Editorial: Lacrosse needs more Andrew Suitors

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NLL games will be a little less meaningful this season without Andrew Suitor on the floor. The heart-and-soul player announced his retirement from the game last month.

Suitor scored 58 goals and 63 assists throughout his 10-year-career – pretty good for a defenseman who wasn’t expected to be a big contributor on the scoreboard. He had a knack for transition-style highlight-reel goals that made him memorable.

He might have won a few damn entertaining fights, too.

From his days playing with Orangeville minor lacrosse to two Minto Cups with the Jr. A Northmen, Suitor had a dream journey to the pros. He was a highly-touted rookie, originally selected fourth overall in the 2010 NLL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Swarm. He made the 2011 All-Rookie Team that season, and in 2012 was an All-Pro as well as the league’s Transition Player of the Year.

After four-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota, he made stops in New England (twice), Vancouver and Rochester before finding his way to New York, where he spent his final season with the Riptide, his experience as a leader a huge asset for the expansion franchise.

Just a few years into his career, he was a reliable veteran and the type of teammate everyone wanted, why is why Minnesota named him their captain at such a young age.

“During his storied career he was a consistent threat in transition, a loose ball specialist and an enforcer all rolled into one player,” said Riptide GM Jim Veltman. “He’s always been a leader that held himself and his teammates accountable, as well as opponents that took liberties with his team. He is a consummate professional that has earned his respect in the lacrosse world.”

I was lucky enough to watch Suitor play in the summer with the Peterborough Lakers in 2012, 2014 and 2018. He helped the team win the Mann Cup in 2012 and 2018.

Andrew Suitor and his iconic beard with Peterborough equipment manager Roger Fowler after the Lakers’ 2012 Mann Cup win. (Photo credit: Ken St. Thomas)

In 2012, he was just a young guy, starting his career. When he came back to the team in 2018 after three seasons away, he was a more mature player, and an even better teammate. Suitor contributed all season long – fans rose to their feet more than once when he delivered a good hit – but was sidelined during the Mann Cup as the coaching staff adjusted their roster to match up better against the Maple Ridge Burrards. Suitor was on the sidelines, glued to the glass to watch and cheer on his teammates every game. He was the first onto the floor to celebrate the win in game four, and was the happiest of anyone during the after party. That’s a guy you want on your team any day of the week.

Andrew Suitor and Jake Withers celebrating the 2018 Peterborough Lakers Mann Cup win. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

He didn’t fight often in the MSL – in fact, just six times as far as I can tell, over three seasons with the Lakers. He fought Kyle Termini of Ajax in his very first MSL game. But each fight was memorable and established that the Lakers were a team you couldn’t take advantage of. His fight with Rob King of Brampton in 2018 established for the fans that their beloved Suits was back.

Bobby Keast coached Suitor in the NLL with Minnesota and also in the MSL with Peterborough, and says Suitor was a dream to coach.

“Andrew was the type of teammate and man that you wanted to go to battle with and then hang out with afterwards to have a few pops. To coach Andrew was an honour. He battled hard, and regardless of winning or losing, you never ever questioned his work ethic.”

My guess is that Suits won’t be able to stay away from the game for long, but he told me at the moment he doesn’t have a time frame for when he might return to lacrosse, and what that might look like, at what level. Right now he’s happily spending time with family, including his young son, and planning his wedding to his fiancée Jenn.

Whenever a beloved player retires from the game, it gives me pause to think about how much they enriched the game. Lacrosse is a sport that requires you to give everything you have. It’s not just stepping on the floor for a game – it’s the practices. The teaching other teammates. The giving back at minor levels, to inspire the next generation of greats. Being a role model.

There are so many young stars waiting in the wings for their turn to become the next favourite, but only a handful will really become the type of heart-and-soul player that Suitor was. That really speaks volumes of how much character comes into play in our sport, and just how much Suitor is revered for how he conducts himself both on the floor and off. Lacrosse is worse off without him as a member of our community.