Cupido helping young Kodiaks make MSL playoff push

Photo: Cobourg Kodiaks

Photo: Cobourg Kodiaks

Story by: Matthew Caruk

When the Cobourg Kodiaks defeated the Oakville Rock at home on June 16, they moved into first place in the Major Series Lacrosse standings with their fifth win of the season. That victory also pulled them even with their accumulative wins over the previous three summers. 

One can only imagine what it was like to be a part of a one-win team in year one or a two-win team in year two - with most of those contests being blowouts. As year three arrived, the scores drew closer; there was an exciting victory in Peterborough, but still, just two wins to speak of. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since making the move away from Kitchener-Waterloo back in 2016. 

For many of the game’s biggest stars, the city of Cobourg wasn’t a preferred destination. However, for one of those players, he simply didn’t think of playing anywhere else. That man is captain Joey Cupido.

The 29-year-old began playing for the Kodiaks back in 2012 and has spent the past seven summers helping to anchor the team’s back end. 

Cupido is the longest-tenured player on the entire roster, and when the team made the move to Cobourg, he came along for the ride. That, of course, meant some tough times with a rebuilding Kodiaks squad, including the one-victory 2016 season, in which he suited up in all 18 games. 

“No one likes losing. (Those years) were frustrating” he said. 

It’s important to remember that initial roster, including Cupido, only boasted three players with NLL experience. In 2019, that’s risen to see almost the entire roster playing in the pro ranks.

With the entire situation out of his control, it would be easy to see why a player might be open to a deal closer to home, or to a better squad. That concept is simply not in the DNA of Cupido. 

“Ownership here is awesome. They treat the players great and they’re committed to this team,” Cupido said. “I felt like I owed it to them to stick around and help out where I can.” 

Loyalty is a trait that Cupido has displayed throughout his professional career. In his nine-year NLL career, he’s suited up for just one team, that being the Colorado Mammoth. They selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft and he’s proved his value to the organization, winning the league’s Transition Player of the Year Award on two occasions.

Last summer, he signed a five-year contract extension with the Mammoth, something that’s rarely seen in the NLL.

Cupido also plays the role of a teacher on the Kodiaks, helping to guide the younger talent in their respective journeys to the NLL. Watching the team play confirms this fact. Yes, there’s still an electric energy inside the Cobourg Community Centre when Cupido grabs a loose ball and takes off on a breakaway, but this season those plays haven’t come as often as in the past. Instead, the likes of Scott Dominey and Doug Utting have gotten more opportunities to go one-on-one with the opposing goaltenders.

With a roster filled with NLL experience, an up and coming crop of youngsters, and strong goaltending from Kevin Orleman, the Kodiaks have their sights firmly set on their first playoff berth since moving to Cobourg. 

“I’ve always just come and done my job. I’m excited about the pieces we have now. I feel we can be competitive with anyone in this league and we can compete for a playoff spot.”

Austin Owens