(Photo Courtesy of Toronto Rock)
On Sunday night ESPN released the first two episodes of their highly anticipated 10-part docuseries, The Last Dance, which is centered around the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls season, which was the last of their legendary dynasty. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to.
In the wake of this docuseries being released, Lacrosse Bucket thought it would be fun to take a look at the dynasties that we have seen in pro lacrosse in each league.
Toronto Rock (1999-2005)
The reign of the Toronto Rock started in 1999, which is the same year they moved to Toronto from Hamilton and changed their name from the Ontario Raiders to the Toronto Rock. Led by legendary head coach Les Bartley from 1999-2003, the Rock won four titles (1999,2000,2002,2003) under Bartley. They won one title under Terry Sanderson (2005).
Three of the Rock’s five titles were won over the Rochester Knighthawks (1999,2000,2003). Toronto beat the Knighthawks 13-10 in 1990, 14-13 in 2000, and 8-6 in 2003. They defeated the Albany Attack 13-12 in the 2002 championship and best the Arizona Sting 19-13 in 2005.
With greats like Bob Watson, Jim Veltman, Colin Doyle, and others gracing their roster during those years, the Rock were able to consistently compete for titles during the early 2000s. They were either the champions or runner-up for six out of seven seasons. 2004 is the lone exception where they didn’t make it to the championship game.
Rochester Knighthawks (2012-2014)
In the mid 2010s, the Rochester Knighthawks dominated the NLL, becoming the first team in league history to three-peat as champions.
Coached by Mike Hasen and led by players such as Cody Jamieson, Cory Vitarelli, Dan Dawson, who was only on two of those teams, Matt Vinc, and others, the Knightahwks captured the NLL title in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Besides 2014, when they went 14-4, Rochester was never really dominant from start to finish in any season that they won a title. However, they always knew how to turn it on in the playoffs, when the stakes were highest. They beat the Edmonton Rush 9-6 in 2012 and the Washington Stealth 11-10 in 2013. 2014 was the first year the NLL introduced playoff series. Rochester bet Calgary 2-1 in the final, losing the first game 10-7, winning the second 16-10, and winning third 3-2.
Edmonton/Saskatchewan Rush (2015-2018/Present)
In the mid to late 2010s, Derek Keenan built a monster out on the prairies that is still wreaking havoc on the league today. The Rush won three titles (2015, 2016, 2018) in four years and were the runner-up in 2017. And in addition to their dominance, they might be one of the most interesting dynasties in sports due to relocating after the 2015 season.
The Rush won their first title as the Edmonton Rush in 2015, sweeping the Toronto Rock 2-0 in the finals seres. They won 15-9 in game one and 11-10 in game two. The Rush won their second title the next year in 2016 after relocating to Saskatoon, Sask. and being renamed the Saskatchewan Rush. The Rush swept Buffalo 2-0 in the finals. They lost in the finals in 2017, but bounced back in 2018 to win their third title. They defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 2-1 in the series.
With core guys like Mark Matthews, Robert Church, Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbiel, and others still in Saskatchewan and still producing at a high level, the Rush could very well end up adding a fourth title sooner rather than later.
Philadelphia Barrage (2004-2007)
From 2004, which is the year they moved to Philadelphia from Bridgeport, the Philadelphia Barrage were on top of the MLL. The Barrage won three titles (2004,2006,2007) over the course of four seasons.
The Barrage were the very first dynasty in the MLL, winning their first title just four seasons into the league’s history.
Led by a core group of Ryan Boyle, Matt Striebel, Brian Spallina, and others during those years, the Barrage were able to dominate the league year after year. They went 7-5 and beat the Boston Cannons 13-11 in the 2004 championship, which started the dynasty. In 2006, the Barrage went 10-2 and clobbered the Denver Outlaws 23-12 in the championsip game, while they went 9-3 in 2007 and beat the L.A. Riptide 16-13 in the 2007 championship.
Chesapeake Bayhawks (2010-2013)
In 2010 the Bayhawks moved from Washington, D.C. to Annapolis, Md, and became the Chesapeake Bayhawks, which started one of the best runs in league history. The Chesapeak Bayhawks dominated the early 2010s, winning three titles (2010,2012,2013) over a span of four seasons.
The Bayhawks had three different head coaches during this successful stretch. Former team owner Brendan Kelly fired John Tucker during the 2010 season after a bad start and led the team himself for the rest of 2010 and the 2011 season. Dave Cottle was promoted to head coach prior to the 2012 season.
Chesapeake beat the Long Island Lizards 13-9 in the 2010 championship game, the Denver Outlaws 16-6 in the 2012 title game, and the Charlotte Hounds 10-9 in the 2013 final.
Denver Outlaws (2014-2018/Present)
The Steinfeld Trophy headed west for the first time in 2014. And it has made a theme of doing so almost every other year since. The Denver Outlaws won the title in 2014, 2016, and 2018, and they were the runner-up in 2017 and 2019.
Denver has owned the late 2010s in the MLL and it would not be surprising to seem them continue their dominance into the 2020s, especially given how they seem to be able to get production out of a ton of guys, young and old, every year.
In 2014, Denver defeated the Rochester Rattlers 12-11 in the championship to claim their first title in franchise history. In 2016, they started slow, traded John Grant Jr. midway through the season, but still got to the championship game where they defeated the Ohio Machine 19-18. Denver beat the Dallas Rattlers 16-12 to win the title in 2018.