With the NHL lockout finally over and hockey fans deeply immersed into another season, thinking about another sport is probably not on the radar. The Stanley Cup playoffs will come and go quicker than one may think and most fans will be left longing for October. Smart fans however will be hitting the field or arena to watch a similar sport, lacrosse. Not just a sport reserved for the summer months, the National Lacrosse League (NLL) plays games throughout the winter and throws just as many punches as your NHL heavy hitters. Cue Athan Iannucci, a name that may not be familiar to many hockey fans, but one that is familiar and well recognized throughout the lacrosse circuit. This 6’4″ Vancouver native snipes and celly’s with the best of them and was kind enough to answer a few lacrosse and yes, hockey questions for The Pink Puck.
The Pink Puck: What may come as a surprising fact for some, lacrosse is actually the national sport of Canada, not hockey. Can you talk a little bit about the similarities between the two sports and why a hockey fan should give lacrosse a try?
Athan Iannucci: Hockey and Lacrosse are both similar (speaking of indoor lacrosse) in that they are both fast-paced, physical and intense sporting events to be a part of and or watch. The scoring in lacrosse is higher typically 10+ goals to win a game. Lacrosse is very interesting though because of what players can do with a lacrosse stick and ball. As opposed to largely being limited in terms of the puck originating from ice level, in lacrosse the ball can be passed or shot from virtually every angle and plane.
The Pink Puck: Growing up outside of Vancouver puts you in Canucks territory, but you also spent many a season in Philadelphia. What NHL team do you cheer for?
AI: Honestly I don’t follow any sports. I know it’s weird being an athlete and all. That being said I do enjoy the athleticism and skill etc of a hockey, basketball, or football game here and there. It’s funny I actually know quite a bit about who’s who in the NHL but that knowledge almost exclusively comes from playing NHL on my PS3 lol. In that game though I like Boston and Chicago.
The Pink Puck: Was it always lacrosse for you? What other sports did you play growing up?
AI: I played almost everything. As it whittled down over the years to solely lacrosse, the ones I held on to the longest and dearest were rugby and basketball. Now I love to play disc golf and traditional golf as off season sports.
The Pink Puck: You currently play for the Washington Stealth, rumors have been circulating that Seattle may soon find themselves home to an NHL team. From your experience, do you think Washington would be a welcoming location and fan base for a team?
AI: I would imagine so, the fans we get in Everett are quite dedicated and rowdy. Seattle would only draw more of the same I’d reckon.
The Pink Puck: As a player in the National Lacrosse League, many people might not know that a vast majority of your games are played in NHL arenas. Which arena and city is your favorite?
AI: Other than playing at home in Everett, HSBC arena in Buffalo and the Pepsi center in Colorado. The SaddleDome in Calgary and whatever Philadelphia is calling their arena now are usually pretty electric also.
The Pink Puck: In NHL terms, your skill and ability to score goals is comparable to Wayne Gretzky. Who is your favorite NHL player current or retired?
AI: From my limited perspective, I love to watch players like Marian Gaborik, Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis etc because they are so unbelievably fast and absolute wizards with the puck. But, if I had to have them on my team and go to battle with them, guys like Jarome Iginla would be on the top of my list. I truly respect any player who lays it all on the line for their team game in and game out. Gotta give a shout out to John Tavares though; he’s known in the lacrosse community because he was a real good player before he went the NHL route. His uncle of the same name is a lacrosse legend (all time NLL points leader and still producing at age 44!)
The Pink Puck: What advice would you give a hockey player looking to get into lacrosse? Do you think it’s an easy transition?
AI: Especially for younger kids lacrosse can pair nicely with hockey as the seasons generally run without overlap. Certainly the toughness, work ethic and eye-hand-coordination associated with hockey all lend themselves well to lacrosse. If anyone is interested in giving lacrosse a try, the best thing to do is simply get out there and do it. Almost all hockey teams will have at least one or two lacrosse players on the roster. Talk to them, ask them questions about what it’s like and how to get involved. Failing that, the all mighty Internet, search ‘lacrosse’ in ‘your home town’. It’s pretty prevalent in most North American cities.