This weekend, Canadian transitioner (did I just coin a term?), Joel McCready will start his third season with the Rochester Knighthawks.
Originating from where I would call the world’s biggest lacrosse hotbed, St. Catherine’s, Ontario, he spent some time at Cornell and even played this summer out in British Columbia. He is certainly primed for a breakout season and recently took the time to chat with us.
What will your role be with the Rochester Knighthawks this year and what do you guys need to do to get back to championship form?
Joel McCready: My role this winter will be to do the dirty work, get in the corners, set hard picks, and fight for the looseys (GB’s). I take pride in being a team first guy who will lay it on the line for the guys I’m playing with. I believe we have already taken great strides getting back into championship form and are really focusing on the “process” of winning a championship. In order to get to the playoffs we need to win a percentage of our regular season games, to make semis we need to win quarters, to get to the big dance we need to win our playoff games… we’re taking things one step at a time and working hard as a group.
You get to play with your Uncle, Pat McCready, this year, talk about how that will feel and what that relationship means to you.
Joel McCready: Playing with my Uncle Pat has been a goal of mine since I was 3 or 4 and first picked up a stick. He has always been someone I look to for advice or help and has been there for me through thick and thin. This Christmas, I saw a cool old video of him teaching me how to throw in the backyard. It truly gave me goosebumps but also made me really excited for this upcoming season.
Probably the biggest transaction of the summer was the trading of John Grant Jr. out of Rochester, to Denver. How has the team prepared to fill the void and what players do you see filling in for him?
Joel McCready: That was a huge trade this summer which took a lot of people by surprise. Although you will never be able to replace the kind of hands Junior has, getting a goalie such as Matt Vinc in return is huge. In my hometown, he just won player of the decade for my junior lacrosse team and is an absolute wall in net. In my opinion he is the best goalie in the league and is more determined than anyone. To fill Junior’s role on the left side we have brought in Cody Jamieson from Six nations, Captain Shawn Williams, who is the definition of work ethic, and of course the legend Gary Gait. Those will be our three main shooters on the left side. (Editor’s note: Matt Vinc was also a close defensmen for Canisius College as well as the Canadian National field team)
A lot has been said about the expansion of the NLL yet many teams have folded over the years. What markets should the NLL go after and what separates a successful lax town and and a city that can’t sustain a team.
Joel McCready: I have seen the game of lacrosse grow tremendously even during my short playing career. Although teams in the NLL have struggled in some places, I believe the success is all about getting out in the community and teaching the youth how to play. I have worked and played at lots of camps around Canada and the United States and think the neatest thing is when you can see a little guy really become fascinated by how much fun it is to get up and down the field or floor and not have to worry about anything else except for the game they’re playing. I think if you can spread the game throughout the community, you will get kids interested in playing, and learning from more experienced players. You will see a great growth within fan base.
If I was to go after a certain market right now for a new NLL team it would be Vancouver. Having spent time out there this summer, lacrosse is huge, and still on the rise making it a perfect place to set up shop.
Bench Clearing brawls are a rare occurrence in lacrosse but do occasionally happen when the game gets out of hand. I think the league handled it well but it received a lot of publicity. I have had people ask me for tickets for games when we play Buffalo or Toronto who have never been to a game with hopes of a repeat. Although it isn’t something the NLL wants to happen, it does bring a lot of attention to the game and opens a lot of eyes. I actually think its the most watched Lacrosse video on youtube right now. Basically good or bad it brings attention to the game.
What are your thoughts on fighting in general?
Joel McCready: Some see it as a horrible impression to make on young kids or parents who want to start lacrosse and others just see it as a part of the indoor game. I think fighting is a big part of the indoor game as it keeps players accountable and responsible for their actions. I’m not one to promote having a bunch of “egg and spooners” out there fighting each other but I think, at times, it is necessary. If a player is taking liberties on your top players or throwing cheap shots having someone step up and drop the mitts will usually put a stop to it.
Like it or not, more Americans are becoming successful in the indoor game. Considering Casey Powell was last year’s NLL MVP, how do you see this yank influx effecting the game?
Joel McCready: With more Americans coming in and playing the indoor game it creates more competition which just creates better teams. In order for the leauge to become the best it can it needs the most talented players on the floor regardless of where they are from. I think it also helps because kids from American Lacrosse Hotbeds see their favorite college players playing indoor which sparks their interest and grows the indoor game as a whole.
You recently finished firefighting school. What’s the status of your fireman career and what did you learn at the school that translates to the turf?
Joel McCready: I went to Texas for my Fire Academy and am currently beginning an orientation program out west to become a Firefighter. I matured a lot there and have taken the responsibility and seriousness of the program and tried to bring that into my game, not taking any practice or game for granted. Will we ever see a return trip by the St. Catherines boys to the legendary Beaneater lacrosse tournament in South Buffalo NY? The Beaneater was a great time! I’m hoping we can get down for another summer and will have to talk to my buddy Joey Res (Joe Resatarits SUNY Albany Attackman) about making it happen.
By the time this interview goes live the USA junior hockey team will have defeated the Canadian team in Buffalo. Will the Canadian players be banished to Yellowknife after losing?
Joel McCready: Haha, we will have to wait and see but I have faith in our Juniors GO CANADA GO! (we’ll have to add the score when published)
You know we’re from Banditland but we’re certainly pulling for Joel. He is truly one of the good guys in the pro game and we wish him the best! (Editor’s note: Canada won. Let’s leave it at that)