Healthy Mike Mallory ready for NLL return

Mike Mallory.jpg

The Western Lacrosse Association has long given chances to aspiring professional lacrosse players to hone their craft during the summer season in hopes of them one day becoming (or returning to be) a permanent fixture in the National Lacrosse League.

Last summer, the Victoria Shamrocks’ Casey Jackson and the New Westminster Salmonbellies’ Jordan McBride were prime examples of WLA players that earned spots back on NLL rosters because of their impressive play in that league.  

This WLA season, the Maple Ridge Burrards’ Mike Mallory is making the strongest case (so far) for playing time in the NLL. While his first two WLA games this year were exceptional - he scored a combined ten goals and six assists including seven goals and four assists in his season-opener - Mallory has the second-most points in the WLA with 29 through seven games heading into the Burrards Sunday affair against the Shamrocks.

As for the slowing down of his incredible pace, it makes complete sense that after such a ferocious start, as defences across the league began focusing in on Mallory with more urgency.

“I’ve definitely been feeling more attention, so that’s something I’m going to have to get used to,” said Mallory

He’ll also have to eventually share the wealth with his uber-talented teammates already on NLL rosters such as Ben McIntosh, Ryan Keenan, Jeff Shattler and Curtis Dickson as the year progresses. 

Mallory last played in the NLL in 2017 for the Colorado Mammoth. He was forced to sit out because of a concussion - one of many injuries he experienced - and then also needed to juggle work commitments as that was one of his main priorities. He wasn’t an offensive standout back in his first stint in the NLL - he didn’t collect more than three points in any of his 11 games played until his final game (four points) in 2017.

Having endured a broken hand, a fractured foot, a concussion and shin splints (albeit not all at the same time), Mallory has done his best to play for the Burrards each summer. Yet, despite the aches and pains, he rarely missed a game because he always played through it.

“I’m not a guy that likes to quit,” said Mallory. "I believe if you’re hurt, you play through it. I never liked being a guy that sits out even if I’m hurt.”

However, before this season began, he knew that something needed to change - mostly for his well-being - to give himself a shot at finally returning to his best form. Months before this summer season started, Mallory began seeing a personal trainer four to five times a week and even got back to playing soccer, which he hadn’t done for many years. 

His workout regiment has gotten him into peak physical status. He credits the Burrards’ success in recent seasons and roster moves they have made as a partial motivating factor for him to be back 100% healthy.

“I took this last offseason to really seriously try and get back in shape,” said Mallory. “It’s paid off so far because it’s been a good start for me. 

“We’ve been to the Mann Cup two of the last three years, and we’ve been close to winning it all. We’ve also got a lot of new guys coming in this year, so I knew I had to be at the top of my game.”

Maintaining his health and his high-level of play will become increasingly challenging as the season wears on, especially as stronger and quicker talent trickles back into play. But, if it can be done, and the Burrards staff surely thinks it can, Mallory will be putting himself in a good position to be on an NLL roster next season.

Currently, Mallory sits on the NLL’s Hold Out list with his playing rights being owned by the Mammoth. But, if the team chooses to leave him unprotected (as they did last offseason with expansion) on June 25th when protected players must be announced, he will again become available to teams across the league.

It should be noted that since Mallory played in the NLL in 2017, it has been work commitments out of province - he’s a British Columbia-native - that has interfered with his playing time on NLL rosters even more so than his injuries. That should go without saying considering his feelings of playing through pain. Mallory now has a job closer to home in Metro Vancouver.

Now that he is recharged, healed and playing at a high level, it’s no surprise that the upper-echelon of the Burrards are advocating for Mallory to be in the NLL; just ask Burrards GM Lance Andre.

“With expansion happening again this year in the NLL, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be playing at that level next season,” said Andre. “He’s outplaying all of the NLL guys in the league right now.”

This level of accomplishment from Mallory isn’t an aberration. From 2015-2017, Mallory posted at least 20 goals and 50 points in each of those seasons. His best season statistically was 2016 when he had 67 points. If he were to continue his pace through seven games in 2019, he would set a new WLA career-high in points with 74. 

His ability to have been so consistent at a more-than-respectable bar while battling through injuries year after year has earned admiration from those he works with. The Burrards Director of Scouting and Assistant Coach, Chris Gill, explained that having players with the kind of character to sacrifice their bodies for teammates the way that Mallory does is a rare sight in today’s WLA.

“Consistency is a hard thing have in this league, especially for a guy like [Mallory] who has played through a bunch of injuries, said Gill. “If you look back at his career, even though he’s been injured, he rarely has missed a game. He’s a total team guy that will sacrifice everything for the guys beside him.”

If a player were to build a resume for themselves and wanted to apply for a position playing at the highest level of lacrosse in the world, it would check many of the boxes that Mike Mallory’s has. He’s a healthy player outplaying (an opinion shared by plenty) impeccable talent and has a desire to do what’s asked of him by his teammates and coaches.

This is who Mike Mallory is, and this is who he has worked long and hard in his life to become. Playing in the NLL again would give affirmation to all of his hard work.

“It would mean a lot,” said Mallory. “That’s what I’ve been working towards my whole career, but especially the last four or five months coming back from injury. I’ve put all this hard work in for that reason, and it’s started with the WLA season.”

Adam Levi