O Captain, My Captain

We all knew this day would come, as it does for every player, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Hot on the heels of the retirements of NLL superstars John Tavares a year ago and Josh Sanderson over the summer, another legend has decided to hang ’em up. Colin Doyle is one of the highest scoring players in league history but at 39 he is calling it a career. Like JT and Shooter before him, Doyle will be a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer. And if he’s not a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer then I will personally go and find whoever didn’t vote for him and… well, probably just tweet about it.

Doyle played fifteen seasons for the Rock, the last seven as captain. He led the team in scoring six times, but was top three 10 times including last year (despite only playing 10 games). He amassed over 1000 points with the Rock, a number which would put him eighth in league history. But don’t forget the 280 points he picked up as a member of the Washington San Jose Stealth and the 61 as an Ontario Raider. That gives him a total of 1384 points, third on the all-time list. Oh, and you have to tack on 144 career playoff points (also third overall). He was Rookie of the Year in 1998, league MVP in 2005, a six-time NLL Champ (the Rock have never won one without him), and was named Champion’s Cup MVP an unprecedented three times. And that’s just his NLL career – he also won a bunch of Mann Cups, an MLL Championship, and a couple of World Lacrosse Championships – one indoor and one outdoor.

Colin Doyle with the Cup

Doyle was a workhorse, playing in every game for his team for eleven straight seasons. His iron man streak ran 188 games which was, for a short time, the league record (tying Steve Toll and since surpassed by Shawn Williams and Dan Dawson).

But enough of the numbers, amazing as they are. One of the most impressive things about Colin Doyle is how well-respected he is. Among players and fans alike, it seems that nobody has bad things to say about him. I’ve been watching this league for fifteen years and I’ve heard fans say negative things about many great players. Two notable exceptions (among others) are Bob Watson and Colin Doyle. I have never heard a bad word said about Bob Watson; some friends of mine met him at a post-game party in Rochester many years ago and said he was the nicest guy ever.

As for Doyle, the only negative things I’ve heard about him came from… me.

Waaaaay back in 2001, my first year as a Rock fan, I wasn’t a huge fan of Colin Doyle. I acknowledged that he was a great player – there was no arguing that. But I thought he was a bit of a hothead, someone who took unnecessary penalties and all-too-frequently wanted to fight. I even postulated that he wanted to fight more often than he actually did but Rock coach Les Bartley wouldn’t let him because he was too valuable to sit in the penalty box. But over the next year or two , he stopped being that hothead (if he truly ever was). He still played with fire and passion – that never stopped – and the penalties didn’t vanish entirely, but his PIM numbers went down as his scoring numbers went way up.

Despite my initial misgivings, I quickly grew to be a big fan of Doyle and was quite bummed when he was traded west. But after three outstanding seasons in San Jose, Doyle was traded back to Toronto, the Rock went back to the Finals, won another Championship the next year, and all was right in the universe once again.

Me, my boys, and Colin

I did actually meet Doyle a couple of years ago at a Rock season ticket holders party. We had a 15 second conversation and he posed with me and my kids for the picture above. He even told my wife they’d try and give her a birthday present by winning the upcoming playoff game (unfortunately they ended up losing 20-11 to the Swarm). He was a super nice guy and was bigger than I expected.

He was a great scorer, a great passer, played with both toughness and class, could play defense and fight if he had to, and in a pinch could even strap on the pads. He also loved the fans, was a strong leader both on and off the floor, and was a great public speaker. Doyle was pretty much the quintessential ambassador of the game of lacrosse.

Congratulations to Colin Doyle on a fantastic playing career. I look forward to being able to celebrate on March 11 as #7 gets raised to the rafters where it belongs.

I’ll have another article next week with some of my memories of Colin over the years.

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