Dan Dawson was an unknown rookie pro when he played box lacrosse in Montreal in 2002 but on Nov. 17 he’ll return as a decorated star forward, and Canada’s captain for an important exhibition game against the Iroquois Nationals in the Bell Centre. “It’s truly a great honor,’’ Dawson says of the “C” that will be on his chest. “Being able to represent your country is big, and then for the coaching staff to ask me to be the captain, it will be something I’ll forever cherish. I’ll take a lot of pride in it. We’ll do everything in our power to win the game.’’ Dawson will wear No. 6 for Canada. It’s the number he wears in the National Lacrosse League.
He helped the Rochester Knighthawks win the pro title last May. He has been such an awesome force since entering the league that he’s skyrocketed to seventh on the all-time points list, and he’s only 31. In 185 games, he’s scored 369 goals and assisted on 575 for 944 points. That averages out to five points a game. No wonder they call him Dangerous Dan.
His rookie season was spent with the long-gone Columbus Landsharks who on Jan. 11, 2002, defeated the Montreal Express 13-12 in what was known as the Molson Centre. It was renamed Centre Bell in February 2002.
“It’s an amazing venue,’’ says Dawson. “There were about 12,000 fans at that game. They’re very passionate sports fans in Quebec. It was tight, a one-goal game. I was only 20 and was blown away by all the championship banners in the rafters and the rich hockey history they represented.’’
Dawson played his second lacrosse game in the arena last December. It was an NLL exhibition game between Rochester and the Toronto Rock.
“It was a great experience,’’ he says. “I really do think there is a market for the NLL to expand back into Montreal.’’
Now he prepares for his third appearance as a lacrosse player in Montreal, and he’ll be playing against some of his NLL teammates including Knighthawks captain Sid Smith, who is a bruising defenceman.
“It’s something you face in international play,’’ says Dawson. “Teammates now become foes. You can have great respect for them and know their talents but for 60 minutes the competitive nature comes out in you. You put friendships aside. When you represent your country, you do whatever you can to win.
“Sid is an unbelievable competitor, one of the best defencemen in the world. But going up against the best players in the world gives you a good measuring stick on where you are with your game.’’
So, will Dawson be quietly asking Smith to take it easy on him on Nov. 17?
“No way,’’ he says. “I know those guys over there and anytime they get to represent the Iroquois they pour their hearts and souls into it. It’s part of their culture and history so they take great pride in playing lacrosse. They definitely won’t be taking it easy on me.’’
Dawson was a member of Canada’s victorious 2004 Heritage Cup team in Denver, he won his first world indoor championship gold medal in Halifax in 2007, he won silver at the world field tournament in Manchester, England, in 2010, and he earned another world indoor gold medal in Prague in 2011. He was an assistant captain on that team.
The 13-6 final score against the Iroquois in the title game in Prague masks the hard-fought nature of that confrontation. Canada only led 2-1 after one quarter as Dawson and his teammates battled Smith, Cody Jamieson, who is another Rochester teammate of Dawson’s, and the rest of a fast-breaking Iroquois side.
“They have a very fast transition style,’’ says Dawson. “They have many players who can play both ends of the floor and if we don’t hold ourselves accountable they’ll definitely run the ball on us. They have great defenders and goaltending, too, so there are no holes in their game.’’
Canada has never lost a world indoor tournament game, but the Iroquois and the U.S. national team are formidable opponents. The seriousness of challenges grows every year.
“Every national team around the world is getting better,’’ says Dawson. “Six Nations has been winning (amateur) championships at different levels in Canada year after year. They have a plethora of talent coming through their system.’’
The six-foot-five playmaker first picked up a lacrosse stick when he was 12 growing up in Oakville, Ontario. Hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the summer — that’s the way it was, and still is, for many Canadian kids. Now he’s Canada’s captain, and it is a well-deserved honor for one of the best players in the world, who has earned the respect of coaches and peers for the high level of sportsmanship he displays on and off the floor.
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