Chaos LSM Ian MacKay Returns Value on Connor Fields Trade


Playing long pole has not stopped the Chaos' Ian MacKay from contributing to the offense. He scored two 2-point goals against the Archers, his former team, in Week 2.

Several big trades happened in the offseason leading up to the 2021 Premier Lacrosse League season. Several revolved around the Atlas, who were in rebuild mode trading away former Major League Lacrosse MVPs Rob Pannell and Paul Rabil for heaps of draft picks.

When the Chaos were looking to deal 2019 PLL MVP finalist Connor Fields, however, they had their eyes set on just one player.

Ian MacKay.

While many users on social media declared the deal a major win for the Archers, MacKay is out to prove the Chaos made out just as well by acquiring him.

“I saw a lot of tweets and Instagram posts,” he said. “I let it stew with me. It drove me in the offseason. When the PLL announced we’d be playing, I wanted to prove a point. I want to get my name out there and be a household name. Getting traded and the attention to Connor and the Archers winning the trade, it fueled the fire to be in the best shape I could be, be the best teammate I could be and impact the Chaos as much as I could.”

Fields and MacKay were part of the same draft class in 2018. Fields was taken third overall by MLL’s Charlotte Hounds while MacKay was taken by MLL’s Chesapeake Bayhawks with the fourth pick in the second round.

MacKay played in just five games that season, however, as he also played for the Canadian national team in the World Lacrosse Men’s World Championship in Israel. In those five games, he scored 10 goals (including one 2-point goal) and added one assist.

In 2019, he joined the PLL, but once again was unavailable for the entire season, this time due to a visa issue. He played only four games, missing the team’s final five games of the regular season before playing against the Atlas in the postseason in the battle for the top draft pick.

MacKay’s first few years in professional field lacrosse were a story of starts and stops, but it’s not something he spends too much time dwelling on.

“I got to represent my country which was a dream of mine,” he said. “If you’re given that opportunity, you’re taking it. The visa issue, it is what it is. It can be frustrating but a lot of it is out of your control.”

“There’s a lot of stuff out of my control, so I can be in the gym or on the field on my own,” he added. “You put in the work, so when you get the call, you can step in, produce, be a good teammate and make your presence felt.”

MacKay did play in all six of the Archers’ games in the 2020 PLL Championship Series, the last one being a semifinal loss to the Chaos. He scored a goal and picked up two ground balls in that game. But Chaos coach Andy Towers had his eye on MacKay long before that. He was a unicorn of sorts, the all-time leading goal scorer in Vermont history who could also play defense.

“He can do a lot of things for any team in the PLL,” Towers said. “The fact Ian MacKay was an offensive midfielder and also has the ability to pick up a long pole as a Canadian world team LSM — and not only pick one up, but be great at it — but also has the ability to be a short-stick defensive midfielder as well, and given his offensive background, makes him super dangerous. His experience playing defense in the NLL makes him valuable on ball and off ball. He checked a lot of boxes for us.”

MacKay was a little surprised he was traded straight up for Fields, but a phone call from a future Chaos teammate set the tone for him moving forward.

“It wasn’t until Blaze Riorden called me and said, ‘You were traded straight up for one of the bigger names in the league. We want you. We want you to be a big part of this team. Don’t take that lightly,’” he said. “That’s a good feeling. it wasn’t until Blaze called me that I thought about it. That also sat with me and drove me all offseason as well.”

With the Archers, MacKay said he learned a lot from his teammates, particularly from the trio of Utah assistant coaches Will Manny, Marcus Holman and Adam Ghitelman. He appreciated his time with the club, but he has a lot of connections that made him a good fit for the Chaos. He’s roommates with Chaos teammates Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith and Chris Cloutier. He also played for Chaos assistant coach Ryan Curtis at Vermont.

At Vermont, MacKay holds the record for career goals (150) and is third all-time in career points (230). For the Chaos, however, he is playing as a long-stick midfielder for the first time professionally. His high school coach at The Hill Academy, Brodie Merrill, initially brought it up to him, and he played there for the Canadian U19 team in 2012. He mentioned it as a possibility to the Archers coaching staff, but because of the time restraints in the bubble, it never happened.

When Towers asked MacKay to take on the position, however, he was all for it, and he’s performed admirably in the role.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Towers said. “We had very high expectations for him, otherwise we wouldn’t have traded a player of Connor Fields’ ability for him. He has absolutely surpassed those. He has played great on-ball defense. He’s played great off-ball defense. He’s been consistent on picking up ground balls the first time and getting our transition going.”

After an 0-2 start, the Chaos took on the Archers in the final game of Week 2. The Chaos got off to a strong start, outscoring the Archers 4-1 in the first quarter. MacKay made an immediate impact, scoring two 2-point goals.

The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Archers outscored the Chaos 11-4 the remainder of the game and MacKay committed an non-releasable penalty that helped the Archers extend their lead out of reach.

“It was unacceptable and allowed them to run away with the game,” he said. “There’s the good with the 2-pointers and the bad with the penalty. That eats at me more than celebrating the two 2-point goals.”

Towers appreciates MacKay’s accountability.

“As talented as a player he is, he doesn’t make excuses for anything ever,” he said. “Whatever you ask of him, he is a soldier. He just wants to win. It’s why we value him so much.”

The Chaos (0-3) lost all four games in group play in 2020 before winning twice in the playoffs to reach the championship game. The team will need a similar turnaround this season if it hopes to win a championship.

MacKay isn’t afraid of the challenge, though. He considers himself an underdog and is willing to do whatever it takes on the field to help his team win games.

“I’m from a small town in Ontario,” said MacKay, who grew up in Port Elgin on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, about three hours northwest of Toronto. “Not a lot of people leave town. I’ve always had the chip on my shoulder to play Division I lacrosse and now professionally.

“This trade has revamped my field career,” he added. “I’m really just getting started and continuing to be the best player I can be, the best teammate I can be, to play with that mentality and prove people wrong.”

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