Rush captain glad to get back to playing
With NLL’S labour dispute in the past, team set for Saturday’s pre-season game
Chris Corbeil dropped his stick, held tight to his phone, and followed the bouncing numbers during the National Lacrosse League’s recent labour dispute.
Corbeil, a Saskatchewan Rush defender and the team captain, is also the squad’s player representative. It was “quite stressful” — especially since both sides feared they might lose the whole season, he said.
“As a player rep, you’re on a lot of conference calls, you’re relaying a lot of information to the guys, trying to keep everybody informed,” relates Corbeil, whose Rush — now that the dispute is over — will host a Saturday pre-season contest against the Calgary Roughnecks.
“You answer questions, relay questions to the executive committee on behalf of the players ... all that stuff. It took up a lot of time — time I’d rather spend out on the floor, playing with my guys.”
The NLL and Professional Lacrosse Players Association agreed to terms on a five-year agreement Nov. 24. They’d already cancelled the first two weekends of action, starting Dec. 1, but have since tacked the missing games onto the rest of the schedule.
“Anytime there’s any kind of cancellation of the schedule, it can leave a poor taste in the fans’ mouths,” Corbeil said. “And at the stage the NLL is at, we don’t need to be doing any harm to it. Hopefully the holdout and cancellation of the games didn’t cause too much damage — I don’t think it did — and from the players’ point of view, we get a full 18 games in, which is what we were hoping for. In the end, we’re satisfied.
“Both sides had to compromise to reach an agreement, and I think that’s important in negotiation. You never want one side feeling like they won or they completely lost. Both sides have to give up a little bit, and that’s what the final conclusion was.”
The defending Nll-champion Rush held their first training camp last weekend in Toronto, and they tied the Toronto Rock 12-12 during a Sunday scrimmage. They’ll also practice Friday in Saskatoon before heading into Saturday’s pre-season match with Calgary (7:30 p.m., Sasktel Centre).
Corbeil notes Saskatchewan’s defence has undergone more turnover than they’re used to. They shored up the corps by acquiring eight-year veteran Travis Cornwall from Vancouver on Thursday for a 2020 second-round draft pick.
Cornwall’s brother, Rush defender Jeff Cornwall, is sitting out the season while joining the Burnaby Fire Department. Fellow defender Ryan Dilks will also miss the 2019 campaign after accepting a firefighting job in Edmonton, and the team lost Adrian Sorichetti to San Diego during the NLL expansion draft.
“We have holes to fill on our back end. Those are big shoes to fill,” says Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. “We could roll the dice and go with all young guys, but we felt bringing in a veteran like Travis is a wiser thing to do at this stage. He’s a really good athlete who will fit our system well. At the same time, we can develop a couple of the young guys on our roster and on our practice roster. It was a good move for us.”
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan has a new defensive coach. Jeremy Tallevi is in, after Jimmy Quinlan stepped away during the off-season. And with some Rush players unable to play this past weekend while negotiating their contracts — the team has announced a rash of signings the last few days — Corbeil counted just four holdovers, and six new faces, in the defensive crew that faced the Rock on Sunday.
“It was more of a change than it had been in years past, in terms of familiar faces that weren’t there, and new faces that were,” Corbeil says.
Everything gets more familiar this weekend, then the season starts. Saskatchewan gets a bye the first two weekends, and opens Dec. 28 in New England before playing their home opener Jan. 5 against San Diego.
“It’s going to be an important business weekend for us in that it’s probably our last weekend before we get going against New England,” Corbeil says.
“There’s no time to waste when you’ve got a couple of practices and a game in one weekend. It sounds a little daunting when you think of the limited amount of time we’ve got with each other, but everybody’s in the same boat. All the other teams in the league are dealing with the same stuff. It’s no-nonsense, and it’s getting as much done in a short amount of time as we can.”
Both sides had to compromise to reach an agreement, and I think that’s important in negotiation. You never want one side feeling like they won.
Saskatchewan Rush defender Chris Corbeil, left, not only captains the defending NLL champions but also serves as their player representative.