By Joel Griffith | NLL.com Staff Writer
Photo Candice Ward
It’s something special when an athlete has the opportunity to play in front of his or her hometown crowd.
Whether it’s the friends and family they know are in the crowd, the childhood memories rushing back of watching their heroes battle on that very same playing surface, or just the realization that their childhood dreams are coming true. It’s something every athlete wants to do, but very few are able to do.
Calgary Roughnecks 22-year-old rookie forward, Holden Cattoni is one of those lucky few.
“Playing for the Roughnecks is something I always dreamed about growing up,” expressed Cattoni.
Throughout his childhood, Cattoni was a ball boy for the Roughnecks, developing lasting relationships with “Forever a Roughnecks” Tracey Kelusky and Caleb Toth, and many others who have passed through the organization.
“It’s been an organization I’ve been very close with my entire life. “It’s definitely special to be part of it now.”
Cattoni was born in Calgary, Alta., and raised just outside the city in DeWinton.
He picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time when he was four years old, and alternated between hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer until he was 15.
“I initially just played lacrosse to try and stay in shape for hockey in the winter, just like every other Canadian kid. “Eventually, my love for lacrosse really overtook hockey.”
At 15, he was offered a scholarship to play lacrosse for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, where he also obtained his degree in public health.
Although his number one passion remains lacrosse, Cattoni is also pursuing a career as a dentist, taking prerequisite courses for dental school at Mount Royal University.
“I wanted to pursue medicine for the longest time, which is partially why I chose to attend Johns Hopkins. “But while I was there, I decided the lifestyle of a dentist would suit me a lot better for what I’m looking for in life.”
Cattoni is set to lead a busy lifestyle in the coming years, but his parents Shannon and Guido believe with his demeanour and work ethic, he will continue to excel on and off the field.
“Holden has the ability, when he finds something he really enjoys or loves, to focus in on it,” said his mother. “Just real love and passion for the game is what makes him such as good player.”
His passion for the game stretches back to his childhood where he and his younger brother Taite would practice for up to six hours per day in their backyard.
“We’d have to call them in at dark to come inside,” said his mother. “They eventually set up lights in the backyard so they could continue shooting.”
The Cattoni’s have been season tickets holders for the Roughnecks for several years, making the nights they’re able to watch their son in a Roughnecks uniform all the more meaningful.
“Sitting in the stands, and hearing your sons name called for the first time as he runs out of the tunnel is really really surreal,” reminisced his mother. “It was like we were living a dream.”
Although Cattoni is just a rookie in the league, he’s already receiving plenty of high praise from the coaching staff and teammates.
Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky said right from the start of the season, he’s been an easily coachable kid, who’s always looking to grow, and always asking questions.
“He’s like a sponge,” expressed Malawsky. “He’s got a real knack for learning.”
Malawsky said Cattoni has seen his share of ups and downs so far in his rookie campaign, but “it’s a hard league to break into.”
He said Cattoni is known for being a ball handler, but with the amount of ball handlers already on the team, he’s had to adjust his role.
Malawsky said his time will come, and he predicts Cattoni will be a 30-goal scorer in his NLL future.
“He has what is conducive to NLL goal scoring,” said explained Malawsky. “He sure can rip the ball.”