Plane tiring

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET

Some of the East Division all-stars who took part in yesterday's National Lacrosse League showcase tilt joked they could have walked to Calgary faster. What was supposed to be a five-hour charter flight from Toronto Friday night turned into a nine-hour marathon that brought 16 of the 18 players on the East roster into Calgary yesterday morning around 9 a.m., just hours before the noon faceoff.

It was a long night but you wouldn't have known it by the final score yesterday. The East beat the West 11-10 in overtime.

Toronto Rock forward Blaine Manning, a Sherwood Park product, looked tired after the game, leaning against a wall sucking back a juice box.

"We thought, for some reason, it was going to be a four-hour trip," said Manning, shaking his head and grinning. "It turned out to be four hours to Winnipeg, then re-fuelling and then another three or four hours.

"It was long, definitely. But what can you do? The league did what they had to for this game to be on NBC and we're happy to do our part for the game."

The all-star tilt was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. today. But when NBC came on board to air the game after the season had started, they requested it to be switched to noon.

That meant four East teams had to play last night and then hop a plane chartered by the league to Calgary. The Philadelphia Wings and Buffalo Bandits played in Buffalo and then their all-stars made the short drive to Toronto, where the Rock and Rochester Knighthawks had just finished playing.

Then, 16 guys who just finished beating the heck out of each other, climbed into a small 30-seat plane. Talk about a change of pace, said Manning.

"We were beating up on Rochester, they were beating up on us and Buffalo and Philly were beating up on each other and an hour and a half later, we're meeting and having beers on an airplane to come out here," he said.

"We all love the game and we play hard. We whack and hit but that's part of the game. We all like each other and respect each other. It was a long trip but it was good because we were with good people."

When asked if that highlights how special lacrosse players are, Rock captain Jim Veltman nodded his head and said: "It's a special group of guys that play this game, that's for sure."

After a long flight that featured a few brews, a couple of card games, some good-natured ribbing and intermittent ZZZ's, the players landed in Calgary and headed to the hotel for a brief stop before going to the 'Dome.

"A few of us hit the hot tub, a few guys took a nap," said Veltman, eating a quick sandwich in the dressing room before going out for the post-game skills competition. "Then we came here, didn't really even get a proper warm-up in and went out there. But hey, I think the game went pretty well."

And in the end, the travel-weary East team even came away with its second-straight all-star triumph.

Buffalo forward John Tavares, who scored three for the East including the game-winner, said he was glad to hear the game looked good because he was too tired to really tell.

"If I was a betting man," said Tavares, "I would have bet on the West."

"I'm glad we looked good out there because a lot of us sure weren't feeling good."


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