It wasn't just the Gait twins who did in the Thunder. It was all those other Canadians, too.
The Detroit Turbos, with 15 Canadians on their roster, defeated the Thunder, 14-12, for the Major Indoor Lacrosse League championship Saturday before 10,814 at the Baltimore Arena.
In Canada, youngsters are introduced to indoor lacrosse -- also known as box lacrosse -- at an early age. No one was more conscious of the advantage that gave the Turbos than Baltimore goalie Jeff Gombar, a native of British Columbia and the Thunder's only Canadian.
"Those guys have been playing box lacrosse since they were 5 years old," said Gombar, who made 22 saves. "The Turbos are like a senior 'A' team back home.
"You can't play field lacrosse in box. It's not just stick checking and poking. You've got heavy cross-checking and heavy slashing -- that's box."
Gary and Paul Gait and Pete Parke, Canadians all, each scored three goals for the Turbos. Another Canadian, Ted Sawicki, was brilliant in the goal, making 42 saves.
And the game's leading scorer with four goals, Brian Lemon, although from Michigan, played at Brock University in Ontario.
"When you try to key on a couple guys, like the Gaits, most of the time someone else rises to the occasion," Gombar said. "That was Lemon in this case."
Gary Gait gave a hint of what was to come when he scored the game's first goal on a behind-the-back shot. The Turbos built their lead to 13-5 in the third quarter, only to have the Thunder cut it to 14-11 by scoring six unanswered goals in the fourth. Rick Sowell led the Thunder with three.
The Thunder, 0-3 against Detroit this year, finished with a 6-5 record in the six-team MILL. The Turbos, led by the Gaits, the former Syracuse stars, wound up 9-2, losing only to the New York Saints.
What's next for the MILL? After all-star games April 20 in Philadelphia and May 4 in New York, league president Chris Fritz and vice president Russ Cline will plan for expansion.
"If the economy takes a turn for the better, we might add a team next year," Cline said. "The door isn't closed on '92. Buffalo, Toronto, Syracuse, New Haven and Charlotte (N.C.) have expressed interest."
The future of the Pittsburgh Bulls is uncertain. Since there are no home-bred players in the Pittsburgh area, both teams had to be flown in for games, an expense the league found burdensome.
By 1998, the MILL would like to have at least 14 teams by reaching to the West Coast and Canada.
"We don't want to move too fast or be greedy," Fritz said. "We have a five-year plan calling for two more teams each year, although we may not start it next year."