Opinion: Rochester’s moves signal the end of an era

Cory Vitarelli. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

With under a week to go until the March 11th NLL trade deadline, the 2-8 Rochester Knighthawks exploded on Wednesday and dealt away three veteran players. Joe Resetarits and Paul Dawson were moved to New England and San Diego for draft picks. The biggest move saw 10-year Knighthawks’ veteran Cory Vitarelli traded to Colorado for Ryan Benesch. Defenseman Billy Dee Smith was released and Austin Shanks was placed on the IR.

After those moves, the Knighthawks had holes to fill so they signed righty forward Cameron Simpson, of the ALL’s Peterborough Timbermen. Simpson, who has scored 32 points in 10 games this season, was added directly to the Knighthawks’ active roster. Rochester also promoted Nick Damude, a goalie for the Timbermen, from the practice roster.

Chris Boushy. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen)

They also completed one more trade with the Calgary Roughnecks, acquiring righty forward Chris Boushy for a 2020 fourth-round pick. On Friday, they signed defenseman Mike Manley to the active roster.

As social media buzzed with analysis, my thoughts went a different direction. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the Knighthawks and the championship years of the past. Rochester always had at least one Dawson brother. They always had Cody Jamieson and Joe Walters. They always had Vitarelli and Stephen Keogh. And of course, they always had Vino (Matt Vinc) between the pipes. The Knighthawks were three-peat champions, seemingly unbeatable.

Naturally, times change and teams change. Players move on, get traded and retire. The current Rochester team will relocate to Halifax in the coming year and the NLL is once again expanding bringing another level of roster uncertainty. One can’t help but wonder if anyone from that illustrious time in Knighthawks’ history will be left – and does it even matter to the new fan base in Halifax? How will Curt Styres’ trades work out for Rochester and the upcoming Halifax Thunderbirds? Only time will tell.

For me, Wednesdays moves made me think of the dimly lit Blue Cross Arena and the die-hard fans of the Rochester Knighthawks. It made me think of Cory Vitarelli’s behind-the-back goal in game two of the 2014 Champion’s Cup Final. It made me think of Paul Dawson’s selfie in the penalty box after beating up Bill O’Brien. It made me think of all those great times slowly being washed away.

When the Knighthawks next take the floor at Blue Cross Arena next Friday, March 15th, they’ll be a very different team.