Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
Joel McCready of the Vancouver Stealth is in the PLPA Player Spotlight. by Teddy Jenner
In the firefighter creed, a line reads "I want to fill my calling and give the best in me to guard my neighbour and protect his property." Those who put their lives on the line to save and protect ours are often listed as some of the bravest men and women alive in our society. When called into action, they don't think, they just do.
Inside the lacrosse the box, some guys just go out and do their job without being asked; Joel McCready is one of those guys. "Everyone has an undetermined longevity in this sport and all you can do is make sure you did all you could for the guys beside you in that room," Joel McCready is the consummate teammate and it shows in everything he does.
The seven year NLL vet has seen both the good and bad in the NLL having won two Champions Cup titles with Rochester as well as finishing last in the league with Vancouver. "Winning a championship is a feeling like none other and I am extremely fortunate to have been a part of those teams," McCready would love to help bring a title and that feeling to the lower mainland. His championship experience was one of the reason Stealth GM Doug Locker wanted him to be a part of the deal that brought Creads over from Rochester along with Johnny Powless. The Powless end of the deal didn't work out as the Stealth had hoped but McCready has been full value and one of Vancouver's most consistent players the past two seasons.
"Joel's approach to life and the game of lacrosse are extremely motivation," says Locker with a big smile. "He is always positive, always ready to stand up and take the lead, always there to pick up a teammate and always has his teammates' backs on and off the floor."
As a firefighter, McCready has to depend on all the people around him as much as they depend on him; it's the same for lacrosse. The game "has a certain culture to it where you learn that the team is bigger than you," and that's very evident whenever you see McCready step onto the rug and battle.
The reigning NLL Teammate of the Year, nominated again for his effort and leadership in 2016, McCready is heralded by current and former teammates for his tenacity, passion and team-first attitude. Logan Schuss, who came to the Stealth when Powless was sent to the Swarm, loves McCready's passion and high intensity. "He genuinely cares about each and every one of his teammates. He'd literally do anything for us." Schuss elaborates, "I think if I stole his lunch, he would ask how it was and if I needed anything else."
So where does that attitude come from? Joel's Uncle Pat, who was an award winning NLL defender and top level teammate in his own right, once told his nephew "have fun and be a team guy."
The Stealth forward also credits many of his current and former teammates like Shawn Williams, Dan Dawson, Curtis Hodgson and Danny Coates; all guys who "check their ego at the door and buy into what the group is asking from them, whatever it may be."
Having played with Williams and Dawson myself, I can attest to their professionalism and team first mindset. McCready expanded on some of the thing he learned from Williams, "although he's a legend in the game, in practice he would still be sprinting to pick up loose balls for the next drill or staying late to take shots and work on his stick. He always looked out for the younger guys and showed them the way. He didn't do it to be seen either, he did it because he loves the game. To see someone like that lay it all on the line every time he's on the floor practice or game, you have no choice but to try and emulate his outlook and work ethic."
McCready loves to set an example for his teammates and leads by example; evident by the constantly bloody knees and often bloody nose. "A love for the game and a desire to win is my motivation," said McCready. He'll always be the first guy into the fire to stand up for a teammate and strongly feels that fighting still has a place in the game of lacrosse, "it keeps players accountable and responsible for their actions."
Staged fights aren't high on anyone's list but "as players we all know if something was an accident or had intent. Sometimes a break in the game or a response to something that was uncalled for can set the tone and contribute to honest, fair and tough lacrosse."
The locker-room and the fire-hall are just two of the families that McCready gives 100% of his efforts to. Most important though is his family at home and they mean the world to him. "Fatherhood is easily the best thing to ever happen to me," says McCready. He and his wife Jessica are expecting their second baby girl any day now. "There's nothing that even comes close. Becoming a father really feels like what I am supposed to do, it puts a smile on my face."
"Without a special family and loving group at home there is no way I would be able to play the sport I love, or work a job that requires so much you."
Having been in the professional lacrosse world for seven years, the St. Catharines native has given a lot of his time to both his sport and his job and realizes that for the game to grow, it means more of a commitment by everyone. "I like the idea for growth of the sport but know that rosters would need to be larger and you also need development programs in place."
So what would he change about the pro game if Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz gave him the keys to the car for one day? "I would get rid of the music during play," he says emphatically. "Let the fans hear the hits and posts and get a bit close to the game. I think there's a lot to offer from the sounds of the game."
What about expansion? "You have to think that Winnipeg would embrace lacrosse and enjoy having a team much like Saskatchewan. You could always follow the NHL and look to Vegas too." I think a lot guys would love to see an NLL road-trip to Vegas but not sure many of them would make their flights home the next day.
McCready would rather stick to playing than making executive decisions and his focus now, beyond the looming diaper duty is helping the Stealth get back into the playoffs and righting the ship. A line from the great Tragically Hip song 'Wheat Kings' reads, "You can't be fond of living in the past. 'Cause if you are then there's no way that you're going to last." For McCready, the past doesn't exist and he's all about the future and being better than the day before.
"Everyone involved in the team is 100% determined and focused on making sure what happened last year never happens again." McCready, who's put up career numbers in his two years with the Stealth isn't okay with the status quo. "It left a sour taste in everyone's mouths and we can't wait to get started and bounce back."
As a firefighter, you go where you are needed and don't ask questions. As a lacrosse player, you put on the gear and battle for every inch. As a father, you do everything you can to protect your family. You could flip flop the job for the role and they would still fit and for Joel McCready, he embodies them all perfectly.
Teddy Jenner is a life long lacrosse addict. He started playing at 3yrs old growing up in the shadow of the Gait brothers. After six years in the NLL with four teams (aka a suitcase) he moved from the floor to the media booth and has been covering the NLL extensively every since. Working with IL Indoor as one of their lead writers and work with TSN, Jenner has become one of the most well respected people in lacrosse and continues to give back to game in as many ways as possible.