How Brian Spallina Earned His Seven Rings
By Sarah Griffin | Aug 1, 2023
The Philadelphia Barrage couldn’t stop winning between 2004 to 2007. With three championships in a four-year span, there was one song in particular Brian Spallina remembers those years by.
“We were putting together a playlist or CD or something to play in the locker room. As a joke Brian Dougherty was like, “Put ‘We Built This City’ on there. So I put it on there and you know, guys being goofs, that became our theme song. We’d go in the locker room and play that song on repeat for like, a half an hour,” he laughed.
You might remember Spallina for his gritty defense, seven championships, and yes, the penalty minutes, but for Spallina, he remembers his career by moments like that. Guys being dudes.
In sports, you often hear people say, “You hate to play against him, but love to have him on your side” and Brian Spallina is the epitome of that in pro lacrosse.
The all-time career leader in penalty minutes (221.5, to be exact) and third all-time in games played, Spallina established himself early on as a hard-nosed presence on the field not to be reckoned with.
“The minutes don’t lie, that’s that. But I also played 181 games. I’ll admit there’s some times where I crossed the line, but I really think it’s just my competitive spirit,” he remarked. “I’m sure there’s guys who hated me when I went against them, but loved me when I was with them. I’m of a ‘win at all costs’ and ‘put it all on the line for your teammates’ mentality.”
“I was definitely at the top of the food chain though, can’t deny that,” he joked.
Spallina’s competitive nature is something he developed growing up as one of five kids. Everything was a competition, even at the dinner table. That fierceness and drive to win translated perfectly to the lacrosse field.
“People ask me, ‘Do you miss playing?’ and I think that’s actually what I miss most. I miss going out and competing and the camaraderie of it.”
Over his 15-year professional career, Spallina crossed paths with many different teammates and coaches. Casey Powell, Gary Gait, Roy Colsey, Ryan Boyle, Paul Rabil, and Rob Pannell were just a few of those names. Heck, he even won his last championship in 2015 with the New York Lizards coached by his brother, Joe.
And while the championships are of course his favorite memories, with 181 games under his belt, Spallina’s had plenty of moments on the field to look back on fondly not just for the wins, but for the people that were there beside them.
“I never won many individual accolades,” he explained. “Lacrosse is a team sport and winning this award or those championships wouldn’t have been possible without the teams.”
One guy in particular stood out though as someone who really made an impact on Spallina.
“It’s hard to narrow down just one person who really influenced me in my career, but if I had to pick one person who left a lasting impression on me for more reasons than one, it would be Tony Resch for sure. He’s an amazing human being, tremendous coach, great father, great husband, and just a really great role model.”
Resch coached Spallina early on in his pro career, but his influence extended far beyond that. He and Resch still talk regularly to this day. Those values he learned as a young player from Resch and carried on throughout his career are still being taught to this day.
Today, Spallina is the director of his own youth club, Team 91 Lacrosse. His mission is to instill those values into his kids to make them not only great lacrosse players, but great humans.
He’s also a second grade teacher.
“Imagine that. The guy with the ponytail from the MLL teaching second graders,” he laughed.
While his playing days are behind him, Spallina’s impact on the sport of lacrosse and the future generations of players isn’t going anywhere. There’s a chance 10 years from now, we’ll be hearing “We Built This City” out of a PLL team’s locker room from the playlist of a Long Island kid inspired by his youth club lacrosse coach.