YORKTON - Travis Cornwall has been something of an NLL gypsy since his debut in 2012 with Calgary.
Now a seasoned veteran, Cornwall, who played 27 games with the Saskatchewan Rush in 2019-’20, is now on his fifth team joining the expansion Las Vegas Desert Dogs ahead of the new season.
It was his second season with an expansion team having played 14 games with Panther City last year.
Cornwall said being a Desert Dog is a little different, but at its core pro lacrosse is pro lacrosse.
“In a lot of ways it is quite different from anywhere I’ve been before,” he said, adding Vegas is still a very new city in terms of pro sports, so there is a level of exuberance and yet fans are just learning the game of lacrosse too.
The first home game for the Dogs, a 9-3 loss to Panther City drew a solid crowd.
“I was really impressed from the showing in the first game,” said Cornwall, pegging the crowd at about 7000. “That was amazing.”
The key of course will be building the support so that it grows and comes back game to game.
Cornwall said he hopes the Desert Dogs can copy the success of the Rush, adding he recalls the more than 9000 fans at the first Rush game in Saskatoon when he was on the opposite end of the floor with Vancouver.
The team plays at MGM Resorts International’s Michelob ULTRA Arena – located inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
It was in June 2021, the National Lacrosse League announced Las Vegas had been awarded an expansion franchise and would become the NLL’s 15th team.
The franchise is co-owned by Wayne Gretzky, Dustin Johnson, Steve Nash, and Joe Tsai.
Shawn Williams was selected to lead the Las Vegas Desert Dogs as the franchise’s first general manager and head coach.
On the floor though, the camaraderie of being with a bunch of guys all focused on a single goal is the same in Vegas as it is in any other city, said Cornwall.
“That never changes,” he said.
Cornwall said the Desert Dogs have a different make-up as an expansion team, at least compared to his experience with Panther City, with some key veterans; Rob Hellyer, Tor Reinhold, Garrett McIntosh being in the mix in Vegas.
“All those guys have been around a long time” said Cornwall, adding he himself would be in that veteran core. “. . . I think the veterans in this group will make a big difference.”
While the start of the season did not lead to wins, Cornwall said having a handful of players who have been around the NLL for several season should help the Desert Dogs jell, adding he knows that is what is expected of veterans.
The team is also focused on defence as a way to compete as they find chemistry, which of course is what Cornwall is always dedicated too.
“Obviously as a defensive player that’s the focus 100 per cent of the time,” he said, adding that of course “we want to keep games as tight as we can.”
While Cornwall said he is happy to be in Vegas, adding he hopes he might stay a Desert Dog for the remainder of his career however many seasons that may entail, his career highlight was with the Rush when he got to play with his brother Jeff for a number of games.
“The highlight was playing with my brother,” he said.