Dane Dobbie: The Leader

Photo: Langley Thunder

Photo: Langley Thunder

Dane Dobbie had a lot of firsts in 2019. He became a head coach, an NLL Finals MVP, and an NLL League MVP. But there’s something he’s always been: a leader.

At every level of play, as a runner or a coach, whether it’s been in the BCJALL, WLA, or NLL, Dobbie has always exemplified strong leadership qualities through his performance on the floor or his communication with his coaches and teammates on the bench and in the locker room.  

“I think I’ve been coached so well, even all the way back during my minor days and now I can relay back to these young guys what I’ve learned from them,” said Dobbie.

Over his decades in the game, Dobbie has earned the respect of those he’s played for, with and against. He is a guy who embodies so many positive lacrosse qualities such as being hard-working, not looking to step on people’s toes, sharing ideas etc. He is also a guy that lets his talent speak for itself.

Dating back to the Burnaby Jr. Lakers Minto Cup championship in 2005, Dobbie had 94 points in the WLA regular season and led the Lakers in points tallied in both the WLA playoffs as well as the Minto Cup playoffs that season. As he was being scouted for the NLL, he was seen as a dynamic player with tremendous talent, a high lacrosse-IQ, and plenty of upside. He surely has lived up to the expectations.

Dobbie’s ability to grab a room’s attention has gotten better as he’s aged. Coming in as the 2019 head coach of the Langley Jr. Thunder (his first head coaching gig in Junior), Dobbie nearly pushed his under-21 team to a playoff birth. Regardless of their lack of a postseason appearance, his junior players such as Ryan Martel, who is also Dobbie’s teammate on the Calgary Roughneck, said that just by having a guy of Dobbie’s Calibre on the bench motivated the team to play better.

“He’s a great leader and knows a lot, and I think everyone in the room knows that,” said Martel. “It’s easy for guys to listen to him because when he tells us to do something on the floor, it usually works.”

What adds merit to this sentiment is that it has been echoed by so many other players and coaches. His former teammate and coach on the Roughnecks, Curt Malawsky, has said that Dane’s contributions on the bench have helped the team execute more effectively on the floor.

As one of the leaders on the Langley Sr. Thunder (before he was traded to the Maple Ridge Burrards mid-season) budding-star Connor Robinson recalled a specific example of how Dobbie was able to break down the defence and work out a way for the two of them to connect on the floor.

“He’s great when you’re on the bench,” said Robinson. He’s always giving me pointers and tips. If he sees something he thinks I missed, he’ll let me know, or if he wants to try something new, he’ll be upfront with me. He’s been really helpful too and helped me to grow my game. 

For Dobbie, there is never a time when he isn’t trying to breakdown the game to maximize the team’s success, and you were able to see a noticeable improvement with young Sr. Thunder players when he was with the team. As is often said, “To be the best you have to beat the best” and in the case of his teammates, it’s equally important to play up to the standard of one of the best.

“He’s so good, and he’s so experienced that when you get on the floor, you want to prove that you can play with someone like that,” said Robinson.

The Thunder’s Jr. and Sr. GM, Rob Buchan, has developed a relationship with Dobbie over the years. The NLL’s MVP was brought in by Buchan to help the 2013 Thunder attempt to win the Mann Cup. Unfortunately for them, the Victoria Shamrocks halted that dream after a six-game series in the WLA Finals.

But it’s experiences like that, the good and the bad, that have helped Dobbie grow as a player. At the age of 33, Dobbie has plenty of knowledge and wisdom to pass down to the next generations of lacrosse players, and Buchan recognizes how that can help his future young stars to hopefully develop into players like Dobbie. 

“We have a lot of young guys on our team,” said Buchan. “With guys like Connor Robinson and Brad McCulley, who better for them to learn from than a guy like Dane who has a history of success and plays the game the right way.”

When Dobbie - and Robinson, who is also playing the rest of his year out with the Shamrocks - returns to the Thunder next season after his 2019 brief stint with the Burrards ends, Dobbie will be able to once again assist the youthful Thunder lineup. However, Dobbie is still making an impact on a veteran team like the Burrards, even as he’s come into their locker room halfway through the year. The transition of leadership has been a work in progress. Although Dobbie plays with a handful of the Burrards on the Roughnecks in the winter, asserting his ideas and culture into that locker room took time according to Burrards GM Lance Andre.

“In our last three games, Dane has led by example,” said Andre. “He’s first on the floor for warm-ups, and he’s working hard. When younger players see that it is not just talent he has, they step up their game. He has now found his voice in the locker room and is someone the players are listening to as he is not only a talented player but has a great lacrosse IQ that is respected by the players and coaching staff as well.”

“It has taken a bit for him to be a leader in the room as he is new to the team and didn't want to step on any toes of our existing culture.”

No matter where Dobbie suits up these days, his presence changes teams. Dobbie’s love of the game and his desire for it to be played at the highest-level pushes him and his players to strive for greatness. He has learned that the ability to achieve such heights is earned and not given. Everything Dobbie has soaked in has helped him to accomplish his dreams; now he wants to pay it forward because that’s what a good leader would do.

Adam Levi