too. We will see.”
His name alone has drawn several fans into the lacrosse arena. Everyone wants to see for themselves if Jake is half the athlete that his father was, or if it was just political in him making it to the pros. Football, after all is the All American sport, one of our favorite past times and the sport in which we measure most athletes. Jake has proven that he is an athlete and champion in his own right and his accomplishments are a testament to this.
Do we want to hear he is recovering from injuries? No fan wants to hear that, we want to see the player that dominated the NLL for many seasons do it again. Last year, was just a glimpse into what this man is capable of doing.
He suffered a torn ACL in a pre-season game against Colorado in 2003. This type of injury could have devasted some athletes and ended their careers, but not his. He did extensive rehab and and got back on the field the next year. There was definitely a difference in his style of play after the injury. It was obvious he hadn’t performed over the next two years as he did prior. I asked Nick Schroeder if he thought Bergey should retire and Nick responded, “No Way. That guy is amazing. He suffered a devasting injury and, it was in his head. Imagine what that is like for anyone, it’s something he had to work through mentally and physically. If he gets himself back to his playing days before he got hurt, look out!” It is a sentiment shared by all of his teammates.
However, the rest of the league wishes he would hang up that stick. Defensemen coming against Bergey knows if he gets that one step ahead of them, there is nothing they can do to stop him. Bergey at half strength may be more valuable than other players at full strength. It took 3 years for him to get back to play at the level at which he dominated, but he’s back. He has gotten it all together again and if he decides to play again, he intends to play with the intensity he always put out there.
If you are undecided and torn between wondering if he made it this far simply because of his name, or you simply want to see him in action, you really should make every effort to attend a game this year. If he plays. Philly fans want the best, and they deserve it. This shy and polite athlete is the role model of many and a fan favorite in Philly, deservedly so. Maybe we did not see all he had for the 2 years after his injury, but he made up for it last year. Last year, Jake was back and showed us what he was capable of.
All Wings fans want to know what they can look forward to for next year. Is he coming back? I do not know, I tried every tactical question I could, in several different forms and many different times. He is very serious, and extremely cooperative, but not ready to divulge that information.
“I would love to say yes I am going to come back, and if I do, I will do my best to bring back a Championship.”
Dan Finck was with me in the NLL tent during the NCAA’s when a playful attempt during a conversion of my support to another team failed. He even vouched for my loyalty and said he could never see me ever converting to the Dark Side.
I believe it was during that conversation that I had when I realized, win, lose, it doesn’t matter. I was hooked on the game. I love the game of lacrosse. I love watching Spano run out onto the floor and jump up over the glass. Watching Marechek score on a behind the head shot was amazing! Hearing fans scream, "Rip his head off Hajek!" gets everyone's blood pumping. I want to see the Wings scoring and taking that final lap around the field. The physical, hard hitting aspects of the game bring people back into their seats. I love watching the Wings. But I really want them to win!
I had never even heard of a “Wing” five years ago, and I did not know Philadelphia had provided a professional lacrosse team. I got to know some of the players thru a friend of a friend, and to me, they were just the guys. Going to a game was a fun night out watching them playing around at the Wachovia Center. The excitement, the hitting, the fighting, the fast action, the talent is a great mix of entertainment.
After speaking with each of the guys, it baffled me why our team lost so much. Not one of them could give a definitive reason, the unsuccessful season made no sense to them. It did not make sense to anyone. I know first hand just how much they wanted a better outcome. You only needed to look into their eyes after the last game to see their disappointment and frustration. I know how most of them took their losses and what it personally meant to each of them as an athlete. They have been racking their brains to try to figure out what went wrong and what they have to do to prepare and improve upon for next season.
Something that I have learned over the course of these interviews is that each of these players are tops in the game. They are not just your average athletes who like the taste of winning once in awhile or were just average athletes during their college careers and got lucky to break into the NLL.
I never really took into consideration what they do as a living, what they have sacrificed or what their accomplishments were, or how truly remarkable each one of them are.
As a fan who really didn’t know much about lacrosse, but has watched enough teams winning championships to know what they had to do, I offered them excellent coaching advice. “Now boys, when you are on offense, you just have to put that little ball into the net more than the other team,” and when you are on defense, just don’t let them come down the middle or shoot into our net, knock them down once in a while. Simple.“ I didn’t bother with the pick and rolls or the dodge moves, or anything specific like that, by now, I figured they should know all of that stuff.
I knew they were good, I just never realized the experience each has, the hard work and everything that they have gone through to get to the level they are at today. I will still continue to treat them as just the guys too, but maybe I will be a little nicer to them if the mood strikes. If I am nice to them now because in doing this research I discovered, they are amazing, it will go to their heads and someone has to keep them grounded.
On paper, the Wings maybe the best team in the league. They all really hate to lose and they hate failure even more, and they take their losses personally. Countless times they have recapped a game in which they wished they had done something, even just one thing differently, which could have changed the outcome of that loss. They win as a team, and they lose as a team. Each are dedicated and committed to excellence, and they also expect no less from each other. It is their competitive natures that have them striving for the wins and they are all looking forward to next season already to prove to themselves, to each other, and to the fans that they mean business.
They are all anxious to start back again. Each guy has something specific to either accomplish or a personal goal to achieve. And here’s hoping they each have a chance to do what they want while giving us what we want in that Philly jersey. Another run to the Cup..
2005-2006 Philadelphia Wings