Sports

Rock, Stealth set to battle in Langley

Toronto Rock
Toronto Rock's Garrett Billings goes airborne during a scoring attempt against the Washington Stealth in the National Lacrosse League's championship game in May. Billings, who is from Langley, will be with the Rock at the Langley Events Centre in December for an exhibition game against the Stealth.
— image credit: Graig Abel/Abelimages

When the Toronto Rock and Washington Stealth face off in an exhibition game at the Langley Events Centre in December, it’s not quite clear who will have more crowd support.

The Stealth are located just a couple of hours away in Everett, Wash. and boast a large number of Lower Mainland lacrosse players.

The Rock, on the other hand, are one of three Canadian teams in the 10-team National Lacrosse League, and also have some B.C. connections to their roster.

But perhaps the thing that could tip the crowd in their favour is the fact Langley’s Garrett Billings is a member of the Rock.

And Billings expects more than a few friends and family to come watch him play in the game on Dec. 10.

“I think people are going to get a completely different brand of lacrosse,” Billings said, when contacted in Ontario.

Billings chose to stay east to play for the Six Nations Chiefs following the Rock’s season, which wrapped up with Toronto defeating the Stealth for the 2011 championship.

In 2010 it was the Stealth bettering the Rock.

While both his parents have seen him play professionally, the exhibition game will give his friends a chance to watch him too.

More importantly, it will be a chance for Lower Mainland lacrosse fans to show they support the game.

“I think anybody that loves lacrosse has to be at that game,” Billings said. “This is our chance to show that as a lacrosse community, we support (the sport) and fill up the building.”

The Vancouver Ravens played in the NLL from 2002-2004 out of GM Place (which is now Rogers Arena).

NLL commissioner George Daniel said the league is thrilled to return to B.C.

“British Columbia continues to be a hotbed for lacrosse,” he said on a conference call with media and representatives for the Rock and Stealth.

David Takata, the Stealth president said they have been trying to arrange something like this for a couple of years now.

The Stealth, who actively scour the Lower Mainland for recruits, already have several Lower Mainland players on their roster.

Having seen the LEC already, he called it a “world-class facility.”

“The architecture is great, the layout is great, they did everything right to bring lacrosse out there,” he said.

“We are real excited to go out west,” said Rock president/owner Jamie Dawick, who figures it will be a great bonding road trip with the regular season just weeks away.

As for the NLL coming back to the Lower Mainland, Daniel said it is inevitable they will return.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” he said. “We know there is a lot of people watching the games on television because we get the TV ratings from British Columbia.”

The league will monitor how many attend the December game.

“We would like to see some support from the lacrosse community and all the people who have been clamoring for us to come back,” he said. “I think that is the first step in showing all the key stakeholders there is support here to bring a team back.”

But coming to Langley is considered a long shot since the 5,200-seat facility would be the league’s smallest, although added he “wouldn’t want to rule anything out.”

On the day before the game, the coaching staffs of both teams will meet with local coaches, and then on Saturday afternoon, there will be on-floor clinics for youth players, conducted by members of the Rock and Stealth. And following the 7 p.m. game, there will be an autograph session.

Tickets go on sale on Tuesday (July 5) at 10 a.m. and are $18 to $28. They are available through www.ticketmaster.ca or 1-855-985-5000.

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