Features · Lacrosse

Doyle reflects as Rock honour captain

Cody Jamieson summed up Colin Doyle’s career very well in the above tweet. Social media was awash with praise for the former Toronto Rock captain this past week as the Rock prepared to retire his #7 in a pre-game ceremony at the Air Canada Centre on March 11.

Doyle began playing lacrosse at age three – 36 years ago. To say lacrosse is his life is an understatement.

Before Saturday’s game he reflected on the moment he first knew that pro lacrosse was his future.

“My dad took me to my first MILL game, a Detroit Turbos probably game in 1994. I met the cheerleaders and got the player’s autographs. I was 14 or 15 and on the drive home I told my dad I wanted to play and he said ‘maybe one day you can’ and I said ‘no, I think I want to play now.’ I loved the game from the first moment I picked it up but once I went to that pro game I knew it was something I had to do.”

And that he did. From junior in Kitchener-Waterloo to NLL champion, Doyle did it all. He announced his retirement from lacrosse in November after 19 NLL seasons.

His many career highlights include:

  • Six Champion’s Cups with the Rock
  • Three-time NLL playoff MVP
  • 11 all-pro team selections
  • Two all-star game appearances
  • 2005 NLL MVP
  • 1998 NLL Rookie of the Year
  • Rock captain from 2010-2016
  • 266 total games played, 527 goals, 857 assists, 1386 points
  • Seven Mann Cups
  • 218 GP, 400 G, 664 A, 1104 P

The ceremony took place before the Rock hosted the Calgary Roughnecks. It wasn’t flashy, and it wasn’t long – but it was perfect for a person such as Doyle: a humble, classy player.

Rock owner Jamie Dawick spoke first.

“You truly have done it all,” he said to Doyle. “The ultimate professional, the best clutch goal scorer of all time, and for me, the greatest to ever play the game. There will never be another Colin Doyle. You’re a one-of-a-kind guy.”

Dawick presented Doyle’s family with a one-week cruise as a thank you from the team, saying “this is to give back to them for all the sacrifices they’ve made for you over the 19 years of your career.”

A tribute video of some of Doyle’s career highlights followed, and then the man of the hour spoke, surrounded by his family.

“I’m going to miss being a teammate,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy being a fan and watching this team win championships to come.”

Doyle paid special tribute to Chris Hall, Terry Sanderson and Les Bartley, three coaches who helped to shape his career but have all passed. He also thanked the Rock’s trainers and team doctors, former and current owners, family and friends, and fans.

“What an incredible experience I have had the chance to live through and its only because you come to this place to watch us play,” he said to the fans. “We lived through six championships. An incredible amount of highs, a couple of lows. I used to grind waiting for Fridays and Saturdays so I could run through that tunnel and play this game in front of all of you. There aren’t enough words to tell you how happy I am to have had that experience.”

Daughter London stole the show, curtseying to the crowd and waving with her borrowed cheerleader pom-poms when Doyle began to thank his wife and three daughters.

“In all my wildest dreams this was everything I imagined and I was able to fulfill it. It’s important for all the young kids out there to dream big because you never know what could happen.” – Colin Doyle

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Wendel Clark assisted Dawick in bringing the banner out to the floor. Members of the Wilfrid Laurier lacrosse teams, Doyle’s alma mater, formed the entrance tunnel for the game and the halftime scrimmage was played by the KW Braves.

Some of the Calgary Roughnecks emerged from their dressing room early to take in the ceremony.

“Doyle was one of the best players to ever play the game in this league,” Curtis Dickson said. “I watched him and looked up to him growing up. I even had a chance to play against him. It’s very cool to see his jersey up in the rafters in such a big-time arena like the ACC.”

While the ceremony was to honour Doyle’s achievements with the Rock, it should be noted that Doyle had a long career in Canadian lacrosse as well.

In fact, one of Doyle’s greatest memories happened not with the Rock, but in summer ball with the Six Nations Chiefs, who were competing for the 2013 Mann Cup.

In game five of the series, both Chiefs goaltenders (Brandon Miller and Evan Kirk) were ejected from the game in the third period for illegal pads, leaving the Chiefs in a pickle for the last 11 minutes of the game. Being the consummate leader, Doyle stepped up to put on a pair of (legal) pads.

Actually, he was itching for the chance play goal.

“Oh, I knew I was going in,” Doyle laughs. “I said ‘I’m not passing this up!’ I’d played a lot of backyard lacrosse and I knew I could do it. I thought it would be a lot easier than it was.”

He had to talk teammate Rory Smith into letting him do it, though.

“I had to fight Rory for the job. I physically had to grab him and say ‘I’m doing it,’ which is not an easy task if you know Rory. I think Billy Dee Smith finally stepping in convinced Rory to let me have the job,” Doyle chuckles.

He wasn’t in his new venture alone. In addition to Miller, Rock teammates Rob Marshall, Jesse Gamble and Kasey Beirnes were also on that Chiefs’ team. It was an exciting moment that was shared with some special teammates, as well as one unexpected former teammate.

“I’ll never figure this part out,” Doyle recalls, shaking his head. “I was in the dressing room and this guy was taping my equipment on my arm. I look over at him and it was Kim Squire. I can’t for the life of me figure out how or why Kim Squire was in that dressing room taping me up in Victoria, BC in the middle of a Mann Cup.”

Doyle and Squire won four championships together in Toronto.

Doyle ended up making six saves on nine shots, salvaging an 11-7 win for the Chiefs who went on to win the Mann Cup four games to two.

Just look at all the compliments Doyle received via social media to understand how small the lacrosse world is and how you make teammates and friends for life in this sport.

“Besides Bob Watson, Doyle is by far the best player to ever play with the Rock organization,” goaltender Nick Rose said. “To see Colin honoured like that, knowing the kind of guy he is, I’m sure he was very appreciative and honoured.”

Rose said that for all the fanfare over the ceremony, Doyle is still just one of the guys to his former teammates.

“We still see him all the time,” Rose said. “He’s just Doyley to us.”