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Players Relish Opportunity to Suit Up for MLL Legends Alumni Game at Lake Placid

By Bob Chavez, Inside Lacrosse, 08/08/16, 12:15PM EDT


If you’ve been to the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament, you understand that it’s not really about your level of skill as much as it is your level of passion.

The 2016 edition of the tournament was no different, although the first Major League Lacrosse Legends Alumni Game on Friday provided fans with a unique opportunity: a game featuring top levels of skill and passion.

“It was unbelievable,” said defenseman Ryan Mollett, who retired from MLL in 2007. “It was a lot of fun just being out here with the guys … Maybe the legs aren’t exactly where they used to be, but the stickwork was still there.”

An estimated crowd of 3,000 fans gathered at Field 1 of the North Elba Athletic Fields and saw Team HEADstrong score a 15-9 win over Team Army Ranger Lead the Way. And while the talent on the field was unquestionably professional, it scene itself was Lake Placid lacrosse the whole way.

More than a few players arrived at the field already warmed up from games they played earlier in the day. They changed and geared up behind cars, their equipment bags on the dusty ground.

In all, 40 former MLL players were part of the experience that raised funds and awareness for the aforementioned organizations and really, the choice to participate in the game really wasn’t one.

“When Kevin (Leveille) reached out to me, I was really excited,” said defenseman Pat McCabe, who retired in 2006. “And then when I saw the list of guys, it was a lot of the guys who were already coming here. It’s not only for the league, it’s for the event up here and it’s for guys who enjoy being here and really appreciate coming to Lake Placid.”

Games like this aren’t usually about who wins because everyone is the proverbial winner when it comes to raising awareness for charitable causes. And although the start of the game was a bit soft, it didn’t take long to flip the switch. Especially once the ball hit the floor and was up for grabs.

“Look at all the players out here and the success they’ve had, it’s not by accident,” said McCabe. “It’s through hard work, it’s through pride and nobody wants to look bad so if the ball’s on the ground, you want to come up with it.”

Team HEADstrong opened leads of 3-2 and 8-4 in the first half with goals from Leveille, Tim Byrnes and Chris Fiore, but in proper context, those were the “boring” points of the game. On one of the first clears of the game for Team HEADstrong, the magical stickwork of Gerry Byrne on defense through a crowd let fans know how special the talent on the field was, and Brent Rothfuss cashed in on perhaps the prettiest goal of the game when he went airborne in front of the crease to finish a quick stick for Team Lead the Way in the second quarter. And even though Jake Coon came up with a save on a Matt Striebel laser later in the second, it was the audible ‘woosh” of Striebel’s stick slicing the mountain air that signaled the authority of the shot.

“Everybody’s friends and everybody plays hard and then you have a moment, where everybody realizes we don’t want anybody getting injured,” said Striebel, who retired in 2012. “It was the perfect blend of guys who were intense and into it and guys who were recognizing that we were out here supporting a great cause and having fun.”

Team Lead the Way rallied to tie the score 9-9 by the end of the third quarter with goals from Mike Regan, Dan Hardy and Tim Soudan, but the fourth quarter was all Team HEADstrong, which closed the game with a 6-goal run.

Defenseman Sol Bliss was on the losing side with Team Lead the Way, but you wouldn’t know it during post-game conversation. For Bliss, like so many others, it was about the experience.

“The crowd that was here, the guys that showed up … lacrosse is a passion of ours, lacrosse is in our heart so it’s good to get on the field with these guys who have an appreciation for the game and play it right,” said Bliss, who retired in 2008 and 2013. “We’ve got a little bit of rust on our sticks but just to get out here with guys that put everything they had into it … it’s just a fun environment.”

Team Lead The Way 

Sol Bliss (Rochester Rattlers), Damien Davis (Chicago Machine), Harold Drumm (Bridgeport Barrage), Michael Gabel (Chicago Machine), John Gagliardi (Long Island Lizards), Gary Gait (Baltimore Bayhawks), Timothy Goettelmann (Long Island Lizards), Jamie Hanford (Baltimore Bayhawks), Jon Hess (New Jersey Pride), Chris Massey (Long Island Lizards), Ryan Mollett (Rochester Rattlers), Chris Passavia (Rochester Rattlers), Mike Regan (Boston Cannons), Brent Rothfuss (Rochester Rattlers), Josh Sims (Baltimore Bayhawks), Vin Sombrotto (Long Island Lizards), Tim Soudan (Rochester Rattlers), Matthew Striebel (Philadelphia Barrage), Regy Thorpe (Rochester Rattlers), and Nate Watkins (Denver Outaws). The alternate/Coach for Team Lead the Way: David Jenkins.   

Team HEADstrong 

Fredric Beardsley (Rochester Rattlers), Gerry Byrne (Boston Cannons), Tim Byrnes (Long Island Lizards), Jake Coon (Rocheser Rattlers), Jake Deane (Chesapeake Bayhawks), Kevin Dougherty (LA Riptide), David Evans (Boston Cannons), Chris Fiore (Long Island Lizards), Kip Fulks (Baltimore Bayhawks), John Glatzel (Rochester Rattlers), Dan Hardy (Rochester Rattlers), Kevin Leveille (Rochester Rattlers), Mike Leveille (Chicago Machine), Sean Morris (Boston Cannons), Pat McCabe (Long Island Lizards), Blake Miller (Bridgeport Barrage), Shawn Nadelen (Baltimore Bayhawks), Jack Reid (Boston Cannons), Chris Schiller (Rochester Rattlers), and Stephen Sombrotto (Long Island Lizards). The alternate/Coach for Team Headstrong: Frank D’Agistino.