It was the evening before their first game of their first season back in Philadelphia, and Wings players were meeting. The team had held training camp the previous two weekends, but this was the first time all the players had been together in the same room.
That, more than anything else, might explain the Wings' slow start on Saturday in a 17-15 loss to the Buffalo Bandits in their National Lacrosse League opener.
“... Last night, I was introducing myself to some of the guys,” said Jordan Hall, a Wings forward who did not attend training camp. “For the first time, we had a guy get off the plane from Finland on the team. ... We didn’t have our O [offensive] coach. We didn’t have our D [defensive] coach. We just had Paulie [head coach Paul Day] running around with a clipboard trying to coach us up.
“You never want to lose, but I thought we got better throughout the game. So that was at least good to build on for our next game against Rochester.”
With all that going on, the Wings still found themselves in a ping-pong battle with the Bandits, except for the first six minutes of the game. Day blamed the slow start on a series of reasons: the longer-than-usual player introductions, the raising of the old Wings jerseys and championship banners, and a lack of familiarity with one another.
The Wings trailed Buffalo, 3-0, after the first 5 minutes, 44 seconds.
“Most guys aren’t used to standing out there 10 minutes getting ready for the game,” Day said. “The banners going up and all the old guys I used to play against and coach against. Being down 3-0 with all these people back here is well worth it. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse.”
By the end of the first period, the Wings got it going and trailed only 5-4 entering the second quarter. As the game progressed, the Wings hustled and showed a quick transitional game, pleasing Day.
“They’re physical as well as being fast and they’re tenacious,” said Day. “You know what, we really like the group back there and were only going to improve.”
Day wants to make sure the accomplishments of the former Wings players are remembered. The team has Tom Marechek’s helmet from the Wings' back-to-back championship seasons in 1989 and 1990. After each game, the coaching staff will give the helmet to the player of the game.
Saturday, Trevor Baptiste, transition, received the helmet after chipping his right front tooth during the second quarter.
“He did a great job on the faceoffs,” Day said. “Was bleeding. There is nothing like that in box lacrosse. It’s fantastic.”