By Anna Taylor
Colin Doyle has no regrets about his lacrosse career. The Toronto Rock captain retired at the end of the 2016 season after a 19-year professional career and says he doesn’t miss playing the game at all.
“I left it all out there,” Doyle says. “I don’t have an itch to get back. I don’t miss it. That tells me that it was the right time to retire.”
Don’t misunderstand – he hasn’t given up lacrosse. He’s just as passionate about the game and as involved as ever. Doyle, whose jersey will be raised to the rafters at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, is enjoying a different aspect of the game these days – teaching it. As the Director of TRAC Athletics, he runs the day-to-day programming out of the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, ON. His days are filled instructing the next generation of great lacrosse players.
“I’ve always loved playing the game and I think it’s important for the kids to learn to respect each other and respect the referees and respect the game itself,” Doyle states. “I hope I can pass my passion on to them.”
There may be nobody better to teach the game than Doyle, who had one of the most distinguished careers an athlete could want. He ranks third in all-time league games played with 266. He scored 527 goals, 857 assists and 1384 points in those games, sitting fourth in all-time goals and third in assists and points in league history. He’s also third in goals, assists and points in NLL all-time playoff scoring. He was the 1998 rookie of the year, and most importantly, helped Toronto win six Champion’s Cups in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2011.
“Winning two championships in Maple Leaf Gardens were great memories,” he says. “Kaleb Toth’s last second goal in 2000 was one that will forever stick with me.”
Friend and former teammate Kasey Beirnes played with Doyle for seven seasons. Beirnes says that of many memories they share, the 2011 Champion’s Cup win is the best.
“An example of how classy Colin is – when they handed him the Cup, he declined it and gave it to Cam Woods and I because we’d both played so many years and never won it,” Beirnes says. “His leadership and voice in the dressing room are missed. Colin has a loud voice and demands attention. The young kids on any team would benefit from what he has to say. When he did say something it meant that he cared and it was very important and very useful for the young guys.”
Doyle was the captain of the Rock for seven years. Beirnes can’t say enough about the leadership Doyle displayed in the Rock dressing room.
“If you ever watched him play and practice he practiced as hard as he played in a game. He worked hard in practice to get better and to constantly make the team better. His dedication and commitment to the game made him a great role model thing for the younger kids coming into the league.”
Doyle has played with close to a hundred different teammates over his career, and while he has helped shape many of their careers, each has also influenced him. There are a special few, however, that he credits with helping both his personal and career development.
“Pat Coyle, Danny Stroup and Bob Watson taught me how to be a competitor,” he praises. “Josh Sanderson and Rusty Kruger taught me a different mentality. I really admired the way they and Patrick Merrill played the game. They molded me as a young man. In junior I had a great group of guys who never really won much but I learned a lot from losing. You don’t know everything when you’re young and we took our lumps in junior. We had a good time doing it but I learned how be a great leader and how to be a winner when I got here to Toronto.”
Doyle made a lot of memories in his career, although not all game-related. He said it’s the off-floor events that will stick with him the most, the time spent bonding with teammates on the road.
“I had so many good laughs in those times when you’re moving from one place to another,” he remembers. “In the old days we didn’t always travel on top dollar so we had to find ways to amuse ourselves. Airports, hotels, bus rides and airplanes. Kenny Millin, Wayne Burke, Dan Ladouceur, Anthony Cosmo – these guys put me in stitches one way or another. Nobody was off-limits to Laddy on an airplane.”
Beirnes said Doyle could give just as good as he got in the joke department.
“Every plane trip could bring a new episode of something, he’s quite the character,” Beirnes smiles.
Teammates are friends for life in this sport. Although he has retired, Doyle’s connections in the lacrosse community run deep.
He’s looking forward to Saturday night although admits he’s nervous to see his jersey head up to the rafters.
“Every emotion you could possibly imagine I’ve probably experienced it,” he chuckles. “I hadn’t really thought about it until this week but people are calling me saying they’re going to be there so it’s pretty exciting but I’m also a little anxious. I’m feeling everything. I’m ready for it to happen.”