Last week, Down Goes Brown did a post (actually on Grantland.com) called The 10 Greatest One-Team NHL Players. Since DGB is unlikely to cover lacrosse anytime soon, I decided to do it myself. Given that there are fewer teams in the NLL, the history is much shorter, and there has been far more team movement than the NHL, there really aren’t all that many such players. If we restrict ourselves to players with more than 50 games in their NLL careers, all with a single team, we find that there are only 54 of them. But there are still some pretty good names on this list.
Incidentally, DGB is one of the funniest sports blogs anywhere. If you’re a hockey fan, I strongly recommend it.
So without further ado, here are the top 10 players who spent their entire NLL careers with one team. The number of games listed includes playoff games. I’m restricting the number of games played to 100 or more, since it’s not quite fair to put people like Cody Jamieson (54 games) or Garrett Billings (72 games) on this list so early in their careers.
10. Jeremy Hollenbeck, Rochester Knighthawks (127 games)
Hollenbeck played ten seasons with the Knighthawks, winning a Championship in 1997. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rochester Knighthawks Hall of Fame.
9. Dan Ladouceur, Toronto Rock (150 games)
In the early 2000’s, Laddy was one of the anchors of the best defense in the NLL, along with guys like Jim Veltman, Glenn Clark, Terry Bullen, and Pat Coyle. He even scored a goal or two here and there (I distinctly remember a breakaway where he ran up the floor frantically looking around for someone to pass to, then buried it himself), including one in the 2002 Championship game. At about 6’6″ he was an imposing figure and a good fighter too (see above, having a chat with Shawn Evans), though I did once see him dropped with one punch. In a 2002 fight in Toronto, Matt Green hit him with a shot to the jaw that knocked him unconscious.
I have heard rumours that the Rock were not allowed to trade Ladouceur because of his job as a Durham Regional police officer (I believe he’s on the SWAT team), but I confirmed with Laddy himself that it’s not true. He said they could have traded him at any time but they were a classy organization and worked with him.
8. Peter Jacobs, Philadelphia Wings (158 games)
As good a face-off guy as Geoff Snider is, he’s only matched Peter Jacobs’ high of 318 face-off wins in a season once. (The all-time record is 319 by Bob Snider in 2012.) Jacobs is also the only person not named Snider to ever have a face-off percentage above 70% for a season. Jacobs played 12 seasons for the Wings, winning just shy of 60% of almost 3,000 face-offs. He didn’t finish a single one of those seasons with a percentage below 50%.
7. Jake Bergey, Philadelphia Wings (142 games)
Bergey played ten seasons in Philly and won two Championships. He scored 50+ points six times, including 86 in 14 games in 2001. He’s currently second all-time in Wings goals, assists, and points.
In the 2007 expansion draft, he was chosen by the Boston Blazers, but was traded back to Philly before the season started. Then the Blazers sat out the 2008 season so there was another expansion draft. Bergey was chosen by Boston again, and again was traded back to the Wings. He has to be one of the few players who played for a single team his entire career and yet was traded twice.
6. Andrew McBride, Calgary Roughnecks (185 games)
McBride has played 11 seasons in Calgary, and has been the captain since Tracey Kelusky was traded after the 2010 season. He’s a defender, transition player, a fighter, an outstanding team leader, and you’ll never hear a more well-spoken guy during an interview. And when is Movember time of year, he is look like Borat.
5. Rich Kilgour, Buffalo Bandits (225 games)
Darris’ big brother was captain of the Bandits for 12 years, won four championships, had his number retired by the Bandits and is in the NLL Hall of Fame. Only one player personifies the Bandits better than Richie Kilgour and, well, we’ll get to him later.
4. Regy Thorpe, Rochester Knighthawks (217 games)
Regy Thorpe was a big tough defender who played an amazing fifteen seasons with the Knighthawks, beginning in 1995, the team’s first season in the league. He won two Championships and was captain of the 2007 Championship team. But most interestingly, he was the first player-GM in NLL history when he took the reins of the team and played in the 2009 season. His tenure as a GM only lasted one season before owner Curt Styres took over, but much to the chagrin of NLL scorers, Thorpe played one more season before retiring in 2010.
3. Blaine Manning, Toronto Rock (199 games)
Blaine Manning had a pretty successful start to his NLL career, winning championships in 3 of his first 4 seasons (2002, 2003, 2005) with the Toronto Rock. It kind of went downhill after that for a couple of years, but after The Rock GM Who Must Not Be Named was fired and Terry Sanderson was brought back, Manning was a big part of the rebuilding process that resulted in the 2011 NLL Championship. Long before Dan Dawson arrived in Boston, Manning was one of the original Big Three along with Colin Doyle and Josh Sanderson in Toronto. They peaked in 2005 when Doyle finished first overall in scoring, Manning tied with John Grant for second, and Sanderson tied with John Tavares for third – and all five of them finished with over 100 points.
I went on and on about Manning in an article right after he retired, so I won’t rehash all his stats here. Suffice it to say that Manning should be a lock for the NLL Hall of Fame once he is eligible.
2. Tom Marechek, Philadelphia Wings (161 games)
Tom “Hollywood” Marechek won four championships in 12 NLL seasons and was inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame in 2007. Marechek is the all-time Wings leader in both goals and assists, and is 8th all-time in the league in goals. But of the top goal-scorers in league history, only one player in the top 10 (and two in the top 25) have played fewer games than Marechek. The only players who averaged more goals per game than Marechek are Gary Gait, Paul Gait, John Grant, and John Tavares. Not bad company.
Hard to believe he’s only the third-best lacrosse player from Victoria, BC.
1. John Tavares, Buffalo Bandits (313 games)
No-brainer. Tavares is one of the best players ever to play in the NLL (many argue he is the best), and after 22 seasons with the Buffalo Bandits, there’s no argument who’s at the top of this list. Or most lists, for that matter.
Tavares owns pretty much every offensive NLL record, most of them by a mile. As of the end of the 2013 season, he has 778 career goals, ahead of second-place Gary Gait by 130 and ahead of third-place (and the closest still active player) John Grant by over 200. He has 887 assists, 108 more than Colin Doyle. He has 1665 points; if he retired today, second place Doyle couldn’t catch him even with four more 100 point seasons. He’s scored an amazing 5.95 points per game over his career, second only to John Grant’s 6.37. (Technically he’s also behind a guy named Gary Edmands with a career average of 6 – he scored 6 points in his only NLL game with the Bandits in 1996.)
Since Tavares is still active, the amazing numbers will just continue to climb.
- Billy Dee Smith, Buffalo Bandits, 149 games
- Pat McCabe, New York Saints, 119 games
- Mike Carnegie, Calgary Roughnecks, 105 games
- Kyle Sorensen, San Jose / Washington Stealth, 105 games (I know, two different teams but they’re the same franchise so it counts.)
Just under the radar
These guys didn’t quite make the 100 game limit, but I wanted to acknowledge them anyway.
- Devan Wray, Calgary Roughnecks, 99 games
- Jeff Zywicki, San Jose / Washington Stealth, 99 games
- Sal LoCascio, New York Saints, 95 games