Wings hope Ben McIntosh’s winning pedigree is the missing ingredient to make them a title contender
A three-time NLL champion, MacIntosh, returns to Philly, where he played at Drexel from 2011-14.
Despite being 2½ years younger, McIntosh, 30, has three National Lacrosse League championships under his belt while Crowley, 33, has yet to win one. But now that McIntosh is joining the Wings, Crowley is ready for that to change.
“Hopefully, we’re going to add to his resume and my resume this season,” Crowley said. “I’m hoping to have a ring on my finger by the end of the year.”
When the news broke that the Wings had obtained McIntosh from the Saskatchewan Rush in the middle of the 2020 season, the team was “jacked up,” according to Crowley. The players talked about McIntosh’s championship pedigree, captain Kiel Matisz said, as well as his high character, leadership, lacrosse IQ and elite skill.
“He might be the best [player in the NLL],” Matisz said. “Which is probably an aggressive statement, but I think everyone would agree he’s a top-five player, and a lot of people would probably say he might actually be the best player.”
“He could maybe get us over the hump from contender to definitely championship team, so I was super excited, and I know our teammates were, too,” Matisz added.
McIntosh’s career started in Western Canada, where box lacrosse is second only to hockey. He grew up outside of Vancouver, 15 minutes from Crowley. Since Crowley was older, they didn’t compete against each other, but Crowley was aware that there was a kid with lots of potential coming up behind him.
Their paths diverged briefly when McIntosh went to prep school in Ohio. However, McIntosh decided to attend Drexel at about the same time the Wings drafted Crowley as their No. 1 pick. Back in close proximity, the two got to know each other, so Crowley was well-aware of McIntosh’s rise through the college ranks.
During his four years at Drexel, McIntosh spent his time falling in love with the city while twice earning All-American honors and leading the Dragons to an NCCA quarterfinal.
“The city caught my eye, the people,” McIntosh said. “I really liked just how big of a sports town it was. It was really intriguing to me.”
Three years after the Wings selected Crowley at No. 1, the Edmonton Rush selected McIntosh with the No. 1 overall pick. In 2015, McIntosh was named the NLL rookie of the year while helping his team to the first of his three championships.
Crowley and Matisz quickly became familiar with him as an opponent.
“Some of the goals he scores, it’s like, Oh my God, how do you do that?” Matisz said.
In 2018, Crowley had his first taste of what McIntosh is like as a teammate when they played on the silver medal-winning Team Canada squad at the World Lacrosse Championship.
“It’s cool to play with him because you get to see why he’s as good as he is and has done so many amazing things in the sport,” Crowley said.
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McIntosh has strong stick skills, a powerful outside shot, and is widely considered the best off-ball offensive player in the league. “I kind of bang around the middle of the floor and bug defenders and get my other guys open,” he said.
Matisz is looking forward to seeing how McIntosh creates opportunities for Crowley, who has been thinking about the reverse — how he can get McIntosh open to “do his thing.”
The team has had a long time to imagine scenarios. Shortly after McIntosh was traded to Philadelphia, COVID-19 shut down the NLL season, starting the longest break McIntosh has ever experienced away from the game. For well over a year, he’s had to try to get to know his teammates through group chats and Zoom.
That hasn’t stopped him from making an impact, though. He’s led film sessions, impressing Matisz with his insight. The team is now filled with experience and talent, but veterans Matisz and Crowley said McIntosh is one of the leading voices in the room.
“That’s saying a lot for a guy who hadn’t met anyone or played a game for the team,” Crowley said.
The Wings open the NLL season Saturday at 7 p.m. when they host Panther City of Fort Worth, Texas, at the Wells Fargo Center.