By Neil Stevens
Dan Coates is part of an impressive new wave of talent enriching the Canadian Lacrosse Association’s national teams.
Coates was not part of the 2010 men’s silver-medal field team or the 2011 gold-medal indoor team but has since emerged as a prominent player in the professional National Lacrosse League, helped Canada win field gold in Denver in 2014, and has been named by the CLA to the 23-man roster for the 2015 world indoor tournament that will conclude in front of what Onondaga Nation organizers hope will be a record lacrosse crowd watching the medal games in the 49,000-seat Carrier Dome at Syracuse University on Sunday, Sept. 27.
“The Carrier Dome has such a rich history,” says Coates. “I played two college games there with Canisius and there was electricity in the air. To have a sell out or close to it would be surreal. It would be a great experience to be a part of.”
Coates came out of CLA’s Member Association Ontario Lacrosse Association leagues, starting out with the St. Catharines Spartan Warriors when he was nine.
“I first started playing because my hockey buddies were playing it during the summer and I wanted to be hanging out with my friends,” he explains. “My grandad played lacrosse for the St. Catharines Athletics and won a Minto Cup in 1950 so he was pretty happy to see me pick up a lacrosse stick.”
Coates, a defenceman, plays for the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth in the winter-spring and he helped the Six Nations Chiefs win the CLA’s top trophy for men, the Mann Cup, in 2013 and in 2014, with the second coming soon after Canada’s field triumph in Denver.
“Being a part of the team that brought home gold in the worlds last summer was an amazing experience,” he says. “It was such an honour to represent the country.”
Coates is quick to credit his minor lacrosse and junior coaches with helping him get to where he is today.
“Dave Borland was my minor coach pretty much from the start of my playing days all the way to midget lacrosse,” he says. “He was a huge influence in my development and helped me realize my potential.
“Ian Rubel was my defence coach in junior lacrosse for the St. Catharines Athletics for three years and he had a big impact on my defensive game. He was still playing professionally at the time for the Toronto Rock and taught me good position defence and what it takes to be a pro.”
Randy Mearns, the St. Catharines-raised coach who had Coates on his NCAA team at Canisius in the Buffalo region and who also coached Canada’s 2014 golden field team, has had an important impact, too.
“I’ve always looked up to Randy as my mentor from my college days and I always reach out to him if I ever need any guidance,” says Coates. “He was a big reason why we were successful in Denver last summer.”
Coates took home two team sweaters from Denver. One was presented to a sponsor who has a son playing lacrosse and the other is hanging in a closet to be plaqued along with his gold medal one day. Now he’s back with the national program with the indoor team.
“Any chance you get the opportunity to represent your country and don the maple leaf, it’s such an honour,” he says. “To play for your country and for your teammates as a part of this 23-man roster, and with the coaching staff we have, it’s very humbling. We have a lot of work to do but I’m excited to be a part of it.”