Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
Lacrosse to Ryan Benesch is a lot like air to the rest of us. He doesn't remember when he took his first breath, or picked up a stick for the first time.
Both have simply always been part of his life.
So it's a good thing he was born in Kitchener, Ontario, because that's a place where lacrosse is taught, played and generally worshipped.
He grew up through the famed Junior and Senior systems of Kitchener-Waterloo and into an elite National Lacrosse League scorer.
He got his NLL start as Rookie of the Year with Toronto in 2007 and has since played for Minnesota, Buffalo, Edmonton and this year is his first with the Colorado Mammoth. The left-handed forward is closing in on 400 career goals and 1,000 career points, and took some time recently to catch up for a few questions about lacrosse and, of course, hockey.
|So you don't really have any recollection of your start with lacrosse?|
Not really. My dad put a stick in my hands. I had tried lots of sports but I didn't really like any of them. But I had played hockey and there are a lot of similarities. So in the summer, I had a stick in my hand every day.
|So you stuck with it and moved on to junior lacrosse in K-W?|
Yeah, it was something to do and I happened to be decent at it. So it was hockey and lacrosse. Growing in K-W, there are plenty of lacrosse role models.
|Who were some of yours?|
Colin Doyle, definitely. I went to a lot of Braves games and got to watch him do his thing. Also, Aaron Wilson. He was one of the best off-ball players in lacrosse. I learned a lot from him.
|Off-ball work is one of the most underrated parts of the game. What's it all about?|
It's about getting teammates open and still trying to get yourself open. Aaron was awesome at that and for some reason, he was always open and always found a way. He had his little tricks that he showed me.
|When did you first realize a pro career might be in the future for you?|
|My second or third year of junior. That's when I thought about which way I wanted to go. I thought about trying hockey overseas but deep down, I knew lacrosse was the sport for me. I had a little more skill in lacrosse and I had some coaches like Phil Wetherup, Corey Hallman and Colin Doyle who gave me good advice to get me ready for the NLL.
|And now you have 12 years in the NLL.|
You couldn't have told me years ago I'd have been playing this long. I've found good friends and been on good teams. I've had an amazing experience so far.
|So who's going to win the Stanley Cup?|
|Who do you want to win the Cup?|
|The Leafs. Or Nasvhille. It's pretty incredible what they have going on there.
|Toughest goalie you ever faced?|
| Pat O'Toole. That guy had my number and I could never figure him out.
| Kyle Rubisch. He's so good. Sound positioning, and quick.
|Best trash talker?|
|Jimmy Quinlan. Or Ian Llord.
|Ian Llord? He's pretty quiet, isn't he?|
|Off the floor. But on the floor, he's not. There are some good talkers out there, though.
|Best road arena to play in today?|
|Saskatchewan. Boy, they hit a gold mine with that place.
|Best road restaurant?|
|Before I came to Colorado, it was Maggiano's. Italian food. You'd be rolling yourself out of there after meals.
Bob Chavez has been covering the NLL since 1995 and has been a writer/editor for ILIndoor.com since its inception in 2008. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York with his wife and 2 children.