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Sports This Week: Rogers says Rock eyeing NLL final in 2022-23

The Rock start their 2022-2023 regular season hosting Vancouver Dec. 3.
HAMILTON, ONTARIO - 2022 National Lacrosse League game between Toronto Rock and San Deigo Seals at First Ontario Centre on April 2nd, 2022 in Hamilton, Ontario.

YORKTON - The Toronto Rock came close to an NLL finals berth in the spring. 

Challen Rogers said they are ready to take that final step this season. 

Of course last year was a little different as the Rock moved cities, although they maintained the Toronto name, heading to nearby Hamilton. 

The move to Hamilton last season was a good one for the team, offered Rogers. 

“The move to Hamilton was awesome. It was a huge benefit to our organization,” he said. 

Rogers said Hamilton is a good lacrosse community and as such is good for the Rock and the NLL. 

“It’s a city the league needs,” he said. 

It helps to be centralized in Ontario based on the Rock’s roster. 

The Rock are one of those teams where the core of players are relatively local, so there is no need for lengthy flights just to hold preseason practices, so that is a plus, suggested Rogers. 

“It’s kind of an advantage we have over some teams. Half the team, if not more are local,” he said. 

That has meant players such as Rogers can get together with someone like goaltender Nick Rose around regular 9-to-5 job schedules for some shooting practice between more organized preseason workouts. 

That is one aspect of the NLL that makes it different from its larger pro league cousins such as the NBA and NHL, players are still part-time athletes, with real world jobs they must attend as well. For example, Rogers is an athletic director at a training facility. In Rogers case it is a very nice fit as he works with youth athletic programming. 

While a clock must be punched by most NLL players, on weekends through the NLL season lacrosse is the focus, and Rogers said part way through preseason the Rock are hungry for some redemption in the upcoming season. Last season Toronto was within a whisker of the NLL final before being ousted by Buffalo, with the Bandits then falling to Colorado in the championship final.  

This season the Rock fully expect to be in the final, added Rogers. 

“We’re looking for the championship,” he said. 

The Rock had expected a boost from veteran Chris Corbeil, an off season signing from the Saskatchewan Rush, but an injury has sidelined the rearguard even before the season starts. 

“We were looking forward to Chris joining us,” said Rogers, adding it was just not the defence on the floor, but his overall leadership. 

Corbeil was also expected to bring that winning edge, having championship rings with the Rush. 

Rogers said there is still hope Corbeil might be ready for the playoffs, and if not he is signed to a three-year deal, but in the meantime the Rock have a tough NLL East to manoeuvre through. 

That means first and foremost topping Buffalo, long time cross border rivals. 

“They’re a team we don’t like very much,” said Rogers, who admitted the Bandits don’t especially like the Rock either. 

And, now with fans able to travel again, well there will be boisterous supporters in both buildings for both teams, which will only intensify the general dislike for one another. 

The Bandits haven’t looked sharp in the preseason, but Rogers isn’t making any assumptions from that. 

“It’s a preseason loss. I don’t put a lot of onus on that,” he said. 

Of course handicapping the NLL gets harder every year as the league goes through a growth spurt, this year adding the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in the west. 

“It’s great to see,” said Rogers, adding when he thinks about the NLL of his youth and what it looks like today 15 years down the line, it has grown significantly and that is huge for the sport. 

“To see where the league is is amazing. It’s a great time to be in the league.” 

It helps to the league has owners like multi millionaire Joe Tsai joining NHL Superstar Wayne Gretzky plus Dustin Johnson and Steve Nash as co-owners in Vegas. 

“He’s (Tsai) got some deep pockets,” said Rogers, adding it is a positive just to “see his vision for lacrosse. . . He will help with the growth of the sport.” 

But, right now Rogers said it’s all about the season ahead for the Rock. 

“We think we should be favourites,” he said, adding even looking back at last season we were right there. It’s a case of the Rock staying focused “on what makes us tough, and what makes us have success. 

“We think we have the team that can win it all . . . We’re a confident group of guys.” 

The Rock start their 2022-2023 regular season hosting Vancouver Dec. 3.


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