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Dan Dawson Retires After 21 Season Hall of Fame Career

Lacrosse Legend Will Transition To New Role With The Rock

Oakville, ON – Toronto Rock forward Dan Dawson has announced his retirement from the National Lacrosse League after 21 seasons that have surely earned him a spot in the league’s Hall of Fame.  The three-time NLL Champion will now move into a new role with the Toronto Rock as the team’s Director of Player Development.

The accolades and accomplishments are many for the 41-year-old Dawson from Oakville, ON.  He’s a champion, an MVP, and will go down as one of the game’s greatest teammates.

“My time has come to an end, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my time in this league and this game,” said Dawson.  “It’s my body and my family that are telling me I need to be home.  I can’t perform at the level I’m accustomed to, and everyone expects from me at my age.  Given everything that’s going on in my life, my energy and my efforts need to be redirected to the people that have supported me for over 20 years.  And that’s the main reason why I’m shutting it down.

“In the off season was the first time I thought about (retiring) and then heading into this season I knew it was going to be my last and it just felt right.  It’s so funny when you talk to people that have done this and exited the game or a career after an extended period of time, they always say, you know.  You know when it’s your time.  It just felt right.  I know it’s the right time.”

Dawson’s 21-year NLL career began in Columbus when he was selected in the 6th round, 68th overall in the 2001 NLL Draft.  Along the way, he made stops in Arizona, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Rochester, Saskatchewan, San Diego and finally Toronto.  He won two championships in Rochester (2013, 2014) and a third title in Saskatchewan (2018).

The all-time great finished his career having played the most games in NLL history with 322.  His 551 goals are 4th most in NLL history and no one has setup more goals as his 954 assists are also tops all-time.  Total that up and Dawson’s 1,505 career points are second only to John Tavares.  He was the NLL’s MVP in Boston with a 104-point season in 2009 and was named the NLL Cup MVP in Rochester’s 2014 title run.

Dawson’s impact on the Toronto Rock was almost immediate.  Just days after signing as a free agent with the Rock in August of 2019, he gathered some of his new teammates at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre for a shooting session and the Dawson era had officially begun.

Everyone around the organization could feel the energy he was injecting into this young group of talented lacrosse players.  It’s something that began on day one and continued through to his very last game.  That enthusiasm and knowledge is something he hopes to continue to pass on during his next chapter in the game.

“The new role is based on everything I wanted as a player throughout my career and didn’t have at my disposal and access to resources.  And there’s many reasons for not having that access.  For some it’s because of distance, because of logistics, may reasons but everything’s based on team concepts.  We have this world-class facility here with the TRAC that allows us to do this 365 days a year with our guys that are in market, that run programming through here.  I can find time in a day to work with these guys. And I know if that was the younger me, I would be dying for it.  So, when I developed this role, it was just based on everything I wish I had that I was seeking as a player but didn’t have,” said Dawson.

While Dawson’s impact on players younger than he will be evident for years to come, there were influential people in his lacrosse life that helped him become the player he was.

“Peter Lough the greatest captain I ever had,” explained Dawson, who had Lough as his leader while playing for the Arizona Sting.  “He was the big brother I never had.  He was my roommate on the road.  He worked out hard.  He showed me what it was like to be a great teammate.  I was so thankful for that.  He always kept me in check when I was a young, inexperienced, uneducated lacrosse player that wasn’t always doing the right thing all the time.  I was thankful for him.  He’s definitely one of the biggest influences in my career both on and off the floor.

“As far as coaches, Bob Hamley forced me to be the player I am.  He showed me that he believed and saw something in me that I never saw in myself.  Fast-forwarding to Derek Keenan, he was the guy who showed me what it was like to be an amazing person, both on and off the floor and I was so thankful for my time there in Portland.  And then, Mike Hasen and Curt Styres and the entire Rochester staff for finally hunting down that elusive championship.  The list goes on and on culminating here with Matt Sawyer and Jamie Dawick for giving me the opportunity to play in front of family and friends and ending my career where I should be, at home, where it all started, in my hometown, in this facility, and being able to share those moments with my family and obviously with my dad. I couldn’t have thought of a better ending other than winning a championship, but my kids are going to remember this, and we can never take that away from them.  Also, my dad had a chance to have his final time on this earth watching (my brother) Paul and I play locally.  That was very important.  It meant a lot to him.”

When asked who his favourite teammate was, Dawson’s answer was never in doubt.

“Obviously, my brother,” said Dawson without hesitation.  “My brother is my best friend and he’s the ultimate teammate.  He makes everyone play bigger and stronger.  He would do anything for a win.  I’m very lucky that I had a chance to win with him and be part of numerous championships with him both in the summer and the NLL.  Those are the times.  It was hard on my family when we were on different teams.  It was awful.  We’re both sore losers and we both take this game very seriously.”

The emphasis on family is something that is ever-present whenever you have the opportunity to speak with Dan.  It’s a message Dawson constantly shared with his teammates and it’s always clear that the support of his family had a tremendous impact on his life.

“I want to say thank you to my entire family,” expressed Dawson.  “My beautiful wife, my mom and dad, my two sisters, and all my nieces and nephews, and obviously my three boys because I’ve missed a lot of weddings, a lot of birthdays, a lot of hockey games, and not once has anyone ever said anything to me and not once have I ever thought that they weren’t supporting me.  They were allowing me to play this sport for such a long time and I love them with everything and I’m also very excited to spend more time with everybody.”

The appreciation runs deep for Dawson, and he recognizes that along the way there have been many people that had influence on his career.

“It’s so tough because there’s so many people to thank,” said Dawson.  “Every teammate I ever played with, every coach, every front office staff, every reporter, every fan, they have all had an impact on my career at some point. I’ve learned from everybody.  And I’m so thankful that this sport has taken me around the world and given me so many valuable life lessons, but more than anything it gave me a sense of purpose.  I couldn’t imagine a grade 6 kid from Oakville picking up a stick and then everything that it has given me.   I’m forever in debt to the sport of lacrosse for that.”

Toronto Rock