For the Love of Lacrosse

In the world of professional lacrosse, there are few guarantees.  Teams fold, rosters change, and injuries plague players unexpectedly.  However, for Toronto Rock’s goaltender, Nick Rose, there is one constant that keeps him in the game: his love for the sport.  While life as a lacrosse professional may not be easy or lucrative (there are no NFL salaries here), Nick shares what it is about lacrosse that has him hooked. 

He’s good at it (what’s not to love about that?)

Back in the day as an Orangeville Northmen Junior team member

On the field since age six, it’s safe to say that Nick has mastered the sport after almost 20 years of experience.  He didn’t, however, gravitate toward a position in goal since day one.  Like Tye, he was in tears at the thought of having to play goalie.  Soon enough, though, he discovered his talent and hasn’t left the net since.

He gets to be a “Rock” year-round

When his National Lacrosse League season with the Toronto Rock ends, Nick will play for the Oakville Rock in the MSL.  They’ll play 20 regular season games throughout the summer and begin playoffs in August, when teams compete for the coveted Mann Cup.

“Summer lacrosse is more old-school lacrosse,” says Nick.  “It’s more physical and it’s really competitive because the Mann Cup is the best trophy to win in all of lacrosse.”

He gets to explore new places

Drafted by the Boston Blazers at age 20, Nick played for the team for 3 seasons before it folded.  He then played for Calgary for half a season before he was traded to Toronto, where he is now in his third season.

“When I saw Boston come in the NLL, I wanted to get there because I had heard such great things about the city.  Living in Calgary, though brief, was a great experience too.” says Nick.

He lives near his family (yes, this can be a good thing)

Nick in action

“Toronto is also home for me, because my hometown of Orangeville is only an hour north of the city.  I love playing here because I’m near my family and my teammates are guys I know and am good friends with.  Also, the travel’s easy.”

Game days include naps

“On game days, we have morning shooter rounds and then eat lunch together as a team.  Then we gear up for the game with a nap.”

He has fans!

“Among the NLL teams, I’d say we’re in the top 4 or 5 as far as fan bases go.  A lot of people come to the games, and hopefully we can gain even more traction and start to sell more tickets as lacrosse becomes more popular.  About 10 years ago,  games used to sell out.  There were 12-14,000 people at most games.  It’d be great if we could get back to that.”

He’s surrounded by like-minded lacrosse lovers

“Even though a lot of us are always nursing some injury and we don’t make a ton of money playing, we all play for the love of the game.  It’s amazing what so many of us are willing to play through.  We’ve all known each other forever and feel fortunate to be able to be playing a sport that we love.”

Odor Gladiator Introduces Between the Bars

At Odor Gladiator, we love all athletes, but we tend develop special relationships with those who need us most.  With all of their heavy pads and gear, lacrosse goalies have been known for their rather pungent sports equipment bags—until they encountered us.  Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of the U.S. and Canada’s most talented lacrosse goalies, who we will feature on this blog series, Between the Bars.  Alone in their nets at the end of the floor, box goalies have a unique perspective on the game of lacrosse, as well as on life.

Our first feature goalie, Tye Belanger, is the quintessential lacrosse pro.  He’s been on the floor since age four (playing for a real team, mind you) and comes from a family of talented players. From running clinics to making school appearances, he dedicates most of his waking hours to lacrosse simply because he loves the game that much.  Now in his third NLL season, Tye fills us in on his pretty much perfect (well, at least it sounds that way) lacrosse life.

Team

Tye's mom and biggest fan made him this cake when he was drafted by the Colorado Mammoth.

I was drafted by the Colorado Mammoth in 2011, 16th overall.

Hometown

Mooretown, Ontario

All in the Family

I played on my first team with my brother who’s 18 months older than me.  He now coaches a novice team back home. This summer I will start my first head coaching job for my sister’s intermediate team.  I’ve been involved with her team for four years, so I’m really excited for this position as head coach. My siblings and I are the first generation in our family to play lacrosse, but our parents are really into it.  They’re our biggest fans.

Proud of his Roots

There have been so many memorable moments and games in my lacrosse career that stand out in my mind. Some of the best memories I have in lacrosse are when I played in Wallaceburg, Ontario. I had a blast playing there and made so many great friends along the way. It was a special time in my lacrosse career.  I am proud to call myself a Wallaceburg Alumni.

How did you end up in the net?

Tye at training camp with the Wallaceburg Red Devils.

When I was 4, we switched goalies every game. According to my mom, I always kicked, screamed and cried the whole time when it was my turn to strap on the pads in goal. But all the parents and my teammates thought I was the best goalie among the players. So I grew to like the position and have been goalie for every sport I’ve played ever since.

On Goalie Life

It can be a bit isolating during the game down in the net by ourselves, covered in heavy pads. Luckily all us goalies in the league have great respect for each other. In the National Lacrosse League there is a “goalie union” where we look out for one another and support the other goalies. There are only 18 or so of us, so we’re pretty tight and there really isn’t much rivalry between us. My team members joke that goalies are a different breed, so I do deal with some heckling, but it’s all in good fun.

The Mammoth Dynamic

Lacrosse is such a tight-knit, small community—we all probably somehow knew each other before becoming teammates.  About half of us live in Denver and our other team members fly in for games from Buffalo, Toronto, Vancouver, or wherever else they live.

Several of us who live here do clinics and school appearances to help promote the team and the game of lacrosse.  Most of the guys who live out of town have day jobs that are unrelated to lacrosse.  Even though we only see each other on weekends, we’re all really close and get along great.

Canadian Invasion

Even though half of the NLL teams are U.S.-based teams, I’d say about 85% of players in the league are Canadian.  One of the advantages Canadians have is that most of us grew up only playing box lacrosse, whereas a lot of Americans played field lacrosse, so it can sometimes be harder for them to adjust to the indoor game.

Advice to Aspiring Pros

Suited up for a Mammoth game.

The advice I would give players trying to make the NLL is to never give up. You may not make it into the league your first year, but maybe the following year or even later on you may make a team.

Looking Ahead

I’d love for lacrosse to be a big part of my life for a long time, and of course I’d love to play for as long as I can.  John Grant Jr., one of our offensive players, is an older guy in the league and arguably the best lacrosse player in the world. He has taken really good care of his body and he is a good example of how you can have a long career in the NLL, which I dream of having. My time playing lacrosse has been so important to me that I give back as much time as I can to the association by coaching and running clinics. I’ve accomplished so much in my young career, and helping out young lacrosse players is a simple way of saying thank you to the people that helped me along the way.