The Maple Ridge Burrards’ search for a new head coach is officially over.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, the Burrards announced that Chris Gill will take the reins, starting in the upcoming 2014 Western Lacrosse Association season.
Gill has a decorated lacrosse resume, both in the WLA and with the pro ranks in the National Lacrosse League.
As a player in the WLA, he racked up 482 goals and 351 assists in 282 games.
Gill’s teams made the playoffs nine times and he was a Mann Cup finalist on two occasions.
After a 13-year WLA playing career split between the Burrards and New Westminster Salmonbellies, Gill was mentored by Bob Salt for two seasons as his assistant coach.
On top of that Gill was an NLL star with stops in Baltimore, Toronto, Vancouver, Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary. Along the way, he raised the Champions Cup (trophy emblematic of the NLL title) three times and he recorded 557 points in 173 career NLL games.
Gill retired from the NLL in 2010.
“Chris’s craftiness around the crease will now transfer in his role as head coach. He interviewed very well and has some very creative plans to address some of our challenges from last season,” said Burrards general manager Daren Fridge, who relinquished his duties as the team’s head coach, a position he held for the past 11 seasons. “We were looking for a dynamic leader with valuable experience at the highest level of lacrosse and Chris is exactly what we are seeking.”
Meanwhile, Fridge will have a different, less visible role with the Burrards this coming season.
While the Burrards have missed the WLA playoffs the past two years, the 2013 campaign was a real disappointment.
Maple Ridge jumped out to a 5-2 start to their season, and stumbled the rest of the way, winning just three of their next 11 contests.
While an 8-10 record was a huge improvement from the 2012 campaign, when the Burrards finished dead last in the WLA with a 4-13 mark, the local squad still fell short of its ultimate goal of competing in the post-season.
“I recognized that, and said to my team throughout the season, that we can’t do the same thing and expect to have different results,” Fridge said. “We also recognized that we improved from the year previous, and a lot of that had to do with a healthy Curtis Dickson, but we still fell short of making the playoffs.”
Being on the front lines, either as a player or head coach, is a way of life for Fridge.
He played for 11 years, before making the transition to coach for another 11, with just one summer in between.
“Certainly, I don’t know any other type of summer,” he said. “It does give me less responsibilities. I can focus on my general manager role, where it’s very challenging over the course of a season to keep up with the regular rigours of coach, and at the same time try to do trades or try to stay aware of league business.”
Fridge said it was not uncommon for his phone to ring during a practice, where he’d get a call about a trade possibility or an update about a significant player on the other team being out with injury, with a game against the Burrards on the horizon.
‘That would interrupt the regular course of practice,” he said.
Next season, Fridge will be watching games from a totally different vantage point: the stands at Planet Ice Maple Ridge as well as in other arenas around the WLA.
“It will be an adjustment for me,” he said. “Now I’ll be in the crowd watching. I don’t have any idea how that’s going to feel. I still want to be focused on the game, but I’ve got the type of personality where I like to press hands and see the public, so it will be a slight adjustment in that regard.”
Reflecting on his coaching career with the Burrards, Fridge says he has no regrets.
“[Not being the coach] will be unique,” added Fridge, the vice principal at Port Moody Secondary. “My family will likely feel a little bit better about it.”
Fridge said his son and daughter have grown up knowing that Sunday nights are reserved for Burrards’ home games. In the future, he may even be able to squeeze in some holiday time with his family during the summertime.
DICKSON VIES FOR NATIONAL SPOT
In other Burrards news, the team’s top offensive player and WLA MVP Curtis Dickson was one of 51 players who took part in Canadian national men’s field lacrosse team selection camp, held Oct. 11-14 on the campus of Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.
Once its roster is finalized, Team Canada will compete at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) world championships to be held July 10-19, 2014, in Denver, Colorado.
The list of 97 players who submitted tryout applications was pared down to 51 by a selection committee including current and past national team coaches, as well as current college and professional coaches.
Team Canada head coach Randy Mearns oversaw the camp.
Dickson scored a “sock trick” (six goals in one game) during one of the intra-squad games, so he definitely made an impact.
He also has an impressive background playing the field game, having played at the NCAA Div. 1 level with Delaware on a four-year scholarship.
“He is very difficult to defend against,” Fridge said. “One-on-one, on a bigger surface, that ability becomes even more challenging [to defend against] than box lacrosse. He’s a physical specimen, an athletic guy who has a hard outside shot”
Asked if Dickson is a contender to make the team, Fridge answered, “without a doubt.”
As for Dickson’s future with the Burrards, Fridge said there has been no indication that he is not returning to the team in 2014. He is the catalyst of the team’s offence, having scored 58 goals and 103 points to easily win the WLA scoring title this past season.
Dickson is moving to Calgary for the winter to play for the National Lacrosse League’s Roughnecks.
Along with 2013 NLL MVP Shawn Evans, Dickson be a showcase player with the professional squad, making public appearance to help promote the sport and team.
“He’ll immerse himself in the wonderful weather of Calgary,” Fridge said.
@ Copyright 2013