Dirty Dozen: Paying tribute to Native American roots of lacrosse, zeroes for Dan Dawson, and Sean Pollock’s inspiring story

The Swarm have featured traditional  games during halftime at the XCel Center during games. (Photo: Minnesota Swarm)
The Swarm have featured traditional games during halftime at the XCel Center during games. (Photo: Minnesota Swarm)

One of the great things about lacrosse, if not the greatest, is the history of the game. There are plenty of sports for fans to follow in North America, but lacrosse fans have bragging rights when it comes to following the oldest team sport. Lacrosse far outpaces the other team sports we enjoy as far as longevity, and that’s why it’s been so cool to see National Lacrosse League teams step up the recognition of the roots of the game. The Rochester Knighthawks, the Washington Stealth, the Buffalo Bandits and the Minnesota Swarm all have had home games featuring the Native American theme. “I think it’s great that more people are taking the time to learn more about the game,” Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson said. “No one can ever know everything about the game. But the more you try to learn about it, the more fascinating this game really is.”

If you’ve been to a Knighthawks game, you’ve seen the traditional dances. In Buffalo, you’ll see a $1,000 scholarship awarded to a student of Native American descent at the team’s Feb 9 Native American Night.

The Washington Stealth handed out tickets to get thousands of Native Americans to the NLL opener, and the Swarm have perhaps the coolest connection. At halftime of games, Native Americans gather on the floor at the XCel Center to play a traditional version of lacrosse, including using posts as goals. The Swarm celebrated their official Native American Night this past weekend when the Stealth came to town.

Jamieson said it best when he said it’s great to see more taking an interest in the game and especially its history. And thanks to the efforts of some NLL teams out there, it’s easier to learn even more.

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DDD, 000? It’s hard to tell the last time Dan Dawson was without a single point in a game, unless you’re talking about last Saturday’s game against the Toronto Rock. The man who has averaged 5.05 points a game since coming into the NLL in 2002 was held without a goal and without an assist. Game-by-game stats at NLL.com only go back to the 2005 season and Dawson has scored at least 1 point in every game since then. He scored 74 points in 2004 and 52 points in 2003, but it is possible he had a point-less game during that stretch. We just don’t know for sure since we can’t see the breakdown by game. But, his rookie season of 2002, with the Columbus Landsharks, saw him post just 6 points in 11 games, so it’s a pretty safe bet that he had a goose egg or two that first season. Hey, even the great ones have an off night or two.

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CAGE PROBLEMS: For as much parity as we’ve seen in the NLL this season, we’re still seeing plenty of goalies on a short leash. Six of the league’s 9 teams have already made mid-game switches in goal, including the Colorado Mammoth who have done so in 3 of their 4 games. The Bandits have done so twice, while the Stealth, the Rock, the Rush and the Roughnecks have all made the call for backup. Reasons for this vary, of course, but it’s often done by coaches to stop the momentum of an opponent on a run. Interestingly, 1 of the 3 teams not to make a switch mid-stream is the 0-3 Rochester Knighthawks.

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TOUGH DECISION: The Mammoth released goalie Chris Levis on Monday of this week, which isn’t surprising considering the numbers he, and the Mammoth defense, were posting. It’s not all on Levis, of course, but the nature of sports is that someone has to take the fall. What we often don’t think about is how you break the news to a player like Levis. What do you tell a goalie who has given 6 years of his life to the organization? And it’s not like he drives through town to get to games. Dude’s been flying in from B.C. As fans, it’s easy to pile on a player who is posting bad stats. But can you look a fella in the eye and tell him he’s done? Many a GM will tell you that breaking news like this is the toughest part of the job and it can really eat at you. But at the same time, these teams exist for the sole purpose of winning and as cool as it is to tell a rookie he made the team, it’s the exact opposite when you have to tell a veteran that the team is going to go with someone else, and that vet isn’t that someone.

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POWER SURGE: Yeah, it’s early and yeah, power plays can be such a contextual thing. But Edmonton’s success rate of 78.6% percent so far still is pretty impressive. The Rush have had just 14 chances with the extra man, but they’re definitely cashing in when getting the opportunity. The 14 opportunities are second-fewest in the league, but Ryan Ward and rookie Curtis Knight lead the way in making sure the Rush take advantage of what’s given them. They each have 3 power-play goals, while Mark Matthews has 2 and Corey Small, Zack Greer and Alex Turner each have 1.

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POLLOCK ON PODCAST: If you missed Teddy Jenner’s Off The Crossebar podcast with Sean Pollock last week, do yourself a favor and check it out. Pollock chats it up with Jenner and talks very candidly about some topics dear to his heart, including how upset he was in being traded from Minnesota to Colorado, but found the silver lining when the move rejuvenated his career. He then talks about his wife, Jenna Pollock, and her battle with breast cancer and how the Mammoth and the NLL came together to help. “I was blown away … it wasn’t just the Mammoth, it was the whole league. … It was very humbling thing to see. It was another reminder of how great the lacrosse community is.” Jenna is doing well, he said. After surgery last June, 8 rounds of chemo and 30-plus rounds of radiation, the battle is ongoing but much more optimistic.

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PROPS TO PROUT: Hats off to Colorado Mammoth veteran Gavin Prout, whose second-quarter power-play goal against Calgary on Friday was his 200th career goal with the franchise.

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EN FUEGO: Calgary entered the weekend with a 0-2 record, and forward Shawn Evans answered the call for leadership in a big way. Evans was red-hot in the first half as the Riggers built an 11-6 halftime lead and he was involved with every goal of the half. He had 4 goals and 6 assists by the break and finished with 4-9 for 13 points to set a franchise record for points in a game in Calgary’s 19-12 win.

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OZZY RULES: You 1980s headbangers out there will understand how awesome it is to hear “Mr. Crowley” after Kevin Crowley scores goals in Philadelphia. It’s difficult to get any more awesome than that. The sad part of it is that the song was released in 1980 while Crowley was born in 1988, reminding 1980s headbangers of their age.

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HE SAID IT: “I knew they weren’t going to be goals. On the first one, I just celebrated and hoped the refs would go with it.”

Swarm rookie Kiel Matisz, to HockeyWilderness.com, talking about his 2 goals that were waved off in Saturday’s win over Washington. He finished with 3 goals, that counted.

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THEY SAID IT TWO: Funny exchange between Colorado Mammoth play-by-play man Josh Gross and color analyst Andy Lindahl when tempers got a bit heated late in Calgary’s Friday win over Colorado:

Lindahl: “Rory Smith, he just can’t find a dance partner.”
Gross: “It’s like me in middle school.”

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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