Dan Dawson Begins New Chapter in NLL Career


Dan Dawson, the No. 5 all-time leading scorer in the National Lacrosse League, will make his debut with Saskatchewan on Saturday.

He’s 36 in his 17th pro indoor season but Dan Dawson still has a lot of lacrosse left to play.

He’s already done it all in the sport: three world gold medals playing for Canada; two NLL title rings with the Rochester Knighthawks; and eight Mann Cup summer championships in Canada. Yet, a new challenge has popped up and he’s embracing it. Traded to Saskatchewan on Monday, he’ll pull on his new No. 6 Rush sweater for the first time against Vancouver on Saturday night. It’s the Twitter NLL game of the week.

“I know how passionate their fans are, so I’m looking forward to playing in that amazing atmosphere,” he says.

He sees his role as “being a big body on the right side, helping get guys open, playing my game.”

The only game Dawson played for Rochester in SaskTel Centre was on Feb. 19, 2016, and he scored four goals in an 11-8 loss to the Rush. He’s eager to drink in the experience of playing in front of the largest crowds in the NLL as a member of the home team.

Dawson and GM-coach Derek Keenan have strong ties. Keenan coached the offense when Dawson helped Canada win the 2011 and 2015 world indoor championships, and Keenan was GM-coach and Dawson a player for a team in Portland, Oregon, that got to the NLL final in 2008. Dawson amassed 31 points including 15 goals in three playoff games before the LumberJax lost 14-13 in Buffalo.

“I’ve been lucky to play for Derek in Prague and in Syracuse and with the team that was in Portland,” says Dawson. “He’s one of my favorite people in lacrosse. I’m very excited to play for him again.”

“We have a good, long-term relationship,” says Keenan. “He brings a lot of leadership to our team. We have Chris Corbeil and a few other guys in leadership roles but you can never get too much of that.”

Rush players Chris Corbeil, Kyle Rubisch, Brett Mydske, Ryan Dilks and Mark Matthews were on the 2015 world team Dawson captained.

“My phone has been blowin’ up with calls from players in the Rush organization,” says Dawson.

He can become an unrestricted free agent when the season ends.

“I haven’t thought about that,” he says. “I still love the sport. It hasn’t become a grind. For me, it’s family first, the (firefighting) job second and lacrosse third. I’m happy living day to day right now and excited for this opportunity.”

Dawson has 1,294 regular-season points and trails only retired players John Tavares (1,749), John Grant Jr. (1,446), Colin Doyle (1,384) and Josh Sanderson (1,357).

The question for Keenan: Why alter his team’s roster when it is 9-2 and first overall?

“We’re in a good position right now but we’re going to be in a little better position with Dan, and we didn’t have to give up too much (second-round 2018 pick and third-round 2020 pick) to get him,” Keenan explains. “We just kind of felt we needed a little more and when the opportunity came up, we made it happen. I think Dan still has a lot of fuel left in the tank because he takes care of himself and he’s so fit. He’s still hungry. The last two weekends we kind of struggled a bit to get inside against strong defenses so he adds some size that will help us there. And Curtis Knight got banged up last weekend. It’s nothing serious but he’ll be out one to three weeks. After that, we’ll figure something out.”

The trading deadline is March 19.

Dawson plays on the same side of the floor as Knight, Robert Church, Ben McIntosh and Matthew Dinsdale. Church is third and McIntosh is 10th in the league in scoring points.

“Curtis Knight is banged up so Dan will step in and I’m sure he will have an immediate impact,” says Church. “He can do it all.”

His initial reaction to the trade was one of surprise.

“I can’t say I saw it coming,” he says. “We’re 9-2 so I didn’t expect a trade but anytime you can get a player of Dan’s pedigree you can’t be anything but excited to join forces with him.”

Church agrees with Keenan’s view that Dawson’s six-foot-six presence will help fill a void.

“The games we’ve lost, we were pushed around a bit so we can use a bit of size.

With seven games left on their schedule and first place just about locked up, is there any danger of complacency setting in?

“No,” says Church. “That’s something coach Keenan harps on. Since Game 1, he’s been harping on it. In this league, anytime you get complacent you can lose.”

What can he tell Dawson about playing in SaskTel Centre as a member of the Rush?

“There’s nothing like it in lacrosse. He’s been around so a big crowd won’t phase him. He’ll feed off of it like the rest of us.”

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