Editor’s note: Marisa Ingemi runs InLaxWeTrust.com over on SB Nation and once a week, she’ll be posting one of our articles on her site, and we’ll post one of their articles on our site. Marisa is an impressive young sportswriter. She has high aspirations and wants to make this her career. Well, we couldn’t be happier to help a budding star in the pro lax writers guild to make a bigger name for herself! This time Marisa examines the familial relationships between pro box lacrosse and hockey. Interesting stuff!
Two sports have never been as close as lacrosse and hockey are. It’s not just that the games are similar, but the games are a family. They are the two national sports of Canada, and they will always be connected.
The families that play these sports are also connected. So many people in hockey are not only lax fans or former lacrosse players themselves, but they are also often related to the current pro lax players! Below I have compiled a list of the most well known hockey/lacrosse families.
Zack Greer was traded to the Edmonton Rush in the middle of this past NLL season where he joined his older brother Bill. Zack was drafted by the Minnesota Swarm and owner Marty O’Neil named him the “Michael Jordan of lacrosse” But he struggled with the Swarm before being traded to the Alberta team, where he found his game a little more.
His career began at Duke where he and Matt Danowski were the face of the team. He moved to Bryant University in his last season.
His brother, Bill, is a defenseman on the Rush. He was acquired from the Orlando Titans in the dispersal draft.
Their cousin, Shawn Thornton, is a player on the NHL’s Boston Bruins. The Bruins (my favorite NHL team) are one of the most historic teams in the NHL. Thornton is a fourth line enforcer but a fan favorite in Boston and scored a career high 10 goals this year. Before Boston, Thornton played in Anaheim and Chicago.
Derek Keenan is the head coach of the Edmonton Rush. He is also a former player of the Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock, but he retired after three seasons to become a coach. Keenan is also the former head coach of the Portland Lumberjax.
Mike Keenan, his second cousin, is a former NHL head coach. He coached in Calgary, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, St.Louis, Florida, Boston and Philadelphia.
John Tavares of the Buffalo Bandits is the National Lacrosse League’s all-time scoring leader and is the only player to ever score 700 goals. He is the longest tenured Bandit and NLL player. His best career season was in 2009 when he scored 51 goals.
He is the first ever 500/500 player with 500 goals and 500 assists.
His nephew, John Tavares, was the number one overall pick by the New York Islanders in the 2009 NHL draft. He was the Canadian Hockey League rookie of the year in 2006 and player of the year in 2007. In the pro game, Tavres finished second in the league in rookie scoring his first season, losing to Colorado’s Matt Duchesne.
Tavares has credited the game of lacrosse as one of the reasons behind his hockey skills. He was the ball boy for the Bandits when he was a kid and learned a lot from the elder Tavares.
Brian Shanahan is a lacrosse writer and broadcaster for IL Indoor. He played one season in the NLL at age 37 with the Ontario Raiders. He is a TV analyst for Rogers Sports net in Canada.
Brenden Shanahan is a former NHL player and right now serves the league as the Vice President of Hockey and Buisness Operations. He played with the New Jersey Devils, St.Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers. He scored 51 and 52 goals in back-to-back years with the Blues in 1991-1992 and 1992-1993.
Editor’s Note: Great job, Marisa! Very interesting indeed! And here is a little more hockey-lacrosse info you may not have been aware of, LAS readers!
– Prior to professional hockey, 5-time Stanley Cup Winner, Joe Nieuwendyk, was a lacrosse player and won the Minto Cup MVP in 1984 with the Whitby Warriors, alongside long-time friend Gary Roberts. In his honor, the Ontario Lacrosse Association‘s Junior A League annually bestows the Joe Nieuwendyk Award to its most outstanding rookie.
– Wayne Gretzky also excelled at box lacrosse, which he played during the summer. At age 10, after scoring 196 goals in his hockey league, he scored 158 goals in lacrosse.According to Wayne, lacrosse was where he learned to protect himself from hard body checking: “In those days you could be hit from behind in lacrosse, as well as cross-checked, so you had to learn how to roll body checks for self-protection.” Wayne applied this skill to the NHL, avoiding checks to the point that it was claimed that there was an unwritten rule not to hit Gretzky. Gretzky insisted that the skill was necessary for self-defense as he only weighed 170 pounds (77 kg)
– In 2005, when the NHL was locked out, Brendan Shanahan almost played pro box lacrosse for Toronto!