He’s the lone Langley player on Langley’s pro lacrosse team, and Garrett Billings is admittedly a bit frustrated.
On a warm, cloudless March 31 afternoon, Billings leaned on a pillar in front of the entrance of the Langley Events Centre, home of the Vancouver Stealth.
Dwarfed by a colossul vertical Stealth mural, the crafty playmaker – who celebrated his 30th birthday on Feb. 4 with a brief getaway to Hawaii – shared his vexation about a lower body injury that has kept him off the floor for three games (including this past Saturday’s loss to the Toronto Rock at the LEC), and his team’s struggles.
The Stealth lost their sixth straight game and fell to a National Lacrosse League worst 3-10 after dropping a 13-11 decision to the Rock.
The 13 goals they surrendered on Saturday only adds to a woeful season (especially defensively) for the Stealth, who have now surrendered 180 goals in 13 games.
Only the Georgia Swarm (183) have given up more goals among the nine NLL teams.
And the last time the Stealth tasted victory was way back on Feb. 20, when they edged the Calgary Hitmen 14-13 in overtime at the LEC.
“There hasn’t been one consistent reason why the games have gone the way they have,” Billings said.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard to put a finger on it, when you lose in different ways.”
The team’s free fall led to a head coaching change, with Jamie Batley taking over from Dan Perreault on March 15.
It didn’t stem the bleeding however, as the team has lost three times under Batley, while surrendering a whopping 54 goals during that span.
“You can’t really hold his [Batley’s] hand to the fire, too much,” Billings said last Thursday, two days before the Stealth’s crushing loss to the Rock. “He’s only had the team for two games and when you’re trying to make adjustments mid-season, it’s pretty tough. I think you’ll see a more energized team with him behind the bench and obviously, we need to pull out a win.”
Individually, it’s been another productive year for Billings, who sits fourth in team scoring with 12 goals and 37 assists in nine games.
He can’t wait to get back into a lineup that is long on talent, including offensive juggernauts Rhys Duch, Logan Schuss, and Corey Small, but short on results.
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” Billings said, regarding his time with the Stealth. “I’ve enjoyed being here but it is incredibly frustrating when you can’t see the results in the win/loss column, and not being able to play the last couple of games kinda compounds that, as well.”
Billings playing for his hometown was a long time coming – and his body of lacrosse work can best be summed up with one word: sensational.
He played for Burnaby in the BC Junior A Lacrosse League, where he won two Minto Cups (2004 and 2005) and Langley in the Western Lacrosse Association, leading the Thunder to a Mann Cup appearance in 2012.
Billings was a finalist for the NLL’s Most Valuable Player in 2012, ’13 and ’14 and was the recipient of the league’s Sportsmanship Award in 2013 and ’14. He was also named to the NLL’s first all-star team in 2012, ’13 and ’14.
A 2003 Brookswood Secondary grad, Billings played up to the midget level with the Langley Minor Lacrosse Association before heading to Surrey to play intermediate lacrosse.
Now on home soil, playing in front of friends and family, Billings is navigating the muddy waters that comes part and parcel with losing on a consistent basis.
This year presents a quandary rarely experienced in Billings’ 25-year relationship with the sport.
“This is my first experience going through a real challenge year like this, especially when you know you have the talent on the bench,” Billings said. “It is very frustrating but we just need to find the ‘W’s, it’s as simple as that.”
Once the season ends, Billings will be moving back to Toronto with his growing family that includes his wife (who is expecting) and soon-to-be one-year-old son.
But that doesn’t mean he’s leaving Langley when it comes to lacrosse – once the winter of 2017 rolls around, he’ll be entering the second season of his two-year deal with the Stealth.
That’s great news for the Stealth because Billings’ work off the floor as a team ambassador is arguably as vital as his play on the turf.
“We’re in a lot of schools and we’ve had great results this year, with a lot of kids signed up for Langley Minor [Lacrosse],” Billings said. “That’s why I enjoy working in the community so much and getting more kids signed up for lacrosse because… it’s a niche sport and everybody who gets into it ends up loving it.”