Skip to content

Sports This Week: Matthews reflects on trade to Rock

“All I’ve ever known is Rush lacrosse,” Mark Matthews.
matthews 72
The trade to Toronto came as a surprise to Saskatchewan Rushstar Mark Matthews.

YORKTON - It was a deal that surprised not only Saskatchewan Rush fans, but player Mark Matthews as well.

The Rush recently sent long-time Rush veteran east to the Toronto Rock in an NLL trade which definitely made headlines in the lacrosse world.

Matthews said he had not really expected to be dealt.

“I was absolutely surprised that it happened. You kind of think in the back of your mind the team has kind of been struggling, they’re kind of in a rebuild year, that maybe you’ll be the guy to be traded,” he told Yorkton This Week, then added when Rush GM Derek Keenan called to inform him he was dealt, it was unexpected.

Matthews said in the past couple of years there were discussions around whether he wanted to be dealt at the trade deadline, “is it something I wanted to do?” but there was no interest on his part in moving on from the Rush.

“All I’ve ever known is Rush lacrosse,” he said, adding had he played out his career with the franchise he would have been OK with that.

In the deal the Rush acquired a 2023 first-round pick, forward Zach Manns and defender Adam Jay from the Toronto Rock.

Zach Manns, a lefty forward, is entering his fourth season in the NLL. The Victoria, BC product has a total of 116 points in 48 regular season and playoff games. This summer in Senior A ball, Manns leads the WLA with 60 points in 11 games, only trailing Keegan Bal, Mitch Jones, Curtis Dickson and Kevin Crowley in points per game.

Adam Jay, also from Victoria, B.C., is heading into his fifth NLL season. The 6'3 defender has a total of 49 professional games under his belt, averaging 2.45 loose balls per game and had 15 caused turnovers last season. 

In Matthews, who was drafted first overall in the 2012 NLL Draft, the Rock gain a definite star.

Over 10 NLL seasons, Matthews, 33, has topped the 100-point mark five times and almost made it six as he put up 98 points with the Rush last season. The 33-year-old from Oshawa, ON is showing no signs of slowing down.

Matthews has played 170 games, scored 343 goals, added 606 assists for 949 points. 

Matthews is also a three-time NLL champion (2015, 2016, 2018), a regular season MVP (2018) and a Champion’s Cup Finals MVP (2015).

Looking at the stats it looks like Matthews was the lynchpin of the Rush offence, but he wasn’t willing to accept that.

“There have been a lot of great players make a lot of great plays not just myself,” he said of his Rush tenure.

Going to Toronto, is sort of going home as Matthews hails from Oakville.

“I’ve been watching them since I was six years old going to games,” he said.

As for the expectations as a Rock player, Matthews said he has read social media posts asserting he will be the veteran to bring another NLL crown to TO, but the team isn’t putting that sort of pressure on him.

“They just want me to play my game. Play how I play, and have fun,” he said.

Matthews also noted how winning and losing can “come down to some breaks,” adding with the Rush some very good editions of the team still lost.

And, two seasons ago a handful of close one-goal losses were what kept Saskatchewan out of the playoffs.

The trade does add Matthews to a team that already includes talented players including Challen Rogers and Corey Small who he has played with before, and Tom Schreiber who he has limited experience with but knows can score.

“Hopefully it’s instant chemistry,” said Matthews.

Former Rush Chris Corbeil is also with the Rock.

The trade also mean a lot less air miles.

Matthews said he was told the Rock made only four flights last season.

“I won’t miss the five-hour flights at six in the morning (just to get to Saskatoon),” he said.

As for wearing a different uniform Matthews expects that will come easily enough “once I get into the swing of things here.”

That said a return to Saskatchewan for a game will be tougher.

In fact, Matthews said he has been going through photos on his cellphone; past championships, team parties and vacations and it has been “quite emotional for me. It’s all I’ve ever known. Looking at the memories . . . It almost brought a tear to my eye.”