Players come and go in the National Lacrosse League, even those with a world of talent. It’s just like any other job out there. You can be good at what you do, but if you suck as a person and can’t get along with co-workers, what good are ya? In other words, if you’re not a team player, there’s no room for you. That issue will not plague Mike Carnegie because if it hasn’t by now, it never will. He’s as hard-nosed and hustling a defender as you’ll ever find on the lacrosse floor. Carnegie is the guy you see flying around, getting into grills and being downright nasty until that ball, or your butt, is on the floor.
And the shame of it all is this: He’s too often lost in the shuffle because of the system the Riggers employ. That’s definitely not a knock on the team. It’s just that the high-pressure defensive monster that is the Calgary Roughnecks relies on defenders who are quick, smart and aggressive. And it requires those defenders to forsake individual glory for the good of the team but at the end of the day, it still requires a leader and Carnegie is that.
Loose balls, jumping in front of shots, quick and gambling slides that require smart decisions in an instant; it’s all a part of the Calgary system that’s done so well the last few seasons and Carnegie has it down pat. In this stats-oriented world of sport, it can be tough to gauge the effectiveness of a defender because there are so few measuring sticks. Sure, he’s got just 27 points (10-17) in his 63 games over his 4 seasons, but it’s not his job to score goals. He’s there to stop them. Even his 155 career loose balls is kinda ho-hum. But like we said, it’s not about individual stats in Calgary, or with Carnegie.
It’s about the team and if you ask anyone who plays in the NLL, preparing for a date with the Calgary defense is kinda like visiting the dentist: It’s not fun, and there’s no way to escape the pain. But you still have to go and in the end, you’re better off for it. And if you’ve been paying any sort of attention, lacrosse isn’t even the most important part of living for Carnegie, whose focus is on making the world a better place, one person at a time.
So no, there are no defender of the year awards for Carnegie, but if you scan the rosters of recent champs, you’ll find Carnegie’s name there in 2009 for the NLL, in 2008 and 2009 for the Mann Cup with the Brampton Excelsiors and in 2011 for Team Canada at the FIL World Championships in Prague. And that’s fine by him because as we all know, defense wins championships.
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