His passion for the sport has turned Dan Finck into something of a lacrosse nomad.
At the age of 26, the Halifax native has spent almost half his life away from home, playing lacrosse. He first left home to finish high school in the Boston area at a private school where he could play at a high level of competition. Summers were spent playing in the Ontario junior leagues. That was followed by four years at Whittier College in California, where he was offered a lacrosse scholarship. Now he finds himself in Philadelphia, playing professionally for the Philadephia Wings, part of the National Lacrosse League.
This Saturday he will be back in Halifax, to take part in a NLL exhibition game between the Wings and Toronto Rock at the Metro Centre.
“It’s pretty exciting to be able to play in Halifax in front of my family and friends,” he says. “Finally I’ll be able to show people what it is I do when I’m away from home all winter.”
Although he also played hockey as a kid, lacrosse is a family affair for the Fincks. His parents own the Adanac (that’s Canada backwards and something of a lacrosse nomenclature tradition) lacrosse shop in Halifax, his father played professionally in Quebec in the 1970s, and Finck’s sister also played in college. He was chosen by Philadelphia in the first round of the 2004 NLL draft and in his first season earned a spot on the All-Rookie team.
Finck says the Philadelphia team typically draws 11,000 to 12,000 fans to home games. Games are played on the weekend and the team practises once a week, with the
16-game regular season running from January to April, followed by playoffs. Although it is a professional sport, half the team—the American players—hold down regular jobs.
“Really, playing in the NLL is a good part-time job,” says Finck. “The average salary in the league is around $13,000 to $14,000 and each team can designate one or two ‘franchise players’ who might make salaries in the mid-$20,000 range. It’s tougher for the Canadians because we’re not allowed to work in the US. So we spend a lot of our time working out, and just trying to find stuff to do during the week between games.”
Thanks in part to the success of the Toronto team, which has captured five NLL championships since 1999 and whose home games have been televised nationally on the Score sports network, Finck has seen a boom in lacrosse both across Canada and locally. Calgary and Edmonton also have teams in the NLL (there are 10 US-based franchises), and there is talk of expansion to Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
“When I was a kid in the mid-’90s you were lucky to put together a three-team league in Halifax, which is why I went down to the States to play,” says Finck. “But in the past five or six years the game has really grown.”
That growth in particular has been in NLL-style “box” lacrosse, the high-scoring, fast-paced, rough-and-tumble indoor variety as opposed to slower and less aggressive field lacrosse.
This weekend’s game is intended as a promotional event for the 2007 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship, which will be held in Halifax in May. Finck encourages anyone interested to come and check it out, even if they are unfamiliar with the sport.
“Whether you’ve played lacrosse or your kids play lacrosse, or even if you’re just a sports fan who has never seen a game, it will be entertaining,” he says.
“If you have some hockey background or basketball background you’ll understand what’s going on and you’ll like what you see. For people in Nova Scotia, the opportunity to see pro lacrosse doesn’t come around too often.”
Toronto Rock vs. Philadelphia Wings, November 25 at the Metro Centre, 7pm, $11.50-$17.25, 451-1221.