February 5, 2011

Gait Retires from NLL, Focuses on Coaching

from press release

Gary Gait's comeback stint with the Rochester Knighthawks is over, the organization announced Saturday.

Gary Gait ends one career today to focus on another, as one of the greatest players in the history of professional lacrosse leaves to concentrate his coaching career. The 43-year-old Gait departs after playing 18 seasons in the National Lacrosse League and three with the Rochester Knighthawks.

"The franchise has been great to me. They asked me to play and I did, and now it's time to focus on coaching the Syracuse Women and the Hamilton Nationals."

The 43-year-old Gait enters his fourth season as the head coach of the Syracuse University women's lacrosse team. In the past three seasons, he has led the Orange to a 47-15 record and two trips to the national semifinals (2008 and 2010). Gait was named the second head coach in the history of the Syracuse women's lacrosse program in August 2007. In his first season at the helm, he was named the Northeast Region Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA).

This summer, he will team up with Regy Thorpe as an assistant coach with the Hamilton Nationals of Major League Lacrosse.

"I am excited to be coaching on the men's side again and being back in the MLL," said Gait, who will work alongside Thorpe who brought him out of retirement in 2005 to join the Rochester Knighthawks.

Gait was acquired on October 15, 2008 from the Colorado Mammoth for forward Andrew Potter and Rochester's first-round draft picks in 2009 and 2010. He signed with Rochester two weeks later and on January 11, 2009 he made his long anticipated return. It was worth the wait for Knighthawks fans, as Gait netted five goals, including the 600th of his career, on opening night.

"It was a very special moment to have Gary a part of the Knighthawks family for a couple of seasons," said Thorpe. "He touched the hearts of the Knighthawks fans. He was the best to ever play the game."

During the past three seasons, he played in 24 games with the Knighthawks and collected 74 points (39+35). This season, he signed a one-year deal to help the Knighthawks overcome some key offseason injuries to players like Shawn Williams and Jordan Hall. The veteran helped Rochester wins its season opener and finish with a 2-2 record. He played his last game on January 29th and chipped in one assist against the Boston Blazers to finish with five points in two games (1+4).
"His experience and knowledge of the game was tremendous," said Knighthawks Head Coach Mike Hasen. "He was a calming influence on the floor and in the locker room. He showed the young guys when you stick to the game plan good things can happen."

Gait also played a role in the Knighthawks plans to get Cody Jamieson with the first-overall pick in the 2010 NLL Entry Draft. Styres pulled off two trades with the Colorado Mammoth that netted Gait, Gavin Prout and Potter, and two first-round selections in the 2010 draft. One of those picks ended up being Jamieson.

"I would like to thank Gary in helping us get Cody Jamieson," said Owner and General Manager Curt Styres. "We had a strategic plan in place to get Cody and by getting Gary to come to Rochester we were able to swap first-round picks with Colorado the next year. He was a big part of it."

Jamieson, who wore the legendary No. 22 at Syracuse like Gait, benefitted from playing with Gait. From 2009-10, Jamieson was on campus at SU and got to know one of his lacrosse legends.

"It was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was just like a dream come true," said the 23-year-old Jamieson. "I grew up watching him play and I never expected to play with him because of the age difference. It was a testament to his character that he could play this long and shows how much he loves and cares for the game."

Gait leaves the game as the NLL's second all-time leader in goals (635) and points (1,165), while his 530 assists are fourth best. The Victoria, BC, native returned to the game with Rochester after retiring in 2005 with the Colorado Mammoth. The Wayne Gretzky of lacrosse was a winner at every level. Gait won three National Lacrosse League titles (1991, 1994-95), three Major League Lacrosse titles (2001-02, 2005), three Mann Cups (1991, 1997 and 1999), the Heritage Cup (2004) and the International Lacrosse Federation (ILF) World Championship (2006).

At the collegiate level, Gait captured three NCAA championships with Syracuse University (1988-90) and introduced the world to the "Air Gait." While at SU (1987-90), he earned All-American honors four times, including three straight first team selections (1988-90). He was also the recipient of the Lt. Raymond Enners Award (National Player of the Year) twice (1988, 1990) and the Lt. Donald C. MacLaughlin Jr. Award (Midfielder of the Year) in 1988 and 1990. What began in Syracuse in the late 80s now ends in Rochester in 2011.

"I will definitely miss the guys and the locker room," said Gait.

During his pro playing career, he was selected the league's MVP a record six times, including five in a row (1995-99). He was an All-Pro 15 straight seasons and led the NLL in points and goals seven times. In 1991 with Detroit, he was named the NLL Rookie of the Year. Gait played in seven different markets, spending time with the Detroit Turbos, Philadelphia Wings, Baltimore Thunder, Pittsburgh CrosseFire, Washington Power, Colorado Mammoth and Rochester Knighthawks. In 2006, he was selected as one of five charter members of the NLL's Hall of Fame.

"I have had the pleasure playing with Gary on a number of different teams. From the Brooklin Redmen to the Rochester Knighthawks as well as the 2006 Team Canada Field Lacrosse team," said Knighthawks Team Captain Shawn Williams. "Looking back, there was always a few things that Gaiter would bring to a team. First off, his goal-scoring and playmaking abilities are uncanny. His willingness to mentor and teach everyone around was always a help to all. Finally, his passion for the game we love was always brought to the rink with a big smile. I would like to wish the best of luck to Gaiter. The game will miss him."

Gait achieved the same success as a coach at the professional, international and collegiate levels. He enjoyed his greatest success while serving as an assistant women's coach at the University of Maryland, where the Terrapins won seven straight national titles (1995-01). On the international scene, he coached Team Canada to the 2007 World Indoor Championship. In two seasons as the head coach of the Colorado Mammoth of the NLL, he led the Mammoth to two playoff appearances and the 2006 Champion's Cup.

Gait returns to the professional coaching ranks on Saturday, May 14th when the Hamilton Nationals take on the Denver Outlaws in their Major League Lacrosse opener. Hamilton President Lewis Staats, who serves in the same capacity with the Knighthawks, believes that the presence of Gait on the coaching staff will pay dividends this season.

"Gary Gait achieved unprecedented success in the game of lacrosse as a player and we were very fortunate to have had him play in Rochester the past three years," said Staats. "What his presence brought to the entire organization is really hard to measure but we know we are a better team today because of it. I am confident that Gary will continue to make his presence felt as he was a mentor to the young players in Rochester and will also have play that same key role as one of the coaches for the Hamilton Nationals this summer. Good luck Gary and thank you for all you've done for lacrosse in Rochester."


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