NLL TEAMS FULL OF INDIGENOUS TALENT
By: Andrea Chevalier
The National Lacrosse League is loaded with Indigenous players who have come through and shined on several different teams this season.
The Georgia Swarm, in particular, have the force of fan-favorites Miles Thompson, Lyle Thompson, Brendan Bomberry, Jerome "Haina" Thompson, Zed Williams, Randy Staats and LeRoy Halftown who have helped lead the team a solid 7-4 record midway through the 2019 season.
“When we have 30 native players in the NLL, those players are being seen by 3,000 kids, maybe more. These kids look at us and see that we came from where they’re from. They’re seeing that we can do it and they can do it too,” said forward Lyle Thompson.
Lyle currently leads not only the Georgia Swarm in scoring, but is second in the entire NLL with 29 goals this season. Staats has also had a stellar season with the Swarm. The 26-year-old forward out of Six Nations is tied for the team lead with 62 points with Thompson.
Jeremy Thompson of the Saskatchewan Rush (5-4) has been a solid force on the transition side of the game. In 2018, he led the team to the NLL Cup and finished the season second in the league with 164 loose balls. He is well on track to beat that statistic this season with 115 loose balls and holding the number one spot in the league. He is third in the league with 131 faceoff wins.
Austin Staats, San Diego Seals forward, was picked first overall in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft. He has certainly proven his spot on the NLL’s newest franchise, leading the team in points (37), goals (20) and is third in loose balls with 57.
The Buffalo Bandits currently hold first place position in the NLL with a 9-2 record. Thomas Hoggarth is third on the team in goals and fourth in points, the best season that the Lakefield, Ontario, native has had since entering the NLL in 2016. Forward Jordan Durston has followed close behind Hoggarth in scoring for the Bandits. The 24-year-old forward, who made his way to Buffalo last season, has pitched in 31 points (8+23) to help the team hold that top seed in the league.
Currently playing in his ninth season in the NLL, Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson has been a solid force for the team. The 31-year-old Six Nations, Ontario, native leads Rochester in with 47 points (17+30). Jamieson has been a leader and advocate for the Knighthawks and the game of lacrosse since he was drafted into the NLL. The newer faces in Rochester look up to him and the reputation he has made for himself.
Jamieson is one of seven Indigenous players in the Knighthawks’ roster. Starting Angus Goodleaf and backup, Warren Hill, are veterans of the Iroquois Nationals’ program and are both on track to play in the 2019 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. Rochester also has rookies Oran Horn and Leland Powless and veteran Sid Smith, who is recovering from an injury.
Last, but not least is forward Kyle Jackson. The third-year pro, who is from Aamjiwnaang First Nation descent, is tied for third on the Knighthawks in goals (15) and third in points (30). Playing in the NLL means a lot to the 25-year-old forward and has allowed him to connect to his roots.
“I take great pride in playing a sport that is so tied to my heritage,” said Knighthawks forward Kyle Jackson. “Growing up, I was not integrated into my Indigenous culture as much as I would have wanted, but throughout the course of my later years, my family has dived head first into our roots. Playing the national summer sport of Canada, that was originally created by my culture, is a pretty cool experience.”
The league is not only full of athletes that have deep Indigenous roots, many of the top owners and staff also take great pride in representing their culture.
In May of 2008, Curt Styres (Mohawk Turtle Clan) became the first Native American owner of a National Lacrosse League team when he purchased the Knighthawks. The Knighthawks would go on to become the first team in league history to win three straight titles (2012-14). Shortly After, in 2014, the Mohegan Tribe bought part-ownership of the New England Black Wolves.
List of Indigenous Players and Staff in the National Lacrosse League:
Co-head coach: Rich Kilgour
Jerome "Haina" Thompson
New England Black Wolves
Ownership group: The Mohegan Tribe
Owner/General Manager: Curt Styres
President of Lacrosse Operations: Jake Henhawk
Alternate Governor: Gewas Schindler
Assistant Coach: Jason Johnson
Assistant Coach: Marshall Abrams
Director of Player Development: Duane Jacobs
Western Scout: Kevin Hill
Equipment Manager: Dave Sowden
San Diego Seals