If you were a Wings fan in the past, expect the same environment at the Wells Fargo Center with this new Wings team.
Since the start of practices, head coach Paul Day has emphasized the history of the old Wings organization in Philadelphia. Whether it’s in passing, a meeting, or at a weekly practice, Day has a way to turn the conversation into a learning experience for players. He’s has players like Matt Rambo, who grew up attending Wings games, to stress the personal ties the team had to its fans.
“We’re going to make sure this week before our home opener, when we practice to get together with some of the alumni to really express that to our players about the success of the past,” said Day about what he has impressed on his team leading up to the season opener against the Buffalo Bandits (Saturday, 1 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center). “What we want to make this franchise moving forward, is as good as it was and better.”
Its long, storied history of success and the fact that it was a flagship franchise of the National Lacrosse League is something he wants to bring back to the city.
Day is pretty happy with how the roster turned out. The Wings had their expansion draft over the summer followed by the college entry draft, which allowed them to add high volume scoring. A combination of veteran leadership and a young, fast, aggressive team is what fans can expect.
“We’ve built a really good group of athletes with great character and players that want to come to the rink every day and play with passion and we’ve got an offense that’s led by some guys that can score goals and are proven in the NLL and they’re great leaders," said Day, whose roster is one of the youngest in the league with an average age of 24.
Training camp was the foundation to developing the team’s unity since they are lacking in the team experience category. Day learned a lot about his team in their two exhibition games against the Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks.
“We’re lucky enough to play two exhibition games, which really helped,” said Day. “Chemistry is the biggest thing for an expansion team.”
Day mentioned when drafting he tried to get guys who have played together, either on other professional lacrosse leagues such as Major League Lacrosse (the outdoor league) or in Canada. Offensive players like Kiel Matisz and Jordan Hall, who will be returning to the Wings, won championship together for the NLL’s Georgia Swarm in 2017.
The NLL’s new collective bargaining agreement, signed last month, limits the team to one practice per week. This is especially hindering to a team like the Wings who are new and young, but Day is optimistic that the time during training camp was enough to get his team ready for the season.
“We would have loved to have another two of three weeks but everybody was in the same situation,” said Day. “We’ve been around long enough as a coaching staff that when we’re able to get everyone up to speed as much as possible and we’re pretty happy with the progress so far.”