NLL Notebook: Grant Jr., Belisle, Cosmo Among Retired Players

PHOTO BY WARD LAFORME JR.

John Grant Jr. said goodbye to the NLL after scoring 668 regular-season goal, good for second all-time.


The NLL is about to start a season without John Grant Jr. for the first time since 1999.

Junior’s fabulous scoring antics will be missed. The No. 2 all-time scorer, trailing only John Tavares, was among players who retired during the offseason. He bowed out with regular-season totals of 668 goals and 1,446 points.

“I love my family and I love lacrosse,” he said in his July announcement. “The game has given so much to me.

“It’s bittersweet to accept that my playing career is over but I can retire knowing that I’ve given the sport and the people who support it everything I had. Thank you to the Rochester Knighthawks for drafting me and for the Colorado Mammoth for keeping me in the game into my forties. I’m unbelievably lucky and eternally grateful for having the chance to live out my dream as a professional lacrosse player.”

Grant is one of a dozen players who have retired since Georgia won the Champion’s Cup last June.

Swarm defenseman Mitch Belisle goes out a winner after announcing retirement after eight NLL seasons.

“I really feel after winning a championship with this team that it would be hard to envision it getting any better than that,” he said in his November goodbye. “I’m excited to spend more time with my family and with a young son to be able to spend more time with him this winter. I’m going out healthy and on my own terms after winning the Champion’s Cup, which was a major goal of mine.”

Anthony Cosmo, a premier goaltender in the league since 2001, packed it in after making an astounding 7,222 saves regular season and playoffs combined. He stays with the Buffalo Bandits as their goaltending coach.

“It’s time that I listen to my body and the needs of my young family,” Cosmo said in his October announcement. “I would like to thank the NLL and the organizations that I have played with for giving me the opportunity to make a childhood dream come true.”

Vancouver captain Curtis Hodgson leaves the Stealth defense. The Stealth called three cities home over the years and Hodgson stayed with the team for all 13 of his NLL seasons, rarely missing a game. He stays with the club in a front office capacity.

“Curtis has embodied everything that is good about our sport over his entire career,” Stealth GM Doug Locker said. “He has been an exceptional player on the floor and an unbelievable leader to a generation of players off the floor. He has always been a great ambassador of the game.”

John Lintz also retired from the club and stays on as defensive coordinator.

Kasey Beirnes, Rob Marshall and Jeff Gilbert of the Toronto Rock have said their goodbyes to the NLL. Beirnes was one of the NLL’s best quick-stick scorers from the edge of the crease for 16 years. Marshall spent all 12 of his NLL seasons with the Rock. Gilbert was in the league for nine years. The three celebrated a championship together in 2011.

“The league has evolved in a way that a part-time thing in the beginning has become a full-time thing,” Beirnes said. “The commitment level is higher, there are better athletes now and you just can’t show up and play. The skill level is tremendous. To play in the league for as long as I did it’s been a pleasure to see it grow and go through some high times and low times. But it’s nice to see the stability we now have in our league.”

Said Marshall: “I owe everything to the game of lacrosse. To hoist that cup and do it in Toronto in front of my family and friends is something I’ll never forget. Seeing the reactions of your best friends and teammates like Cam Woods, Kasey Beirnes, Bob Watson, Colin Doyle, Phil Sanderson, Blaine Manning and Sandy Chapman after all the time we put in, to see the excitement and emotion after a big win, it’s so awesome.”

Said Gilbert: “I have a full-time career in real estate that I’m very passionate about and lacrosse had become a secondary focus for me. I didn’t have the overall drive, I wasn’t in the gym, and I wasn’t going to continue playing in the NLL if I wasn’t at the top of my game.”

Chad Culp, one of the most popular forwards among his peers in the league for 15 years, and Brett Bucktooth, who contributed up front and on the back end as well, retired as members of the New England Black Wolves after lengthy careers. Culp will be a scout for the team.

 “Chad had a storied NLL career,” Black Wolves GM Rich Lisk said. “We are very excited and very happy to have someone with Chad’s knowledge join the staff and our quest for the Champion’s Cup.”

Karsen Leung has retired from the Calgary Roughnecks after only four years in the league. He was named to the 2014 all-rookie team and had a bright future until he collided with then-Mammoth goalie Alex Buque during a 2016 game. That hit will be all over YouTube forever.

Among veterans not on an NLL roster as of deadline day Nov. 24 were former Vancouver goalie Tyler Richards, who went to Calgary’s camp and was released, Andrew Watt (Buffalo), Pat Merrill (Toronto), Ilija Gajic (Colorado) and Bill O’Brien (New England).

New England assistant coach Jim Veltman, the former Toronto captain and NLL Hall of Fame member, won’t be in the NLL this season as he takes a sabbatical to travel with his family.







Berg Finally Signs

Wes Berg, the right-side forward who missed camp as a contract holdout, re-signed with Calgary on Thursday two days before its season opener against Rochester. The Roughnecks cleared roster space by trading Vaughn Harris to Buffalo for a fifth-round 2018 draft pick.

Plenty of Rookies

All 11 players selected in the first round of the 2017 entry draft made their teams. Nine are on active rosters and two are on practice rosters.

Beating the Odds

Rowan Kelly was the 55th of 59 players selected in the 2017 draft and he worked himself onto the Colorado Mammoth’s practice roster. The six-foot-three, 180-pound defenseman from Toronto helped the University of Western Ontario win a second straight Canadian universities field lacrosse championship in November.

Brandon Slade was not selected in his 2015 draft-eligible year but signed as a free agent with Toronto in September and on Wednesday was placed on the active roster for the Rock season opener in Buffalo. He’s small — 5-9 and 160 — but fast. Slade, 23, played minor and junior indoor lacrosse in Orangeville, Ontario, and field lacrosse at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Big Crowds

The Saskatchewan Rush said it will cap season ticket sales at 11,000 after announcing it has exceeded 10,000.

The Rush plays out of the 15,100-seat SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, which is the largest city in the province with a metro population of 295,000. The world’s largest publicly-traded uranium company and the world’ largest potash producer have corporate headquarters in the city, which is 350 miles north of Montana’s border with Canada.

Playoff Format

Division finals revert to one-game showdowns with the league ditching the two-game (plus 10-minute mini-game in case of a split) experiment. The championship series remains a best-of-three affair.

Expansion Markets

The league says it has targeted for further expansion metro New York, Dallas, Washington/Baltimore and San Francisco/San Jose.

WEEK 1

(All times EST; last season’s regular-season record in parenthesis)

Friday, Dec. 8

GEORGIA (13-5) at NEW ENGLAND (8-10), 7:30 p.m.

Georgia was 3-1 against New England last season. This will be the first of three meetings.

“They’re going to be a very different team than what we’ve seen in the past,” Swarm captain Jordan MacIntosh said of the Black Wolves. “All we can do is prepare for the players we know are going to be there and start the season with a bang.”

Georgia had a league-best 6-3 road record last season, while New England was 5-4 at home.

“We’re going to get a good test right off the bat,” Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark said. “Georgia is the gold standard right now so we’ll get to see how we match up.”

The Swarm is also on the road for its second game Dec. 23 at Colorado and plays its home opener Dec. 30 versus Rochester.

The Black Wolves are back in action Dec. 23 at Saskatchewan.

TORONTO (9-9) at BUFFALO (6-12), 7:30 p.m.

The teams split 2-2 last season with each getting one road win. This will be the first of three meetings.

Toronto is a good road team, going 5-4 last season. Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley needs his team to improve on its 3-6 home record to have a shot at a playoff position.

“It’s a tough place to play and it’s a divisional game so we’re going to have to be ready right off the hop,” Rock coach Matt Sawyer said. “I know they’ve had a lot of turnover but Troy will have them ready and chomping at the bit so it’s important that we go in there and we’re ready right from the get-go. We don’t want to fall behind down there because they can feed off that crowd.”

Cordingley said Alex Buque will start in goal.

The Rock plays its home opener Dec. 16 against Saskatchewan.

The Bandits follow this one with road games Dec. 23 in Rochester and Dec. 30 in Toronto.

COLORADO (9-9) at VANCOUVER (9-9), 10:30 p.m.

The Stealth prevailed 3-1 last season before the Mammoth won the NLL West semifinal 13-12 in British Columbia. They meet four times again this season.

“We have added a ton of talent to our roster and cannot wait to put on a show for our fans this season,” said assistant Stealth captain Logan Schuss.

Colorado was 4-5 on the road last season, while Vancouver was 4-5 at home. Stealth star Rhys Duch was hampered by a strained Achilles tendon last season. He’s over that now and says he feels great.

The Stealth is at Calgary on Dec. 15 and at New England on Dec. 29.

Second game for the Mammoth is the home opener Dec. 23 versus Georgia. The team announced earlier this week that it will retire John Grant Jr.’s No. 24 sweater on March 24.

Saturday, Dec. 9

CALGARY (8-10) at ROCHESTER (7-11), 7:30 p.m.

In the one meeting last season, on April 1, Calgary won 11-9 in Rochester. This will be the first of two meetings. The second will be in Calgary on March 17.

Calgary’s tepid 3-6 road record was a big reason why it missed the playoffs last spring.

Nothing reflects Rochester’s decline more than its home record. The Knighthawks were 8-1 at home when they won a third straight championship in 2014. They were 3-6 at home when they missed the playoffs in 2016 and 4-5 at home last season when they once again were postseason spectators. But head coach Mike Hasen senses a change heading into the new season.

“The optimism we have in the room right now is really good,” Hasen said.

Five more saves and Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc will pass Toronto legend Bob Watson for second on the all-time list. Anthony Cosmo made 7,222 regular-season saves and Watson 6,471.

Calgary is at home Dec. 15 against Vancouver and Dec. 29 against Colorado before venturing back onto the road.

Rochester stays home to play Buffalo on Dec. 23.

Time Travel

Dec. 3, 1998: Toronto announces team nickname, Rock, and unveils logo and uniforms.

Dec. 6, 2002: New Jersey Storm goaltender Ginny Capicchioni becomes the first woman to play in the NLL. Capicchioni stopped 10 of 15 shots during her stint in a 14-12 preseason win in Buffalo.

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