NLL: Reaction to Rock move swift and varied

The Toronto Rock revealed one of the worst kept secrets among lacrosse insiders: they will be relocating from Toronto, where they resided for over 20 years, to the city of their birth – Hamilton, Ontario (when they were the Ontario Raiders). The two teams aren’t officially associated (different owners), but it’s largely accepted they share history (more on this below).

The announcement was made during a season ticket holders’ town hall Monday night, and made official in a press conference Tuesday. And lacrosse fans, surprisingly enough, had reactions. Disregarding the usual baseless social media shouting – the “this sucks” and “amazing news” – here are some of the thoughts fans were posting in the hours that followed.

WRITER’S NOTE: InLax has chosen not to post social media handles or full names for privacy protection of those posters. Some have been edited for spelling, grammar and/or brevity.

We start with Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator, who was first to report the news publicly – shared the opinion of many in an article released Tuesday – the team is not from Toronto and the name should’ve changed. “The No. 1 rule about living in Hamilton is understanding you’re not living in Toronto… We just aren’t Toronto and we’re not saying that ruefully.”

Jamie Dawick addressed this in his press conference saying, “When you’re traveling and you have a brand, no disrespect to the people in Hamilton, a lot of people look at you and think you could be from Bermuda.” Our fearless editor, Anna Taylor, scratched the surface of this rivalry in yesterday’s post. There’s a few issues facing fans. One asked by Radley, “If the Toronto Rock wins another title, will the championship parade be along Main Street to Hamilton City Hall, or up University Avenue in Toronto?” As someone who has witnessed every previous Rock Championship, my personal response is, ‘what parade?’ but his is still a question worth asking.

Another Twitter user continued, “Based out of Hamilton while calling it Toronto? As a Hamiltonian, I’ll pass. This is BlogTO level stupid.” Ouch. Tell us how you really feel.

Said Kurt, “Big mistake not changing the city name. You don’t understand this market.”

The name wasn’t enough to deter Greg, who posted, “This [is] awesome news for us locally in Hamilton! Very much looking forward to having professional lacrosse and a well run franchise in our backyard!”

Or Nathan: “There are people, like myself, who are excited by the move… it won’t be as bad as a lot of people here are thinking.” Wishful thinking? Perhaps. However, lacrosse fans (real, true diehard fans, not the casual onlooker) will do what it takes to see a game. That is, if it’s possible.

Take Lynn from Clarkson, who posted on Twitter: “I cried letting go of my four seats. Going from a 40min train ride to 2h. It’s sad.” She did add, “We’ll still be at a few, just no long[er as] season ticket holders.”

As one STH texted me, “Transit to Hamilton is the same time as a road trip to Buffalo”. The move has basically alienated any fan who previously relied on transit – local or regional – to go to games. Scotiabank Arena has GO Train and TTC stops at Union Station, walking distance from the arena.

And that was many fans. Most, due to the location of the team and ease of access. Some, like Paula, for ‘other’ reasons. “Won’t be easy to go to games anymore… can’t enjoy a beer driving from East of Toronto.”  Ah yes, those “reasons.”

Kevin has his location listed as ‘Toronto’. While Kevin does not reveal any intentions to attend games in person, the post reads, “Takes me back to the first game at Copps [Coliseum] as the Ontario Raiders. Wish the Rock much success no matter what city it is in.” Wait, a nice thought on Twitter? That can’t be right…

As I mentioned above, lacrosse fans will do what they need to for a game. Begrudgingly, or not. I’m reminded of the time the late Larry Power, fresh off open heart surgery, walked from Oshawa to the Beaches for a Junior A game. In the rain. (No word if it was uphill both ways in his father’s pajamas.) Some will go to greater lengths than others. Some may let their feelings, and how hurt they feel in this moment, dictate if that’s true.

At the end of the day, and the movement surrounding the NLL over the life of the Rock franchise, Hamilton is better than out of province. Toronto Rock goaltender Nick Rose tweeted a picture of an Ontario Raiders jersey with the caption, “First found out about and fell in love with pro lacrosse by attending Ontario Raiders games at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. Hope to do the same for kids attending @TorontoRockLax games in the same building.”

Who knows what kid will be in the stands at FirstOntario Centre, or what community they come from. If it gets them excited about the sport, who are we to publicly complain?