Monday, May 16, 2011


Fourteen thousand, four hundred and eighty-eight came to bear witness. It was an event that held drama and significance far beyond the scope of a single game. There were many subtexts to the event, but, for most, it would be the chance to see a favourite son play his last game, with the highest stakes possible.

What happened on Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre is the stuff of Hollywood movies. Combine such films as "Rocky" with "The Natural", throw in a little of the Knute Rockne legend, and you come close to the National Lacrosse League Champions Cup game between the Toronto Rock and the Washington Stealth. Two excellent, well-coached teams clash: a repeat of last year's final: the Rock hoping to reverse last year's result on home floor: unfinished business. But the biggest chapter in the story was the final game of the great veteran goalie, Bob Watson.

Watson has excelled at his craft for fifteen years at the professional level. He has been named Goalie of the Year twice and earned playoff MVP honours, and all-star appearances. But, for an athlete, the awful truth began to assert itself with each accomplishment. Time, the greatest opponent, was stalking, and would be sure to exact its toll at some point.

Yet it can be argued that Watson somehow cheated time of its reward. He became arguably a better goalie each passing year. And the proof came in the Championship Game.

Watson faced the Washington Stealth's onslaught in the second half as though he was a one-man stone wall. The Stealth increased their shots on goal totals in each of the four quarters of the game, which meant that the seemingly safe lead the Rock had built in the first half was under severe attack. The Rock's offence, meanwhile, had gone cold, and their shot totals began to diminish: also, the quality of the Rock's offensive thrusts grew less and less.

Washington began to creep closer. But Watson continued to make saves. It became apparent that the championship was his to lose. Two Stealth goals were of the "five hole" variety and the crowd wondered if Watson would unravel. But, instead, he dug in. Save after save, some of the near miraculous variety, stymied the Stealth attack. Instead of losing the championship, Watson held firm and allowed his team to claim victory.

If it is possible to be born for a single act of greatness, if it is somehow in the plan to save one's finest act in one's final act, then Bob Watson achieved the most rare of accomplishments. He grew younger as his final year unfolded. Such glory is the stuff of legends.

Long live the legend of Bob Watson.