By Rick Sayers
How much money would you take to spend 60 minutes in front of a net while five other guys took turns firing a hard rubber ball at speeds up to 120 miles an hour at you?
A lot of money, you’ would probably say. Well, that’s just one of the things that makes Merv Marshall unique. He not! only does it, but enjoys it. The goalie for the Rochester Griffins, Marshall has to be one of the most pleasant surprises in the new National Lacrosse League.
A guy who didn’t even play lacrosse last year because his hometown team, Oshawa, couldn’t round up enough players, Marshall has suddenly emerged as possibly the best goalie in the NLL. It’s Marshall’s big saves and shutout strings as long as 25 minutes that have kept the Griffins near the top. “I didn’t even know if I could crack the lineup,” admits Marshall. “They (Griffins) had drafted Larry . Smeltzer and I knew he was better than me. And after missing a year I knew it had to hurt me.”
Marshall’s fears were shortlived. Smeltzer, the Mo. -i goalie draft pick, : came to camp over- weight, leaving the door open for Marvelous Merv. He’s been No. 1 ever since. “It’s obvious he’s a better goaltender than I ever thought he was,” says Griffins general manager and coach Morley Kells. “I played against him in juniors and he won all the time, but everyone credited the guys in front of him for doing the job. Maybe it was him. “
Kells wanted Marshall because of his throwing. The way he’s going now he could wind up as one of the top scorers in the league, on his long bomb passes alone. He had 29 assists in the first 19 games. “I’ve never seen a goaltender arrive at where the guy is going to shoot like he does,” says Kelle. “He’s been just great. Right now I’d have to rank that (Wayne) Platt of Philly and Merv one-two in the league. “
Marshall is much more modest about his success. But then again winning isn’t all new for Merv, who began playing lacrosse at nine years old in From 1963 to 1968 he played on six Canada Junior A championship teams and was the most valuable player twice. In 1969 he moved to Senior Division and was on the Mann Cup title team.
Marshall, who is 27 years old, took the summer off from his electrician job to concentrate on lacrosse. “It looks like a success he says. already,” “There’s got to be something in the future with Philadelphia averaging about 9,000, Maryland 8,000 and other big cities asking for franchises.”
Marshall, who preferred lacrosse over hockey, feels he could play another 10 years. Which is remarkable when you consider the torture a goalie goes through. “A lacrosse goalie could be described as a (sitting) duck,” says Kells. “He’s just out there for everyone to shoot on. He either has to stop it or get burned.” Marshall doesn’t worry about the danger. “It looks a lot worse than it is sometimes,” he says “I think the thing says. stopping injuries is that we have enough protection, even more than a hockey goalie. ” What Marshall calls protection is a wire mesh mask, a chest protector, shoulder pads, shin pads and protective pants. It still doesn’t sound like enough for me.