Callum Crawford (Photo Credit: Scott Pierson)
The wait is finally over Swarm fans.
Months spent watching the team retool its roster this offseason have brought us to this point, the start of Training Camp.
Minnesota will kick off its eighth season of play in the NLL with a four-day session at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Hagersville, Ontario this Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 24-27.
“It’s truly a new age in Swarm history that we’re opening up here,” Associate General Manager Joe Sullivan said. “Fans who sit back and watch this team grow are going to witness a great thing.”
If the Swarm’s front office has given any indication on what the expectations are during training camp this year, a few things have been made clear.
Competition will be stiff across the board. Players will be tested both mentally and physically. Jobs will be earned, and nothing will come easy.
“We will be the hardest working team in the NLL in 2012,” Sullivan said. “Why would we ever want to set the tone any less than 110 percent? We need everybody to be fearful of their jobs. We need everybody to be confident enough in their own skills that they want to be aggressive.
“We’re going to ask an awful lot from our players. We’re going to push them like they’ve never been pushed before. I know every player coming back from last year’s team wants nothing but to do better than what we’ve done in the past.”
Day 1: ROOKIE CAMP
The day has been circled in their calendars for months.
They’ll come from all over; some will fly, others will drive.
And when they unite in Hagersville on Thursday, they’ll all have one goal in mind, to crack an NLL roster.
Before the Swarm starts its main camp, the team will host an open tryout session. For the couple of dozen invitees making the trip, an opportunity of a lifetime awaits.
No roster spots will be guaranteed, but Swarm coaches are prepared to invite several players to main camp for a chance to battle for a spot on the Swarm’s 23-man roster.
First and foremost, the invitees will have to prove themselves on the field.
“Essentially they (invitees) have three and half hours to stand out from everybody else,” Head Coach Mike Lines said. “They’re obviously going to have to be in shape, be extremely athletic, and show some raw talent and skill.”
Holding open tryouts in the talent-filled province of Ontario provides the Swarm with an abundance of players eager to prove themselves.
“Hopefully some people surprise us,” Sullivan said. “Ultimately that’s what we would really love to see at this thing…to see people come here that have slipped through the cracks and are able to make the jump to the NLL.”
Open tryouts are slotted to only take up a portion of Rookie Camp however. The camp will focus most of its attention developing the Swarm’s 2011 draft picks.
Draft picks participating in the camp include: T Jordan MacIntosh (4th overall), G Evan Kirk (6th overall), F Corbyn Tao (12th overall), F Jay Card (19th overall), D Brian Karalunas (29th overall), F Pat Smith (31st overall), and F Todd Baxter (48th overall).
At the beginning of Rookie Camp, the team will host a tutorial to bring its younger players up to speed on the main differences in the indoor game.
“It gives them an opportunity to learn the game real quickly so that they can put their best foot forward during main camp,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also added that the team felt it was important to give its draft picks an opportunity to compete against quality box players before main camp.
Later in the day, rookies and invitees will participate in a series of drills and scrimmages together. NLL referees will be on hand for the scrimmages as well, signaling that the Swarm is taking the day very seriously.
“This will give them (draft picks) that critical experience they’re going to need when they come in and face our main camp guys a day later,” Sullivan said.
Days 2-4: MAIN CAMP
When main camp opens on Friday, close to 40 players will sport blue and yellow practice jerseys.
That number will then drop significantly to 23 after the team’s final preseason game against Toronto on Dec. 18.
“I expect this to be an extremely competitive camp, with a lot of emotion,” Lines said. “There’s going to be a lot of guys batting for very few spots.”
There’s no hiding behind the fact that this year’s camp will feature a lot of new faces. In the offseason, Minnesota made it a priority to add talented, young players through trades, free agency, and the draft.
“We’ve made some big changes and all for the right reasons,” Sullivan said.
In return, many of the team’s returning young players will see more playing time in 2012.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled about the excitement I get on the other end of the phone when I talk to guys about opportunities that have opened up,” Sullivan said. “These guys won't be playing behind anyone anymore; they are the face of the Swarm. And we can’t think of anybody we’d rather have leading the Swarm than the guys that are returning, along with the veterans and draft picks we picked up.”
With added playing time, also brings forth added responsibilities. The Swarm’s front office is expecting everybody, younger guys included, to step up in training camp.
“Guys like Joe Cinosky, Tyler Hass, and Andrew Suitor…they’re still young men and they’re still learning. But the knowledge they have learned thus far in the NLL, they have to transfer that on over to the guys coming up now. Joe Cinosky for example is a guy who doesn’t know how to quit. Andrew Suitor has a heart of a lion and will run through the wall for everybody. We need those guys to be exemplary guys for all our draft picks.”
If there's one common theme that Swarm coaches will be preaching in camp, it’s hard work. Sullivan said it will be the backbone to the team’s success this year.
“You’re going to hear it all year from us, we’ve got to be the hardest working team,” he said. “Hard work will beat talent any given night. We need to be that team. We’re young, we’re raw, but we’re hungry. We have to be aggressive, and that’s exactly what our system will dictate.”
Style of Play
When asked about the system the Swarm plans to feature this season, Sullivan wasn’t ready to give out any specifics, but he did say this, “These guys will know our system. They are going to live it and they are going to breathe it. But more than that, we are going to let them play within their own skill sets. We want these guys to play the game they’ve grown up playing.”
Sullivan spoke highly of this year’s draft class, pointing out that each draftee possesses outstanding leadership qualities.
“Each one of the draft picks we picked up was a leader amongst his peers or his former team,” he said. “And that’s one of the big things that we did this year. We interviewed these players to find out if they were the right pick for the Swarm.”
The Swarm will do a majority of its practicing over the next month at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena, which might have you wondering, what is the place like?
“It’s phenomenal,” Lines said. “It’s a first-class facility. The carpet is down year-round and it’s strictly for lacrosse.”
Due its convenient location in Ontario, a large portion of the team will also be able to drive to camp.
Stay tuned to mnswarm.com all week for more stories, as well as video and photos from Training Camp. I’ll also be tweeting frequently on my Twitter handle, @alec_schimke
|Rookie Camp||Thursday, Nov. 24||Iroquois Lacrosse Arena (Hagersville, Ontario)|
|Training Camp Session #1||Friday, Nov. 25 - Sunday, Nov. 27||Iroquois Lacrosse Arena (Hagersville, Ontario)|
|Training Camp Session #2||Friday, Dec. 2 - Sunday, Dec. 4||Lakemount Sportsworld (Grimsby, Ontario)|
|Preseason Contest #1||Saturday, Dec. 17 - 6 p.m. CT||The Blue Cross Arena (Rochester, NY)||Rochester Knighthawks|
|Preseason Contest #2||Sunday, Dec. 18 - 3 p.m. CT||Iroquois Lacrosse Arena (Hagersville, Ontario)||Toronto Rock|
Bold indicates returning players
|Todd Baxter||6'0"||179||R||Rookie||48th overall pick (6th Round) ... Eden Prairie, Minn. native|
|Ryan Benesch||5'9"||180||L||5||2011 All-Star... NLL Scoring Champ ... Tallied 95 points (46g, 49a) in 16 games|
|Jay Card||5'10"||195||R||Rookie||19th overall pick (2nd Round) ... Swarm believe he could be the steal of the draft|
|Callum Crawford||6'3"||205||R||6||2011 All-Star ... Finished second on the Swarm in points (70), goals (27) and assists (43)|
|Joel Henry||6'1"||195||L||Rookie||Participated in Swarm training camp in 2010, but did not make the cut|
|John McClure||5'10"||190||R||Rookie||Spent the 2011 season on the Swarm's practice squad ... Won a Mann Cup this summer|
|Kevin Ross||6'1"||205||L||4||Recorded 35 points (12g, 23a) and collected 46 loose balls in 16 games ... Also won a Mann Cup this summer|
|Pat Saunders||6'1"||205||L||1||Signed as a free agent this summer ... 33 points (18g, 15a) with the Langley Thunder in 2011|
|Jamie Shewchuk||5'10"||170||L||5||Tallied 30 points (13g, 17a) and collected 47 loose balls in 11 games with Minnesota|
|Pat Smith||6'1"||200||R||Rookie||31st overall pick (5th Round) ... Robert Morris graduate with indoor experience in Canada|
|Corbyn Tao||5'10"||185||R||Rookie||12th overall pick (2nd Round) ... Will bring lots of energy to the Swarm's offense|
|Mitch Belisle||5'10"||195||R||4||Four points (2g, 2a), 14 forced turnovers and 70 loose balls in 16 games with Boston in 2011|
|Nik Bilic||5'11"||195||R||Rookie||Signed as a free agent this summer ... 13 points (6g, 7a) with the Langley Thunder in 2011|
|Joe Cinosky||6'3"||220||R||3||Playing time will continue to increase this year ... Appeared in a career-high 15 games last year|
|Tyler Collins||6'2"||212||R||Rookie||Physical player that was acquired in Boston's dispersal draft|
|Kiel Donahue||6'3"||205||R||Rookie||Signed as a free agent this summer ... Notched 17 points (10g, 7a) with the Ajax Rock in 2011|
|Jeff Gilbert||6'4"||215||L||4||Member of the 2011 NLL champion Toronto Rock .. Acquired in a trade this summer|
|Brian Karalunas||5'11"||185||L||Rookie||29th overall pick (4th Round) ... Led the NCCA in caused turnovers last two years|
|Matt Kelly||6'0"||200||R||1||Collected 15 loose balls in seven games as a rookie last year|
|Ben Salo||6'1"||210||R||Rookie||Signed as a free agent this summer ... Was a key defenseman for Kitchener-Waterloo|
|Noah Talbot||6'0"||180||L||7||Savvy veteran ... Will continue to provide consistent play on defense|
|Shayne Bennett||5'10"||210||R||1||Recorded four assists and 32 loose balls in seven games last season|
|Greg Downing||6'1"||185||L||3||Four assists, 11 forced turnovers and 78 loose balls with the Blazers in 2011|
|Tyler Hass||6'6"||210||R||1||2011 All-Rookie Team member ... Notched 10 points (8g, 2a) and 44 loose balls|
|Jordan MacIntosh||6'1"||200||R||Rookie||4th overall pick (1st Round) ... Will compete for Rookie of the Year in 2011|
|Rich Morgan||6'8"||260||L||8||Veteran leader ... Posted 14 points (6g, 8a), and 35 loose balls in 15 games|
|Andrew Suitor||5'11"||190||R||1||2011 All-Rookie Team ... Recorded 10 points (5g, 5a) and a team-high 108 loose balls|
|Andrew Watt||6'1"||205||L||3||2011 All-Star ... Scored a career-high 16 goals in 13 games last year|
|Tyler Carlson||6'0"||215||R||Rookie||Logged the most minutes of any goaltender in the MSL this summer|
|Anthony Cosmo||6'2"||205||R||11||Swarm still hope to have Cosmo in uniform this season|
|Drew Dickie||6'0"||198||R||Rookie||Spent the 2011 season on the Swarm's practice squad|
|Evan Kirk||5'11"||185||R||Rookie||6th overall pick (1st Round) ... Most talked about goalie prospect in recent memory|
|Nick Patterson||5'11"||185||R||9||Posted a 7-6 record and was the starting goaltender for the West All-Star Team last year|