NLL foes share uncertain futures

TODD SAELHOF -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

Week in and week out, Brad Watters is inundated with the same lacrosse queries.

Are the Rebel on the move from Ottawa? Are negotiations with potential suitors ongoing? Will the team be sold and/or relocated before the end of the season, given the lousy 3,510 per-game attendance average?

\"Things haven\'t changed -- are your friends buying tickets?\" said Watters, the Rebel co-owner sounding like a broken record yet insisting he\'s not frustrated by the line of questioning. \"We\'ll play out the year and look into it then.

\"Right now, the most important thing is that we\'re 4-5 -- we\'re a competitive team looking to get into a playoff spot and heading in the right direction. We\'re happy with the way things are going this year.\"

Truth is, it could be worse. A lot worse.

The Rebel could be the Vancouver Ravens -- tonight\'s opposition at the Civic Centre.

Off the floor, Vancouver\'s ownership situation is a mess. After purchasing the Ravens in September, former NHL defenceman Paul Reinhart has walked away from the National Lacrosse League club.

Despite averaging 8,305 fans a game, the West Coast team was an apparent money burn for Reinhart, who refused to lose any more than the apparent $1 million he\'d already lost and had not yet completed the reported $1.5-million purchase deal. Largely due to air travel, it\'s believed the $3-million budget to run the Ravens is a half-million more than that of the Rebel.

Although original owner Tom Mayenknecht is back in and attempting to save the team, it has made for stressful times.

\"It creates inconsistencies,\" said Watters, himself a co-owner of the Rebel, NLL\'s Toronto Rock and CFL\'s Ottawa Renegades. \"The players aren\'t getting paid -- and these guys are professional athletes -- and it hurts morale.\"

Their last-place record in the Northern Division fortifies that fact. It\'s not that the Ravens (3-6 after last night\'s 11-7 loss to the Rock) are a bad side. In fact, they were picked by many pundits to contend for the Champions Cup this season.

\"With some of the problems they\'ve had, it\'s probably been unsettling for the players,\" said Rebel coach Terry Sanderson. \"I feel they\'re much better than what their record indicates. I know they\'re in a tough situation -- like us.\"

Maybe so, but the Rebel and Ravens are entirely different entities on the floor.

OFFENCE LACKS PUNCH

Despite the 4-5 record that has kept them in a realistic playoff race, the Rebel sit dead last in goals scored per game (10.77). Last week\'s 13-7 road loss to the Rochester Knighthawks didn\'t help their offensive woes, even though Sanderson\'s squad proved its full worth defensively, allowing only a 7-2 final quarter to do them in. Allowing a short-handed goal, when the Knighthawks led 6-5, was deemed the turning point, but it\'s clearly the lack of offensive jam that has kept the Rebel on the wrong side of the .500 mark.

\"It\'s substantially lower than what we expected,\" said Sanderson, when asked of his team\'s goal output and reminded that only four players are in double digits in goal scoring -- Kevin Howard (20), Mat Giles (19), Jason Clark (13) and Orleans resident Kevin Dostie (11). \"Again, we had good chances last week. But most of our go-to guys were fourth and fifth such guys on their teams in past years. It\'s just a matter of them finding the confidence.\"

Meanwhile, the Ravens -- with a familiar offensive star in former Rock frontman Dan Stroup (20 goals and 41 points in eight games) -- are feeling the challenge defensively. Only the New York Saints (15.5) have allowed more goals per game than the Ravens (14.5), prior to last night\'s action.

\"We are struggling,\" admitted Ravens coach Paul Dal Monte. \"But all it takes is one good effort to get our confidence back. We\'ve had a schedule that\'s been a bit chaotic. Fortunately, we play every weekend starting now, and the players believe we can get back to being confident.\"

The need for confidence, then, is the common denominator between tonight\'s foes. That, and the need for a win -- to salvage their respective seasons and possibly their futures in their respective cities.

\"It\'s a huge game for both of us,\" Sanderson said. \"They\'ve got five losses like us. We\'re not kidding anybody. It\'s a must-win for both teams -- we\'ll approach it like a playoff game.\"

No question about that.


Videos

Photos