Mike Thompson returns to NLL looking for another championship

Mike Thompson is getting back between the pipes, this time for the Rochester Knighthawks. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
Mike Thompson is getting back between the pipes, this time for the Rochester Knighthawks. (Photo: Tim Prothero)

For a retired goalie, Mike Thompson has been keeping pretty busy with lacrosse. Now he’s stepping back into the pro game, having signed to back up Matt Vinc with the Rochester Knighthawks. Thompson played the summer season with the Senior B Kahnawake Mohawks, helping lead them to the Presidents Cup gold medal game. He showed in that run, particularly with a terrific performance in the semi-finals, that he can still stop the ball. Thompson also suited up for the first half of the Iroquois Nationals’ exhibition game against Canada in Montreal on November 17.

So what has brought him out of retirement to fill in for Angus Goodleaf, his partner with the Nationals’ who is now on the Knighthawks’ Physically Unable to Perform list? “It’s a good opportunity,” Thompson says. “Go hang out with the champs for a bit, hang out with some of the boys, my partners in crime.”

The strength of the Rochester roster helped persuade him to come back to the game, Thompson says. “It’s a great group of core players that’s coming back and they’ve picked up some young players that are quick and agile. Man, they’re looking really strong right now.”

There’s more to it than that, though. Thompson is also keen to keep himself in game shape with an eye to playing for the Iroquois when the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships are hosted on Native soil for the first time, in 2015. It helps him to feel comfortable that the Knighthawks have the league’s largest contingent of First Nations players on their roster. “Yeah, that was a big part. That’s another reason why I’m trying to stay active, so I’m able to play in the world games that we’re hosting in a couple of years. I’m trying to stay focused on that, too. It’s not too far off. Just a year and a half and we’ll be getting ready for that. My native brothers on the team will make it a little easier to get settled in.”

Thompson is accustomed to the role of a backup goalie, having spent much of his career not starting. He has shone when given the chance to play regularly, though. He stepped in and helped the Buffalo Bandits win the 2008 Champions Cup. In 2011, the only season that he played a full season as a starter, Thompson was a strong candidate for goalie of the year, winning 10 games while posting a 9.67 goals against average and .785 save percentage. He also earned a Mann Cup MVP in 2012 after leading the Peterborough Lakers to the Canadian title for the second time in three years.

He isn’t expecting to battle for the starting position, though. Thompson understands his role with the team is to be ready when needed. “Oh yeah, definitely not looking for a whole bunch of minutes. I’m getting towards the end of my career. If Vinc ever needs to take a rest for an injury or anything, I’m looking forward to stepping in and doing my job,” he says.

While he doesn’t feel he’s in game shape yet, Thompson says he’s hitting the gym to get ready. “It’s going to take some time to get tuned up before the season starts,” he says. The summer experience helped him stay sharp, though, “keeping myself on my toes and keeping staying in the game.”

Thompson also has plenty else on his plate, so he’ll have to do some juggling with his schedule. Thompson coaches his children’s lacrosse teams in the summer as well as running clinics near his home town of Akwesasne. Now the kids are into hockey season, and he’s involved there as well. On the business side, he’s “trying to get a small business going making wooden lacrosse sticks.”

He’s got a lot of irons in the fire, but Thompson has found the time to join the Knighthawks, hoping he can help them to a third straight Champions Cup title.

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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