As the Colorado Mammoth and teams around the National Lacrosse League (NLL) continue to navigate the offseason waters of expansion draft, entry draft and free agent action, we’re taking a look at some of the most impactful players from the Mammoth’s 2022 NLL Championship run.
Finishing its regular season with a 10-8 record and ranked third in the NLL’s West Conference, the squad made its historic run behind the efforts of one of the franchise’s most memorable and comprised squads in NLL history.
If they say lightning never strikes twice, then we’re glad our longtime transition leader finally delivered a championship! Originally drafted by Colorado in the fifth round (38th overall) in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, Cupido has seen a plethora of versions of the Mammoth: dating back to the days of playing alongside 2012 MVP John Grant Jr., witnessing Adam Jones dominate the NLL, seeing the squad transform into a defensive-first approach in complementing the All-Pro Dillon Ward and now, ushering his organization into NLL Championship territory during the 2021-22 campaign.
After being left off of the 2021 NLL Expansion Draft’s Protected Player List when Panther City Lacrosse Club created its inaugural roster, Mammoth fans may have thought Cupido’s days of rocking burgundy and black were over. Thankfully for the citizens of the Loud House, the Texas-based group had other plans, which included allowing the veteran to stay with his longtime group. (Let’s be real, we wouldn’t have let Hammer have our guy even if they picked him!)
Entering training camp with an extra bit of pep in his step coming off the shortened 2019-20 season and as a recently-christened father, Cupido had several reasons to be buzzing around the group’s reuniting at Foothills Fieldhouse in early November. A verbal leader in the locker room and essentially the team’s fourth coach, the experienced defenseman was often in the back-end planning mix with coaches Pat Coyle and Andrew McBride early in camp. Alongside captain Robert Hope, that defensive unit moves, speaks, breathes as that duo does. As much as “Lightning” loves streaking down field as an offensive threat, his dedication has always started and ended on the defensive end.
Similar in approach, Cupido was never afraid to pull a teammate aside, rookie or veteran, to discuss a play, but reflective of his personality, it typically involved a spot-on chirp, (usually) playful in nature. Never solely aimed at players either: coaches, trainers, staff and even fans were often subjected to having some fun with the veteran, as the former CFL player and big-time wrestling fan always had the energy to chop it up about something. Not to be confused with unwanted goofiness, Joey always had something productive or helpful to contribute, and when not, it was at least always entertaining.
The lowest common denominator among guys on this team is that they enjoyed a good time, enjoyed bonding as a team and enjoyed learning through each other’s experiences and play styles. While Cupido may not have a decade left of playing time in the NLL left, lessons, jokes and fun times revolving around the defenseman will always be carried forward by Mammoth personnel and players throughout the league.
But, let’s not write him off just yet, as the defenseman provided spark after spark for Colorado’s resilient championship squad. Whether it was executing a slide, blocking a shot, creating for teammates in the transition game or taking the rock himself, Cupido knew when it was time to work and when it was best to let the young guns use their legs. Regardless, the veteran’s presence was felt on both ends of the floor all season.
Despite missing a few of the regular season’s early matchups, Cupido chipped in 10 points (6g, 4a), 84 loose balls, 21 caused turnovers and four penalty minutes in 14 appearances. The defenseman recorded his season-best 11 loose balls in consecutive contests, Feb. 5 against the Calgary Roughnecks and Feb. 20 against the Saskatchewan Rush. Registering goals in four of the team’s last six regular season games, Cupido warmed up on the offensive end as the season progressed.
“Transitioning” the offensive swagger into the postseason, Cupido added seven points (4g, 3a) during Colorado’s championship run, logging two points (1g, 1a) in the Mammoth’s quarterfinal victory over the Calgary Roughnecks and chipping in a goal in all three West Division Finals matchups against the San Diego Seals. The veteran ended the season by logging an assist in both of Colorado’s NLL Finals wins over the Buffalo Bandits, racking up 21 loose balls in the series as well.
His four postseason goals represented the most in his playoff career, while the veteran continues to lead the franchise in regular season caused turnovers (200) and loose balls (853 – tied with Hope). His 147 games played with the Mammoth also rank second-most in the organization’s history, a testament to the defenseman’s dedication to Colorado and its energetic fanbase.
If there was a member of the team who truly saw this organization come full circle and transform itself into a championship contender, this was the guy. Yet, as excited and thankful for capturing the ever-elusive trophy one could be, it’s always the next step for Cupido, who’s already preparing for the upcoming 2022-23 season. As Colorado fans know, storms come and go over the years, but Lightning will always strike in the Loud House. As far as coming in and making a storm right off the bat goes, Mammoth forward Zed Williams made a statement this season and is next up on our 2022 NLL Championship Series Review!