Compiled and Written by “Muffler” Mike Kostiuk
2019-2020 Record: N/A – Inaugural season to be played in 2021-2022
F Ryan Benesch, F Charlie Kitchen, F Phil Caputo, F Connor Kelly, F Will Malcom, D Connor Sellars, D Matt Hossack, D Chad Cummings, D Taylor Stuart, T Jeremy Thompson, G Nick Damude, G Kevin Orleman
New location. New ownership. New fanbase. And some old legends taking on a new challenge. With years of experience dating back to the earliest days of the NLL, General Manager and VP of Lacrosse Operations Bob Hamley, 2017 NLL Hall of Famer Tracey Kelusky, Brampton legend Dan Teat, and 2021 NLL Hall of Famer Steve Toll certainly have what it takes to not only help return box lacrosse to the American Southwest, but also to ensure the sport becomes a fixture in the region for years to come. As for how quickly they can tame both this new frontier and their Western Division rivals, it’s anybody’s guess. Let’s see what the expansion Panther City Lacrosse Club will have to offer as they kick off their inaugural season in 2021-2022…
Panther City used six of their 13 picks in the 2021 Expansion Draft on forwards. The right side includes young guns Connor Kelly (New York), Phil Caputo (Rochester), and 2020 Entry Draft picks Charlie Kitchen (Albany) and Patrick Dodds (Calgary). On the left side, veteran lefty Ryan Benesch (Halifax), one of only 11 players in NLL history with more than 1,000 career points, was drafted, along with 6-year veteran Chris Wardle (Colorado), who was then traded back to Colorado to obtain another young lefthander in Will Malcom. As with most expansion teams, it can be anticipated that there will be some growing pains as the team attempts to find its identity. The experience Benesch brings with him will certainly serve to accelerate the building process so that the team can be competitive right out of the gate.
Competition and mentorship among Panther City’s defensive unit will also be intense, beginning with the two young goaltenders they selected in the Expansion Draft: Nick Damude (San Diego) and Kevin Orleman (Georgia). Unlike the mostly youth-oriented offense, the defensive personnel are a more balanced mix of experienced veterans and young players with the potential to be franchise cornerstones. Leading the defense will be former Saskatchewan teammates Matt Hossack (taken in the Expansion Draft) and face-off transition player Jeremy Thompson (signed in free agency). Joining them will be a group of up-and-comers from around the league: Taylor Stuart (trade with Toronto), Chad Cummings (signed from Calgary in free agency), Connor Sellars (trade with Georgia), Liam Byrnes (drafted from Philadelphia), Liam Patten (drafted from Buffalo), and Sam Clare (drafted from Vancouver). With many of the aforementioned players having up-tempo styles of play, it’s possible the defense could employ a more loose, high-risk system, featuring lots of breakaway transition opportunities. These opportunities are sure to excite the new fanbase, especially if they end with a high reward. Only time will tell, but one thing you can bet on is this team won’t be content with just being here.
Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game 10 years ago. Through the podcasts, he made an association with Kevin Neibauer of Lax Philly, who convinced him to come on board and write for them. The rest they say is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.