ILWT Feature: Why Philly loves the bad boys of lacrosse

Eric Shewell fights Anthony Kalinich. Calgary Roughnecks @ Philadelphia Wings, April 6, 2019. (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

The crowd roars and comes to life with a spectacular save, a phenomenal block by defense, or an amazing one-handed shot that seems to defy gravity and goes in.

However, when a fight (or the promise of a fight) happens, the stadium seats vibrate from the collective cheers and then the roar becomes palpable.

And, in a city like Philadelphia built on blue collar blood, sweat and tears, where tough people work tough jobs in a tough city, the escape via a fight on the field can be seemingly incalculable.

The Philadelphia Wings thrived on fights from the league’s inception until the stricter rules of the National Lacrosse League tried to make them obsolete.

Fans were moved to their feet when Dallas Eliuk seemed to channel his inner Ron Hextall as he charged to take out Casey Zaph when Philadelphia matched up against the Rochester Knighthawks. He also wasn’t afraid to challenge another goalie to drop the gloves.

Many fans also remember the Philadelphia Wings versus the Detroit Turbos 1994 fight fest that cleared both benches multiple times. Fans seemed to lose track of the seemingly endless penalty minutes – and people can relive the experience via YouTube.

The league eventually stepped up and tried to curtail the fighting with suspensions, fines and stricter penalty minutes. The fans (as well as some players) weren’t happy.

Chet Koneczny looks after Billy Hostrawser as the two are separated from a fight. Toronto Rock @ Philadelphia Wings, January 26, 2019. (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

Those fines, suspensions and stricter penalty minutes didn’t seem to phase guys like Geoff Snider who oftentimes ripped/cut his jersey if he knew there would be an ensuing tilt. He would, more often than not, pummel his opponent into the ground without breaking a sweat. Fans would bang on the glass while he jauntily sauntered to the box to wait out the penance for dropping the gloves.

Snider was the guy you could love or hate. You loved the gleam in his eye, the bad boy presence when he stepped on the field, the way he seemed to get the job done, and the way his iron jaw took every hit. You hated when he left Philadelphia and you had to face him.

And even though the booing sounded in Philadelphia when Paul Dawson started going after people in a lopsided Philadelphia win, it’s hard to forget about what Dawson did for Philadelphia. After all, how many times does a guy in a bright bubblegum pink jersey knock out a guy named Travis Irving? Just once.

And when Shawn Evans decides to take out his frustration by tackling, hitting, making gestures, engaging the crowd, and more, the fans didn’t seem to care. Yes, afterwards they blasted him on at least one site. But they thoroughly enjoyed his show.

And Evans is another “bad boy” that people love or hate. He has, seemingly single-handedly, destroyed the Philadelphia Wings who have underestimated both his size and ability over the years, and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves.

Fans were recounting the fights, glorifying some of the players and villainizing others, but it put new fans in the seats. One guy even declared “it’s more exciting than hockey!”

And while no one wants to see serious injuries it was nice to see some guys tussle on old school box lacrosse and not get penalized.