Merrill on NLL's Return to Philly: 'We All Hoped This Might Happen'

PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILADELPHIA WINGS

Toronto Rock veteran Brodie Merrill, the reigning NLL Transition Player of the Year, was captain of the Philadelphia Wings before the NLL moved the franchise to New England. He joined others Tuesday in welcoming news of the NLL's return to Philly.


Toronto Rock veteran Brodie Merrill, the last player to wear the captain’s C with the Philadelphia Wings, couldn’t be happier the city is getting another NLL team.

When the Wings moved to Connecticut to morph into the New England Black Wolves three years ago, Merrill asked for  a trade so he could finish his career near home with the Rock.

“I was upset,” he said of the demise of one of the NLL’s premier teams. “I kind of hoped I’d be able to play the rest of my career there, but you understand that these things happen. I was fortunate in that the timing was right for me to move to the Rock ,so it was a good news-bad news thing for me at the time. I was sad to see the Wings go, but thankful to get the chance to play at home in Toronto.”

The NLL confirmed that it will announce at 11 a.m. ET Thursday that its 11th franchise will be owned by Comcast Spectacor, owner of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center. The reported price is $5 million. San Diego was announced as the 10th franchise last month.

“I’m really excited for lacrosse fans in Philadelphia,” Merrill said. “I really enjoyed my time there. It’s a great sports city and a great NLL city. We all hoped in the back of our minds this might happen and it’s really exciting to see it come to fruition.”







HERITAGE CUP

Merrill will play for Canada in the Oct. 21 Heritage Cup game against the United States.

He was on the world indoor championship roster in 2015, but sat out after surgery to repair a thumb he broke playing indoor summer ball with the Six Nations Chiefs. All players from that roster were invited to play this game versus the U.S. in Hamilton, Ontario.

“It was disappointing to miss that event,” Merrill said of the 2015 games in Onondaga. “It’s always a special opportunity when you represent your country. The world championships mean a lot to me. To miss out on that one, you go from being upset and feeling sorry for yourself a little bit to realizing things could always be worse. I was just happy to see the team go on to win the gold medal.”

Merrill first represented Canada in the 1999 world under-19 field championship, and he went on to win gold medals in 2006 (field), 2007 (indoor), 2011 (indoor) and 2014 (field), as well as a silver medal in 2010 (field). He also played for Canada when a Heritage Cup game was last staged in 2013 in Montreal, where Canada edged the Iroquois.

“Even at this stage, after having been through it a number of times, it never gets old,” Merrill said of international play.

Ed Comeau, head coach of Canada’s 2015 world title team and of the 2017 NLL champion Georgia Swarm, will be head coach Oct. 21 and is excited about the prospect of having Merrill on the floor.

“We were all very disappointed when Brodie had to withdraw from the 2015 world indoor team because of an injury,” Comeau said. “We know that nobody was more disappointed than Brodie himself. Brodie has repeatedly answered the call to represent Canada in both field and box. He is a leader on and off the floor and is a role model not only for the young members of Team Canada, but to all lacrosse players.”

Merrill knows one thing for sure: Canada’s 23-0 streak in international indoor games will be in peril if the U.S. side is not taken seriously. The NLL Rookie of the Year season by his American Rock teammate Tom Schreiber means Canada’s opponent in Hamilton will be capable of offensive fireworks. The U.S. coaching staff led by Regy Thorpe is top-drawer, too.

“Reggie has a great deal of experience in the NLL and in box lacrosse in general, so he’ll have them well prepared,” Merrill said. “It’s going to be a very competitive game.”

BUSY MAN

Merrill, 35, is in the midst of a six-week stretch that is the only time he won’t be playing lacrosse this year.

The Heritage Cup team will be Merrill’s fourth in 2017 — the Rock, the Chiefs and the MLL Boston Cannons being the others. He’s the lacrosse coach at The Hill Academy, the private school founded by his father Peter Merrill, just north of Toronto. He and his wife have a 5-year-old daughter and twin 2-year-old boys.

That’s a full plate with food sliding off the rim.

“At end of our Six Nations season, I reflected on things and figured out I’d played 60 games and coached 25 or 30 this year,” Merrill said.

To see Merrill without a lacrosse stick in his hands is to wonder where he left it.

“I have a deep love for the game of lacrosse,” he explained when asked how he crams so much into 24-hour days. “I look at it as a privilege to be involved in the sport in a number of ways. You have a window to play the game. I try not to take that for granted. Each experience is unique. I enjoy the chance to play with so many different teammates in different situations. Like I said, it’s a privilege.”

Merrill has prospered since moving to the Rock. He won the NLL award for Transition Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010 and, after seven years between honors, he won it again in 2017.

“I was a little surprised. It’s not something I expected. We had a strong year in that area of the game as a team. There were probably two or three other guys on our team who could have won it. We were all encouraged to be aggressive in that area,” Merrill said. “Transition can be a fickle thing. It goes in ebbs and flows. When you’re playing with guys like Damon Edwards and Jesse Gamble, and the younger guys like Challen Rogers and Latrell Harris we brought in, it pushes you. You benefit from each other. It kind of rejuvenated me.’’

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