A tale of two players: Kirby, Hargreaves take different paths to Montreal game

Patrick Hargreaves. (Photo: Greg Horn)
Patrick Hargreaves. (Photo: Greg Horn)

At this Saturday’s National Lacrosse League preseason tilt between Toronto and Rochester at Montreal’s Bell Centre, each team will have a Quebec player on the roster thanks to the Quebec Lacrosse Showcase at which players competed for a chance to appear in a pro game. The guys who made it through to earn the honour couldn’t be much more different, either in their style of play or their journey in the sport. Mark Kirby is a 5′7” offensive sparkplug who has been playing the game for most of his 25 years and is just looking for a chance to prove what he can do. Patrick Hargreaves is a speedy defender and transition player who recognizes that as a 39-year-old his future in the pro game may be limited, but he’ll appreciate any shot he gets, given that he didn’t start playing lacrosse until he was 28.

That’s right, the advent of Hargreaves’ lacrosse career coincides with the single-year existence of the Montreal Express, but it’s no coincidence. “I went there to see a couple of games and I was amazed with the game, so the week after I called Pierre Filion and asked him how I can play,” Hargreaves told IL Indoor. He wound up joining the LaSalle Brasseurs, who he says were in a league that “was called Senior B because there was no Senior C.”

It didn’t take long for Hargreaves to get the hang of the game. His speed and fitness helped in that regard and continues to be his greatest asset; he was the top player in fitness and agility testing at the November 17 Showcase. He spent about four years with the Caughnawaga Indians and the last two suiting up for the Vermont Voyageurs, who came within one win earning a trip to the Presidents Cup last season.

Now he gets a chance to don the teal of the Rochester Knighthawks. Playing with the pros is a big step, but Hargreaves says he’ll follow the same approach that helped him get on when he took up the game. “I started late to play lacrosse and I just put my mind to don’t go on the net, don’t try to shoot for goals, just do what you’re good at: running, transition and that’s it.”

Asked if he sees the Montreal game as a chance to impress coaches and get a shot at making the Knighthawks or another NLL team, Hargreaves flutters his lips loudly, suggesting the thought is a bit much to take in. “I don’t want to think about that,” he says. “I just want to think about the game in two weeks, getting in shape for that one. If something happens afterwards I’ll be happy to do something for a couple of games or a year or whatever. I’m 39, you, know, I’m realistic about it. But I would be happy with it.”

At 25, righty forward Kirby has a different approach to his role with the Toronto Rock at the preseason game. “[The Showcase] was an opportunity for me to get seen and I took it so I’m hoping something good happens from it, I can make everybody proud,” Kirby says. “I wanted to play at the NLL level because I never got a chance to play Sr A or nothing, nobody ever wanted me. So I thought that I can make it and hopefully something can go from there.”

If it sounds like Kirby has a chip on his shoulder, well,  maybe he does a bit. The five-year Akwesasne Jr Indian joined Caughnawaga when he entered the senior ranks. “I thought it would be a great chance to come back and try to win it in front of my family and people from here and with my brother, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” he says.

But beyond the goal of winning a Presidents Cup, Kirby has always wanted to play at a higher level. He’s certainly been successful in Sr B. His best season was 2010, when he posted 53 goals and 51 assists for 104 points in 22 games.

Kirby says he sees himself as not a greedy player, equally happy to score or set someone else up to do so. He was pleased with his play at the Showcase. “I thought I was—well, I don’t want to say I was the best one there—but I thought that I seen the floor better, I tried to move the ball, pass it to everybody that was open, I tried to give it to everybody.”

He says the team has told him he’ll get a chance to get familiar with the guys he’ll be playing with by attending a team dinner the night before and shootaround the morning of the game. But he already knows some of his temporary teammates from the QSLL, where Rock players Kasey Beirnes and Patrick Merrill were his teammates in Caughnawaga in 2010. Now, he’s hoping one game with them can be a springboard to a future in the pro game.

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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