National Lacrosse League, Eastern Division Play Off Semi Final
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Admission: 15 CAD
Programme: 5 CAD
Match Rating: 4
This was a bonus game that I was not aware of until I arrived in Toronto. I had certainly had interest in taking in a game of one of Canada's national sports whilst I was in Toronto, but with the regular season ending a few weeks ago and no sign of any play-off action before leaving the UK, I wrote a game of lacrosse off. However, on surfing the website of the Air Canada Centre upon arrival in Toronto, I noticed this game, which was full of significance, would be played on the Sunday, and so I made my way to the Air Canada Centre ticket office to get a ticket for a reasonably priced 15CAD, which was for a seat high up in one of the corners, but as I knew little of the game, that would matter little to me! I was also interested to visit the Air Canada Centre, as it is also the home of the city's ice hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as the basketball team, the Toronto Raptors.
The Air Canada Centre is located right in the centre of Toronto, very close to the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. It is certainly an impressive arena, with large, spacious concourses as one enters the centre. As for the arena itself, I have nothing to compare it with back home but is presumably like most basketball/ice hockey centres in North America, with seating all around, corporate boxes behind either end plus a bar from which one can watch the action, and in the centre of the arena is four television screens in a square, plus a scoreboard.
Programmes were available just after entering the stadium, a glossy A4 publication which was well worth the read, providing plenty of information and stats regarding Toronto Rock's regular season, as well as very helpfully providing basic rules for lacrosse beginners.
It is fair to say you have to be pretty hopeless in the regular season not to qualify for the end of season play-offs in the National Lacross League, as the top four out of the five teams in each the East and West Divisions qualify. The Toronto Rock finished in second place and the Rochester Knighthawks in third in the East Division, with identical 10 wins and 6 defeats records, although the visiting team certainly came into this game in much better form, having won their previous three matches and five of their last six, whilst the home team lost their previous three.
Although the Toronto Rock were quick out of the blocks and made plenty of attacking moves early in the match, it was the Rochester Knighthawks who opened the scoring on four minutes, and although Toronto quickly equalised, the Knighthawks opened up a 3-1 lead by the eleventh minute., only for Toronto to level the score at 3-3 by the end of the first quarter. From that point on, the Rock completely blew the Knighthawks away, scoring three unanswered goals in the second quarter, and a further two in the third quarter before the Knighthawks finally scored a goal to make the score 8-4 by the end of the third quarter The two teams traded goals in the final quarter before Knighthawks scored four goals to two , but it was the Rock who won the match, with a final scoreline of 10 goals to 8, and with it the Rock progress to the East Division Play-off Final and a tie away at the Buffalo Bandits, and the Knighthawks' season has now drawn to a close.
I found lacrosse to be a really entertaining game, played at a fast pace with players regularly leaving and entering the arena depending on whether their teams is attacking and defending. Great credit should be given to the Rock goalkeeper, Bob Watson, who really was a rock which the Knighthawks just could not penetrate and on this showing, the Toronto Rock will certainly miss Watson after he retires at the end of this season. There was also a really good atmosphere generated at the game, with music being played before and constantly during the game, and with the announcer occasionally encouraging the crowd to get behind the home team.