Brian Lemon entered professional box lacrosse with a wooden stick back in 1989. Today, the wooden stick isn’t used anymore by anyone in National Lacrosse League games, but Lemon’s still around and instead of wearing a jersey and shorts, he’s wearing a suit and tie as the National Lacrosse League’s Vice President of lacrosse operations. So if anyone is going to have a solid perspective of what players want and need in the world of professional indoor lacrosse, it’s a guy who played eight seasons in the league and Lemon brings just that to the NLL. He took some time out of his schedule to take us back to the day.
1. How’d you get your start in the league?
“I finished my undergraduate work in Canada and went to do my post-graduate work at Western Maryland College, just north of Baltimore in 1989. I knew the league was around and my intention was to hook up with a team. I got a tryout with Baltimore and at that time, I was using a wooden stick. I got a lot of looks. I was the only Canadian there.”
2. The American vs. Canadian style was a big issue for the league in those days, wasn’t it?
“Yeah, the game was in its early stages. It was field-oriented in terms of drills and practices and using your non-dominant hand. But the coaches and players adapted, using plays to the strong side and picks and rolls.”
3. So how’d the game treat you in Baltimore?
“I remember my first game, we were playing Washington at the Cap Centre. There were a lot of fans there, the most I’d ever played in front of. But I remember getting this pass from center on a fast break. And I caught it over my right shoulder knowing I was going to be shooting on an American goalie. I was licking my chops. Jimmy Beardmore was the goalie and he was known for coming out of his crease and it was just a yard sale of all my equipment. It looked a lot worse than it was, but the clip ended up on the George Michael sports show. That was my introduction to how some American goalies were playing the game.”
4. You got your degree and moved closer to home, which allowed you to play with the Detroit Turbos.
“Yeah, Paul and Gary Gait made their introduction to the league when I was there. I saw that first-hand and it was pretty amazing. They were fresh out of college … we called it the green line and I was on the same line as them. You had to watch the ball and be alert with them, you had to be ready for those no-look passes.”
5. Anything stick out about the 1994 season with Detroit? A certain game in Philadelphia?
“Yeah, I was in that big brawl. It was an interesting game, and those Philly fans. What a great place to get into a brawl like that.”
6. In 1995, you went to Rochester for the Knighthawks’ inaugural season.
“Six of us from Detroit went to Rochester and it was a great town to play in.
7. Speaking of, what were some of the greatest towns to play in?
“Philly has to be at the top of the list, and the Garden in Boston, just because of the history.”
8. Looking back, did you have the sense you and your teammates were pioneers?
“In the 8 years I played, I saw the league evolve and change into a league where you actually had a draft as opposed to where guys just walked on to teams. It was a different league back then. We’d get done with games in Detroit and Rochester and we’d get our bags, sling them over our shoulders and walk back to our hotels in the rain or snow. I have great memories of playing.”
Lemon’s been with the NLL since 2003 in his executive position since his playing days with the Detroit Turbos (1992-94) and the Rochester Knighthawks (1995-96). Out of Owen Sound, Ontario, he played Junior A in St. Catharines and played Majors with Owen Sound. Hes living in Florida now and oversees aspects of the NLL that include player contracts and NLL officials. In his spare time, he’s a volunteer youth lacrosse coach near Tampa.email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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