by John Smallwood, Daily News Sports Writer
Given an opportunity to acquire Paul and Gary Gait, Mike French didn’t take long to make the decision.
So, in a 1992 Major Indoor Lacrosse League transaction on the level of the Phillies trading five players to Cleveland for Von Hayes, the Philadelphia Wings surrendered their right to take part in the 1993 draft in exchange for signing the Gait twins, the league’s marquee players.
“There was absolutely no hesitation,” said French, who serves a dual role as the Wings’ general manager and head coach. “Those guys are the premier players in this league. I would have given up whatever I had to to get them here. I knew right away we had the better of the deal. Now everyone else does.”
Last season, the Gaits finished first and second on the team in points and led the Wings to the championship game.
Last night, they got the 1994 season off to an electrifying start by combining for 10 goals and seven assists as the Wings ripped the New York Saints, 20-7, in front of 13,196 fans at the Spectrum.
The Gaits are indoor lacrosse’s ultimate showmen.
Gary, who had four goals and four assists, scored 11 seconds into the game, and Paul – the MILL’s all-time leading scorer – had four of his game-high six goals as the Wings led, 14-7, at the half.
“It’s nice to have people to show up for your games,” said Gary, who coaches the women’s lacrosse team at the University of Maryland. “They’re loud and into the game and make you want to put on a good show . . . Wings fans are a little crazy and wild, and they make the game exciting for us.”
Goalie Dallas Eliuk’s 26 saves snuffed any hopes of a New York comeback.
“Our No. 1 goal was to play well on both ends,” said Wings assistant Tony Resch. “We asked everyone to pay attention to defense. To hold a good team like New York to under 10 goals is outstanding.”
Philadelphia has added more versatility to its attack this year by playing the Gaits on separate lines. With New York unable to stack the deck against just one line, 10 different Wings scored.
“That’s why we did it,” said Paul, who was the 1993 MILL Most Valuable Player. “Although teams weren’t real successful doing it last year, they keyed their defense to stopping our first line. Also, if it’s not working during a game, it would be very easy for us to go back and play together. We’ve been playing together our whole lives, so it’s natural.,”
Natives of Victoria, British Columbia, the Gaits burst onto the United States lacrosse scene by leading Syracuse to NCAA championships in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
They played two MILL seasons in Detroit, but when they became sales representatives in Baltimore they were removed from the Turbos’ roster and placed back in the territorial entry draft.
The Baltimore Thunder selected Paul with the first pick, and the Wings took Gary second. When the brothers asked if they could play together, the league agreed and worked out the deal to send them to Philadelphia.
Although the MILL still is playing just an eight-game regular season, a new television contract with ESPN2 is a positive step toward elevating the sport.
“Right now, I really don’t see the growth in lacrosse, and that’s due to the fact that the league is not expanding,” Paul Gait said. “At one time, we played a 10-game regular season; now we’re playing eight.
“We need the owners and national sponsors to come together and add some teams and games to the schedule. Become a real sport. Right now we’re not a real sport. We’re semipro. The TV contract is a big deal. I think each year ESPN will be willing to do a little more for the league. Hopefully, ESPN will get on the owners and put some pressure on them to expand. They’re probably going to see that the game is a great television sport. If ESPN likes it, they’re going to push for new teams and more games.”
(Philadelphia Daily News, January 24, 1994)