When you’re an expansion team, in any sport, an organization goes through a number of firsts like first player taken in the expansion draft, first player taken in the college draft, announcing a schedule for the first time, and even the first hires in your front office. As the New York Riptide get ready for their inaugural National Lacrosse League season, they’re about to embark on another first…the first training camp in franchise history.
For the Riptide, training camp begins on Saturday with an open practice from 4-6pm at NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It’s the start of the process as 40 players battle for spots on the 25-man opening night roster when the Riptide travel north to Canada to meet the Halifax Thunderbirds in the season opener on December 7th.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “The ownership group has done an amazing job drafting us and putting all the right pieces of the puzzle together and another piece of the puzzle is Saturday to get in the Coliseum with our new floor, getting our fans in there, and our players really passionate about meeting the fans.”
There are a number of local players on the Riptide roster including forward Kieiran McArdle, a Ronkonkoma native, who was selected in the 5th round of the NLL Expansion Draft. In 17 games with the Toronto Rock last season, the former St. John’s star racked up a career high 40 points.
For McArdle, stepping onto the Coliseum field on Saturday and throughout the season is going to bring back some memories. He’s excited to be part of the return of box lacrosse to Long Island, especially since he grew up going to New York Saints games and playing with his youth teams on the Coliseum field.
“I was playing at halftime,” said McArdle. “It’s going to be really cool to be playing at the professional level in that same arena. That’s going to be a really awesome experience. Once we step out there for the first time in front of our fans out here on Long Island and we grow that fan base and they become really passionate about the Riptide, it’s going to be really cool to be a part of that.”
Over three seasons with Toronto, McArdle totaled 47 goals and 68 assists for 115 points in 47 games. Now he’s ready to help launch the Riptide with lots of familiar faces in the stands.
“I’m really excited,” said McArdle. “We have a great coaching staff and great leadership. Being able to play in front family, friends and old coaches is going to be a really cool experience. I’m really excited to get the season going.”
After the open practice at the Coliseum on Saturday, the Riptide will head up to Buffalo to continue training camp next Friday November 8th through Sunday November 10th. The Riptide will play a scrimmage against the NLL’s other expansion team, the Rochester Nighthawks and that will give the staff an early opportunity to see where the team is in its development.
“We don’t have to wait long,” said Thorpe. “We can certainly get a measuring stick of where we are with the other expansion team.”
Training camp will then continue November 15th through the 17th in New Jersey when the Riptide battles their division rivals the Philadelphia Wings and the New England Black Wolves.
This Saturday, Riptide fans will get their first look at rookie forward Tyson Gibson, the first overall selection in the NLL Entry Draft. Gibson was the Northeast Conference player of the year in 2019 and guided Robert Morris to back to back NCAA Tournament appearances during his final two collegiate seasons. He also spent the last two summers playing box with the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association.
And now Gibson embarks on his NLL career and is ready for his first taste of NYCB Live, a building rich with indoor lacrosse history.
“Coach Thorpe was kind of giving us the logistics of the (Coliseum),” said Gibson. “I’ve never been there personally but it looks awesome and there’s a lot of history within that (arena). I’m sure it’s going to be a surreal feeling walking through those doors and seeing the floor.”
Other rookies to keep an eye on during training camp include the Riptide’s second first round pick Tyson Bomberry, a defenseman from Syracuse University selected 10th overall, 2nd round pick Jake Fox, a forward from Johns Hopkins, and third round selections John Wagner, a forward from Marquette and Travis Longboat, a forward from Six Nations in Canada.
The Riptide’s training camp roster features a combination of youth and experience.
“We feel it’s a good mix, not just short term but also for long term,” said Thorpe. “Leadership is going to be huge and that’s why we got some of the players that we got. Some of the younger guys and some of the free agents just need an opportunity to build and hopefully with the tutelage of those leaders and our coaches, we’ll be able to develop these guys.”
Among the veteran players taken in the expansion draft that will compete for roster spots are former Georgia Swarm defenseman John Ranagan, former San Diego Seals forward Connor Kelly, and former New England Black Wolves goalie Alex Buque. The Riptide also swung a big off-season trade acquiring defenseman Ryan Fournier and forward Myles Jones from New England.
The goal is to put a team on the field that can be competitive and win right away so the Riptide built their roster with experienced players and young players who can grow with the franchise. The rookies and other young players will certainly have an opportunity to pick the brains of the key veterans on the team.
“Year one is definitely going to be a year where I kind of find myself as a player at this level and learn as much as I can to help us win, not only this year but for the future,” said Gibson.
While the general rule of thumb is that expansion teams need some time before they can win, there are exceptions to the rule. You only have to look as far as the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights who went to the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final in their expansion season.
“We feel like we’re putting the pieces to the puzzle together,” said Thorpe. “I think the nucleus of what we have going is going to give us the best opportunity to be successful in our first year as an expansion team.”
The Riptide will begin the 2019-20 season with three road games before the first home game in franchise history on Saturday December 28th at 730pm against the Saskatchewan Rush at the Coliseum.
As part of a season filled with franchise firsts, the Riptide are gearing up for the start of the training camp. More firsts will follow including the first of hopefully many wins, the first road game, the first home game, and the first goal scored. But right now, the work beings with the start of camp and the Riptide will get things going Saturday on their home field at the Coliseum with their home fans getting a taste of what’s to come in December.