Looking Back: Powell Brothers in the NLL

Pro lacrosse will be back when the 2019-2020 National Lacrosse League season begins on November 29 as the Saskatchewan Rush take on the Colorado Mammoth in Denver.

As we wait for start of what should be the most exciting NLL season yet, we wanted to take a look back to when Powell Lacrosse’s very own Casey and Ryan Powell were a part of the small group of Americans dominating in the NLL.

Americans have been an important part of the NLL since its first season in 1987 as NLL GMs and coaches were willing to take chances on players who had never played box lacrosse. In a league that has always been made up of mostly Canadian and Iroquois players who grew up playing box, a strong core of American players toughed it out were able to find success.

Field lacrosse and box lacrosse are essentially two different sports with so many contrasts between them. Playing in a much smaller area while setting picks, throwing crosschecks, battling for loose balls, and figuring out how to score on really good box goalies takes many Americans years to learn and master.

The NLL is the fastest, most physical, and technically skilled level of lacrosse. There is little room for error as one mistake could send the other team on a breakaway in an instant.

Casey and Ryan had an advantage thanks to their backyard games where playing in close quarters and being creative were a necessity. They brought that style of play to Syracuse and it carried over immediately to the box game. Thanks to their stick skills, competitiveness, and love for the game both Casey and Ryan were able to adapt and become two of the best players in the history of the NLL.

Casey was drafted in 1998 and went on to play 12 seasons in the NLL with the Rochester Knighthawks, Anaheim Storm, New York Titans, Orlando Titans, Boston Blazers, and Colorado Mammoth. Not only did Casey learn the box game, he excelled at it. With a total of 739 Points in his career, Casey has the most points ever scored by an American player in the league. In 2010, Casey was on another level and was the first American player to be named NLL MVP.

Ryan was drafted in 2000 and played 10 seasons with the Buffalo Bandits, Anaheim Storm, Portland Lumberjax, Edmonton Rush, and Boston Blazers. Ryan racked up 426 Points in his career with his biggest impact being with the Portland Lumberjax. Living out in Oregon, Ryan helped grow the lacrosse community in the Pacific Northwest with his Rhino Lacrosse program and lead the Lumberjax to some successful seasons including a run to the 2008 Championship game. He was definitely in the conversation for MVP during his best seasons.

Casey and Ryan got to play together in Anaheim and Boston where they made a deadly combo on the right side of the floor. Mikey Powell never played in the NLL, but did make his way to the broadcast booth for some games on the CBS Sports Network. If Mikey would have given the box game a shot there is no doubt he would have been a menace for opposing defenses.

Casey and Ryan are just two of the hundreds of American players to pave the way for the next wave of Americans to leave their mark in the NLL.

Players like Tom Schreiber, Brett Manney, Joe Resitarits, Kieran McArdle, Joel White, Tim Edwards, John Ranagan, Blaze Riordan, Connor Fields, Trevor Baptiste, Matt Rambo, and a few dozen others are currently making big impacts in the NLL. More Americans are playing box lacrosse every year and it won’t be long until the NLL sees Americans flood the league like they have in the NHL.

Who will be the next American to claim MVP honors?

Tom Schreiber and Joe Resitarits have come the closest most recently, but it may take awhile for another American player to match Casey’s amazing 2010 season. So when you tune into an NLL game in a few weeks just remember that it wasn’t too long ago that the Powell Brothers were two of the best to suit up and battle in arenas all over North America.

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