By Derek McLean | 8/20/10 5:22 PM
By Derek McLean
Brian Spallina has won 4 career Major League Lacrosse Championships in his 9 year career. Beginning Saturday he will be gunning for his 5th Major League Lacrosse Championship of his career. If he wins he will be the only player to ever achieve this feat.
“With so much talent across the board in the league, it’s a tremendous accomplishment to just win a game. Then to go onto win a Championship it’s even more amazing,” he says. “You just try to be a piece of that puzzle that helps the team get there and have a chance to compete.”
Spallina won his first Championship with the Long Island Lizards in 2001. He then won another 3 championships with the Philadelphia Barrage in 2004, 2006 and 2007. In his second year of his second stint with the Lizards he is excited for another opportunity and welcomes the pressure Championship Weekend brings.
“I usually take it as I go, so I don’t really get nervous,” he says. “The guys usually joke that I’m too relaxed in the locker room prior to the game.”
But Spallina knows that it is no small feat to simply make Championship Weekend. The hard part is actually winning. This is the 8th time Spallina has made it to the Championship Weekend in his career. He had made it every year in his career, except in 2005, when the Barrage finished 4-8. No other player has made that many Championship appearances.
“A lot of guys coming into the league don’t even realize that I have 5 titles. I’m just trying to be a leader on the team and point them in that direction,” says Spallina. “I’ve been really fortunate over the past 10 years to be a part of some really great teams and try to bring a piece to all of those teams into what we’re doing today.”
However his ability to win is sometimes overshadowed by his hard hitting style of play. It is a fact that Spallina is the most physical and intimidating defenseman in the history of Major League Lacrosse. After all, the man has racked up the most penalty minutes in the history of lacrosse by an overwhelming and almost comical amount. In his 9-year career Spallina has tallied 97 career penalty minutes. To put this in perspective, Eric Martin of the Denver Outlaws has the next highest total, with 73.5 minutes. He has 23.5 career penalty minutes than any other player in league history.
“I’m a physical player, but I don’t think anybody wants to get the penalty,” says Spallina. “I think it comes with the heat of the game or a questionable call, or maybe it’s just a penalty that you take. But when you play a physical style and you play for 10 years, I think you’re going to get your penalty minutes.”
Spallina is often called a goon and a cheap shot artist. Perhaps that title is deserved. But there is one thing cannot be denied. Before anything else, Brian Spallina just flat out wins. Because of the way he plays and the abilities he brings to a team, his 8 postseason appearances is unmatched by any player in the league.
Last year his team, the Long Island Lizards, lost in the semi- finals to the hands of the Toronto Nationals in a thrilling 14-13 matchup in Annapolis. But with his team in the midst of a 5-game win streak, Spallina feels that the Lizards fortunes can be different in Annapolis this time around.
“I don’t want to look too far forward. I had a chance at title 5 last year. I want to concentrate on Saturday and then worry about title 5 on Sunday,” he says. “We have a nice run rattling off 5 in a row to put ourselves in this position. We’ve got a good confidence going into it and our kind of on a role. Hopefully we can carry that into the playoffs.”
Spallina’s legacy is often defined by the amount of times he has spent in the penalty box. Earlier this year against the Denver Outlaws, who the Lizards will be facing on Saturday, he received 4 penalty minutes. Those 4 minutes was a part of the highest penalized game in Major League Lacrosse history, in which officials handed out 20.5 minutes in penalties.
“For whatever reason we have established a pretty good heated rivalry with Denver,” he says. “The regular season games are usually pretty intense. It should make Saturday a pretty interesting game.”
But his physical play is only a part of what Spallina brings on defense. He is also a real good shut down defender. In 3 games this season John Grant Jr. of the Toronto Nationals, who is one of the top scorers in league history, could only muster up 1 goal while being covered by Spallina. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter when Spallina was out of the game was Grant Jr. able to score 3 points.
This season Spallina is joined by a veteran cast of defenders including Nicky Polanco, John Orsen, and Dan Cocchi. The Lizards defense has allowed 11.58 goals against per game, the lowest average in the league.
Spallina and his teammate’s mission at the beginning of the season were to win the Championship. No player in the league has as much Championship Weekend experience as he does. The Lizards are fortunate enough to have the one player who knows what it takes to win in the league more than anybody. To Spallina making Championship Weekend is nothing new. The only thing he cares about is whether or not he is holding up the coveted Steinfeld Cup on Sunday afternoon.
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com
|08/22/2010||Lizards Upset Outlaws|
|08/07/2010||Semifinal Matchups Set|
|07/31/2010||Championship Weekend Teams Set|
|06/01/2010||Championship Weekend Memories|