630 days. That’s how long it’s been since the San Diego Seals played a game. On Friday night they’re back, hosting Vancouver in the first National Lacrosse League game of the season and the first since March of 2020.
Needless to say, Pechanga Arena is going to be packed and loud. For the guys on the floor, it’s going to be one heck of an emotional return.
“Yeah, the first five minutes is gonna be just trying to get all the nerves out. Go hit someone, get hit, take it all in,” says Seals defenseman Tor Reinholdt, one of only a handful of players who’s appeared in every game in franchise history. “You look around and that’s a big part of why you come out and play, is to hopefully put on a good show for everyone.”
Emotion can be a double-edged sword. The Seals are hoping to use it in their favor.
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“We want to embrace that emotion and feed off of it,” says Seals head coach and general manager Patrick Merrill. “It’s a special place to play. Our fans are so loyal and it’s been too long since we’ve been able to put on a show in front of them. I know the boys are going to be ready to do that, and it will be an emotional night, and we have to channel that emotion into positive results on the floor.”
When the season shut down more than 20 months ago, the Seals were one of the hottest teams in the NLL. Winners of five out of six games, they were among the favorites to win the whole thing despite a slow start that they’re hoping to avoid this time around.
“Last time around we had some injuries to start the year and for the most part we’re really healthy going into game one,” says Merrill. “It’s gonna be tight this year. There are a lot of good teams, especially in our conference, so we’re gonna have to have a good start and we intend to have a good start.”
The Seals took off when their best offensive players returned. Austin Staats, the 2019 NLL Rookie of the Year, got back from a torn ACL and scored 26 points in just five games. Casey Jackson, their leading scorer in 2019, also recovered from an injury and scored 32 points in seven games.
They’re both healthy … and there’s the addition of 2019 National Lacrosse League MVP Dane Dobbie, one of the most prolific scorers in league history. Dobbie in one of just eight men to record at least 115 points in a single season.
So, San Diego has a chance to be the most prolific scoring team in the league this year, and if there’s one thing fans like to see, it’s a lot of goals being scored. And, this year there's a brand new VIP way for fans to see those goal. Read about that here.