Toronto Rock forward Colin Doyle just returned home to the Toronto area from an experience that’s been almost unheard for him in the past year: losing. Doyle, who won his fifth NLL Champion’s Cup in 2005 while being named the Most Valuable Player of the regular season and championship game, ended his summer lacrosse season in British Columbia with a loss in the finals of the Western Lacrosse Association. Doyle’s Coquitlam team fell to Victoria four games to one in the best-of-seven series.
“It was quite frustrating, especially after the year we had in Toronto,” said Doyle, who is among the NLL players who play summer lacrosse to keep their skills sharp in the off-season.
The loss was a minor setback for a player who had a dream season in 2005. Doyle led the NLL in regular season scoring (111 points on 42 goals, 69 assists) while Toronto went 12-4 and won the Champion’s Cup over Arizona at home in front of 19,432 fans at Air Canada Centre. Doyle was named the Most Valuable Player of the regular season, and took home MVP honors from the championship game following an eight-point performance (5g, 3a) in a 19-13 win.
“My thoughts on the season are that it was the best season I ever could have had,” said Doyle. “It was a great year, and the only way to top it is to win the championship again.”
Ten other teams will try and topple the Rock this season, as Toronto attempts to win a sixth championship in eight seasons. Doyle has been a part of all five championships, but has several new teammates that won for the first time this past season. Doyle explains how their motivation to stay on top will now change.
“Our guys that hadn’t won it before had a hunger last season,” said Doyle. “They were hungry to win their first championship. Now that they’ve done it, the hunger turns into a desire to stay on top, a desire to repeat as champions. They’ll quickly find out that everyone is gunning for you when you’re the defending champ”.
Long known for their defense, head coach Terry Sanderson brought a style of play that put the offense in the spotlight. Doyle and teammates Blaine Manning and Josh Sanderson garnered a lot of attention in 2005, as they became the first trio of teammates to all score 100 points in a regular season.
Doyle says there’s no complex game plans or strategy sessions needed to get the big three going. “We just go out and play”, said Doyle. “I’ve played with talented offensive guys in the past, where the timing and chemistry just wasn’t there. Fortunately, we have both, and it’s been working.”
Chemistry, timing and lots of floor time have been the keys to success. “We usually only have six or seven offensive players dress for each game, so Josh (Sanderson), Blaine (Manning) and I are usually on the floor together at least two out of every three shifts, sometimes more”, said Doyle, who is a lefty along with Sanderson. Manning shoots from the right side.
The 28 year-old often down plays the gaudy statistical numbers and takes great pride in the team game that the Rock play. While the players that are best known to the fans will return to the Rock this season, Doyle says there will be at least one significant loss in the locker room. Defenseman Sandy Chapman was one two Toronto players selected in the recent expansion draft. Chapman was selected by Edmonton and later traded to Rochester, a key Rock rival. The defenseman didn’t put up stats that would catch a fan’s attention, but Doyle says, “Chappy is a great character guy, and we’ll miss his presence in the game and in the locker room”. One player that Doyle was glad to see protected from the expansion draft is Rock enforcer Tim O’Brien, who specializes in physically punishing any opposing players who take liberties with Doyle or any of the Rock’s talented forwards. “Timmy was great in that role. Our next goal is to get him to score a goal during the season,” laughed Doyle.
With the recent release of the 2006 NLL schedule, players and coaches begin assessing how tough their schedule will be, but Doyle looks at it differently. “I first look to see if we have any road games in the warm-weather cities to look forward to,” he says with a laugh. Kidding aside, Doyle says he has seen the level of talent on all teams rise to the point where “the parody between teams is going to be really good. I don’t see a bad game anywhere on the schedule”.
During the off-season, Doyle runs a series of instructional youth lacrosse camps throughout Ontario and across Canada. For more information, visit www.doylelaxcamps.com.
Outside of lacrosse, Doyle and his girlfriend own a house together in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, a suburb of Toronto. As he prepares for his ninth professional season, he’s also preparing to go back to school. The all-star forward is planning to study education at D’Youville College in Buffalo, and he would like to teach physical education at the high school or junior high school level.