Rob Marshall slings his equipment bag into the back of his pickup truck. School and work are behind him. Marshall then picks up his good friend and teammate Kasey Beirnes.
After a quick stop at a local Tim Hortons, the pair is back on the road to the Air Canada Centre, in Toronto.
“If one of us has a long day at work we can catch a catnap on the way down,” Marshall said.
At the nearby Joe Badalis, Marshall orders his pre-game meal: chicken Parmesan with spaghetti.
Then, after a quick nap back at their hotel, it’s game time. For the two veterans, it’s a routine that has existed for about seven years, and one that Marshall says is a great experience, as a professional player for the Toronto Rock Lacrosse team.
Marshall, 30, has played for the Rock throughout his nine-year career. He joined the Rock in 2006 straight out of high school. He is now one of the most trusted defenders on the Rock roster. When he first became a professional, Marshall was working in construction as well as playing pro lacrosse.
“People like to think of lacrosse as a blue-collar sport. Every guy has a second job here. A lot of teachers, firefighters and policemen,” Marshall said. “At times it’s tough to handle the two jobs, but to make lacrosse a full time gig is tough.”
A study by the Calgary Journal in 2013 revealed that the average salary for National Lacrosse League players is about $19,700 per season. As a result, the majority of players work at second jobs.
According to lacrosse writer and reporter Stephen Stamp, players don’t play for the income.
“It may sound cliché, but it really is about love for the game,” he said. “The majority of players in the NLL have been playing since they were about four.”
Stamp also expressed how everyday life for Lacrosse players differs from that of other athletes.
“When you play in the NLL, you need to do your day job, possibly rearrange shifts for having to leave for games and whatever else you need to do to prepare for playing that week,” Stamp said. “There aren’t many players who can survive without a very supportive family.”
Jim Veltman knows about the trials of playing professional lacrosse. He and Marshall and Beirnes were teammates.
Throughout his 16-year career, Veltman worked as a teacher. He also coached the school lacrosse team. Though the workload was difficult, Veltman still found a way to overcome the challenges.
“At the start of my career, I was barely managing full-time work and the travel it took to play,” Veltman said. “By the end of my career, I switched to part-time work to alleviate the amount of games and travel I was doing. I made less money, but I spent more time with my family.”
Veltman played his last season in 2008, the same season that Beirnes joined the Rock. Beirnes experienced a different kind of stress early in his career. Before coming to the Rock, he had stops in Columbus, Arizona and Minnesota.
Beirnes had to fly out every weekend to play games with his team. Some weekends, he would not be able to practise with his teammates before games.
“The whole team would arrive at different times. When we arrived, we would sometimes try to piece together a late night practice. But that didn’t always take place,” Beirnes said.
Additionally, Beirnes was worried about delays, and whether or not he would even be able to make a game if a plane was behind schedule. Beirnes considers being a member of the Rock an honour for Beirnes , but he added that it’s much easier to play at home in Toronto.
“Waking up in the morning in your own bed makes a big difference. And cruising down into Toronto and getting focused for the whole day is real nice,” he said.
In 2011, both Beirnes and Marshall won the championship with the Rock. It was the first NLL championship for both players. It was a night that both men would remember forever, and as Marshall states, all the travelling was worthwhile when he finally got to hoist the trophy.
“To win the NLL championship in Toronto is pretty amazing. To do it in front of family and friends, in front of 15,000 people screaming and shouting on the turf, confetti dropping from the ceiling,” Marshall said. “It gives me chills just sitting here talking about it. And it’s something I will never forget.”