Notes From The MLL All Star Game Conference Call

Unlike the usual two hour coach’s conference call, this one was only an hour.

First on the call was MLL Commissioner David Gross. He talked about how the first time they did Young Guns versus Old School was in 2005, and it was a great success. This year, he mentioned that some of the guys on the Old School team didn’t realize that they were old.

Dave talked about how other professional sports all star games are “boring” because they treat it as an exhibition game and don’t try. That’s why the MLL has tried different styles for their All Star game and believes that the Young Guns versus Old School is the way to go. The MLL found a way that the game could be competitive and show the players passion.

The Commissioner is excited for this year’s game because it’s the first professional event to be held at FAU and because of all the events being held starting Friday. Some of the players will be at the youth tournament and at Moes, signing autographs and taking in the sites. Others, like Casey Powell, who lead the polls in the fan vote, will be putting on clinics over the weekend.

One thing I took away from this call is that Mr. Gross knows, along with all his players that getting out and interacting with the fans is a huge importance to the sport and the league. He also said that, “These guys are truly professionals and we couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to represent the league.” The players all know that when a game is televised nationally, that they need to play their best and try hard, even if it is the All Star game.

Even with all his excitement, though, he’s still not pulling for either team. Mr. Gross is hoping for a great game that will excite the fans. Dave said, “The All-Star Game is a game for the fans.”

Each coach was selected for specific reasons. Coach Steve Duffy from the Boston Cannons was selected because he is coaching the defending champs. This has been the system the MLL has gone with the past couple of years. Ted Garber, head coach of the Ohio Machine, was chosen because he coached the MLL Summer Showcase Tour back in 2000, and they thought they would stick the old head coach with the Old School team.

The MLL will be partnering with HEADstrong this year for the All Star game to raise awareness about blood cancer. Dave is happy to be partnering with them because they are not only raising awareness, but also providing support for those suffering from blood cancer. Warrior will be providing players with lime green shafts and HEADstrong shoe laces. The jerseys worn by the players will also have lime green in them. New Balance will also be matching the money raised from the jersey auction.

Steering away from the All Star game for a second, the Commissioner was asked about his views on the MLL season so far. He said, “What I’ve loved about this season is it’s been unpredictable. Nobody could have seen the Long Island Lizards where they are,” and he is right, especially after the loss of Pannell and Quinzani. He mentioned that the fan support for both Ohio and Charlotte has been outstanding and very supportive, even with each team still trying to get over that hump in the win column. Also, Dave is thrilled with what CBS Sports Network has produced. All in all, Mr. Gross is happy with the first half of the MLL 2012 season and is excited to see what the second half, and future, will bring.

The MLL Collegiate Draft was talked about, and Dave said everyone is happy with the way it’s been run so far. He’s excited because the rookies this season have stepped up and made contributions. The 2013 MLL Collegiate Draft is scheduled for January 11 at 8:30 p.m. in Philadelphia. Along with the draft, Mr. Gross commented on expansion and said that there was nothing in the works for 2013 and that the earliest an expansion team or idea would pop up is 2014. Test Marketing is still being done and this year’s All Star game may be part of it.

Next on the phone was Old School team member and Charlotte Hound midfielder, Stephen Berger. He started off with saying that the fans in Charlotte have really embraced the Hounds and the MLL, regardless of their record. Also mentioning that the MLL has done a great job with exposing both expansion teams.

Berger also said that the MLL is doing it right by finding non-traditional lacrosse areas to show the sport too, but also wishes that the fans could see more of a competitive game.

As for the Young Guns and Old School theme, Berger said, “To be honest, I think the old guys are going to take the win pretty easily…I’m not going to be giving the young one’s any tips,” and will be playing some tricks on the Young Guns. Even though he’s going to talk smack to his teammates on the field, he did say that the Young Guns have “ridiculous young talent,” and won’t be taking them lightly. “I’ll definitely have some smack talking to do with my Hound teammates on the Young Guns once the game’s over.”

Hamilton Nationals and Old School Goalie Brett Queener hopped on the call, and I have to tell you, even on the phone the guy is a character. He was asked if  he was going to pull out any new tricks this year like his Michael Jackson shot a few years ago. Queener replied with, “I’m not giving away any of my tricks.”

Well, those tricks might have to take a back seat during the game, because he knows he will have to be loose and fast because the offensive players will be loose and their shots will be coming fast. As for being honored as an all star, Brett said that it is “nice to be recognized and acknowledged,” but it doesn’t feel any different being a player. “I’m just excited to be there (the All-Star Game) and be able to play with Jesse Schwartzman, one of the best goalies in the world.”

With a few teammates on the other side, like Stephen Keogh, Queener said he was rooting for his teammates to do well, but will tease his teammate if he makes a save off of their shot. He also talked about running down the field and scoring, saying that the Hamilton coaching staff would not appreciate him putting himself in a tricky situation. “I’m just hoping to stay out of harm’s way but who knows, I may make a run down the field.”

Brett was part of the group “I didn’t know I was old” and said that he guesses he’s on the back half of his career at 27 years old. Though with his speed and athleticism, I doubt that’s true. He was also asked who he thought should have been an all star that isn’t, and he said, “Brice Queener, my older brother, because he would beat me up if I didn’t say him.” That’s Queener and why I said earlier, even on the phone, he’s a character. It shows he’s a perfect person for this weekend’s all star game, because he’s fun and exciting to watch and interacts with the fans on and off the field before, during and after the game. So look for him to be the entertainment of the weekend.

Peet Poillon, the first Young Gun, of the Denver Outlaws was on after Queener. He is looking forward to getting out on the field and playing with guys he has yet to play with and representing the Outlaws.

Peet’s coming off an injury and said there are a few pros and cons about coming off an injury and playing in the MLL All Star game. The pros of it were being a part of it, having fun and playing with and against players you look up to. The cons were that a competitive drive takes a player over and a player will do things they normally wouldn’t. He said he will need to keep his competitive edge in check.

Like Queener, Poillon was asked about going up against teammates. He said Schwartzman is one of the best goalies in the world and will try to do his best against him. As for Lee Zink, Poillon said, “I’m not looking to make dodges against Lee Zink. He’s the best defensemen in the league.” Though he may make a run at Lee and see what happens.

As for his thoughts on the theme of the game, he said it’s a great mix and that guys are out to prove themselves on both sides of the ball. He’s excited to be an all star, saying that it’s a great feeling that the league recognizes you [the players] for the job and hard work that you’ve done.

Last on the conference call was rookie Matt Gibson of the Young Guns and Long Island Lizards. Commissioner Gross said, “He’s playing at an All-Star level right now. He may even be an MVP candidate.” Matt’s looking forward to this weekend, “I’m excited to play and watch a lot of the other All-Stars and see what they bring.” He wants to have fun, but take it somewhat seriously.

Unfortunately, Matt’s phone service cut out half way through the call and we couldn’t get him back on the phone. He will be one of the Young Guns to watch as he takes on a strong Old School defense.

The MLL All Star game is to be held at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. Events start on Friday, but the game itself will be held on Saturday, June 30 with teams starting to warm up at 6:30 p.m. and faceoff takes place at 7:30 pm. The game will be aired live on ESPN2.