Written by “Muffler” Mike Kostiuk
Lax Philly – A Division of Edge of Philly Sports Network
On Saturday October 30, I attended the Albany FireWolves Open House at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.
The event was open to the general public, affording current and potential new ticket holders an opportunity to see the team in action for the first time under the new ownership, while also getting a glimpse of the team’s new home venue.
Complimentary food and drinks were provided for attendees, FireWolves merchandise was available for purchase, and the new Wolf Pack dance team was in attendance.
FireWolves ticket representatives were also on hand for onlookers to secure single game or season tickets for the 2021-2022 campaign, or to select seats within the area for optimal game day viewing experience.
The players held an open practice as training camp for the upcoming season got underway. The practice lasted an hour and a half, with a high level of energy and intensity shown by the players, as many of them were likely taking the floor together for the first time in 19 months.
Following the practice, I had an opportunity to sit in on two interviews with the four team captains for 2021-2022: defenseman Brett Manney and transition player John LaFontaine, and forwards Joe Resetarits and Reilly O’Connor.
Below are excerpts from each interview:
Q: For you guys, it’s been quite a big break since you played competitive lacrosse. What was it like getting those legs back under you again?
Manney: “Grateful for the opportunity to be out there…to be able to get out there, stretch the legs a little bit and be able to share some smiles and laughs…is something that I think was one of the best parts of what got taken away from us…”
LaFontaine: “I’d agree with that. It’s a sport we love to play, and we’re fortunate enough to be playing it at the highest level. You miss your second family…when you finally get to see each other, it feels like you’re back home.”
Q: There’s been two drafts, an expansion draft, two free agency periods (since you last played). The FireWolves are one of two teams in the league that didn’t lose anywhere from 25 to 50% of their defensive unit in that time. Do you feel like that’s any kind of significant advantage going into this season, having that chemistry and player retention?
Manney: “Yes. It obviously starts in between the pipes, having Doug Jamieson back…the work he has put in off the floor has been phenomenal, and I can’t wait to see the fruits of his labor pay off…all the guys that mean a lot to us and the success of our team came back. I feel like our defense is big, strong, fast, we get up the floor, and we’re really good 5-on-5 as well…”
LaFontaine: “Having the core group back is huge. I think the only thing we’re going to have to work on is building that chemistry back up, and once we have that, we’ll be off playing good lacrosse.”
Q: What are your expectations for the team and for yourselves this year?
Manney: “Father Time doesn’t wait for anyone…I want to win, and I want to win with these guys. I want to be the best leader I can be, on and off the floor, lead by example. I want to replicate the success we had in Connecticut with the people here (in Albany)
LaFontaine: “I want to be a good leader…be there for the young guys…get myself back into a playable shape. I’m a bit more seasoned now, so maybe transition goals aren’t my number one thing as they once were…I think I can push those younger guys forward to help them get what they need to get done. For the team, everyone’s goal should be for a Cup. You don’t come here to lose – we’re here to win, and help each other get better.”
Q: Your thoughts on the first practice session?
Resetarits: “You could tell everyone was hungry to be back out there after a year and a half off…I thought we built up into something good, getting our feet back under us…”
O’Connor: “I thought it went well…getting to see the guys again, and shake the rust off…the energy and atmosphere was really good.”
Q: Any expectations you have personally, either coming into the captaincy, or in the case of the offense, becoming the primary playmaker on each side?
Resetarits: “To get everyone involved. What we have on our side of the floor is a lot of talent and players that can play all over the floor, and I think that’s a tough thing for other defenses to play against, because everyone is capable of doing everything…everyone is sharing the wealth, and the ball is going to be moving. That’s going to go a long way.”
O’Connor: “I think our team has really high expectations. I know Joe has high expectations of himself, and I do of myself too…we’re going to hold ourselves to a high standard – whatever it takes to win…I know I’ve got to continue to improve and be at my best, and so do the rest of the guys…that’s all we care about and that’s all that matters.”
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 in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as 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. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
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).
Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.