Two months ago, the National Lacrosse League announced its 2020-2021 faceoff weekend. During the first weekend of December, the 4th and 5th, an eighteen-game season will begin.
Throughout the pandemic, the NLL has thrived. They’ve had to make tough decisions to do so, but a one-team league expansion, followed by another franchise relocating, set the tone for an exciting return to play. The Philadelphia Wings welcome the Panther City Lacrosse Club while rerouting their history with the New England BlackWolves to Albany, now known as the Albany FireWolves. The Toronto Rock now plays home games in Hamilton but isn’t an entire rebrand.
During the rebrand, the FireWolves were almost the “Albany Attack,” a homage to the early 2000s NLL.
A couple of days ago, the NLL announced twenty induction nominees for the 2021 Hall of Fame. The upcoming class will be the first since the last induction class in 2016 and is the fifteenth anniversary of the 2006 class. Three former Philadelphia Wings make the list of nominees; two forwards and a defenseman.
The son of the consistently great former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker, Bill Bergey, Jake Bergey carved out a fruitful career with the Philadelphia Wings.
Bergey played ten seasons with the Wings after being drafted in 1997. Twice, he helped Philadelphia reach the top of the mountain in the NLL, winning a championship in 1998 and 2001.
His 2001 championship season ranks as one of the best in Philadelphia franchise history. He scored 86 of his 557 career points (15.4% in one season.) Bergey retired in the top 20 career scorers.
Arguably, Bergey is one of the top 25 NLL players of all time. Along with his accolades, he set the power-forward trend in the league. He was as physical as he was superior at scoring. For those unfamiliar, it’s not inaccurate to compare his offensive prowess to Casey Powell (another 2021 NLL Hall of Fame nominee.) Two NLL championships could give Bergey the edge.
Unlike Jake Bergey, Kevin Finneran was not exclusive to the Philadelphia Wings throughout his career. He played in Detroit, New England, and Toronto throughout his thirteen-year career too. In Philadelphia, he belongs on more championship rosters than Bergey. Finneran won five championships, accomplishing the feat four times with the Wings.
Finneran retired fifth all-time with 564 total points (232G, 329A.) He did everything exceptionally well on offense, succeeding because of his balanced game. An ironman, Finneran was the all-time leader in consecutive games played (139) upon retiring.
He scored more than any American before his 2003 retirement. Eight years later, Casey Powell eclipsed Finneran’s all-time point total, joining him as an elite American NLL player.
Similar to Bergey, Finneran could be considered a top 25 all-time NLL player. The Wings won six championships throughout their franchise history, featuring Finneran on four of those rosters. His fifth championship helped the Toronto Rock tie Philadelphia for the all-time lead in NLL championships. Contributing to a title at 39-years-old gives you an idea of the specimen Finneran was through his career. His case is exceptional to make the 2021 NLL Hall of Fame class.
His US Lacrosse Hall of Fame induction is almost six years old.
Currently, Brian Voelker is the head coach of the Drexel Dragons in the NCAA, recently winning the CAA Tournament in 2021. His contribution to the sport didn’t finish after his NLL career.
Voelker spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Wings, winning three championships. His fourteen playoff victories ranked fifth all-time when he retired in 1998. Jake Bergey and Kevin Finneran were on the Wings roster with Voelker during their 1998 championship season. Similar to Finneran, Voelker retired from the NLL a champion.
Against the rest of the defensive nominees, his three championships may not outbid Sandy Chapman, Glenn Clark, Pat McCready, and Steve Toll. Based on statistics, his short career works against his case for the 2021 NLL Hall of Fame class. Of the players nominated and representing Philadelphia, Voelker may not make the final cut.
There is no guarantee that all the nominees listed will make up the 2021 NLL Hall of Fame class. The new NLL Hall of Fame class will be announced next month, with a ceremony to follow this autumn. Voelker could return as a nominee if not inducted from this ballot. As the NLL evolves, Voelker makes a strong case if the Hall of Fame
includes a legacy wing. A trailblazer, Voelker won his only NLL championship in the inaugural season.