The Minnesota Swarm re-signed captain Andrew Suitor along with forward Callum Crawford and defenseman Jeff Gilbert. (Photo: Chris Fischbeck)
The Minnesota Swarm have announced that the team has agreed to terms with team captain and transition player Andrew Suitor on a new five-year contract, which marks the longest deal in team history. The Swarm also locked up assistant captains with forward Callum Crawford signing a two-year contract and defenseman Jeff Gilbert inking a one-year deal.
“Our captaincy program is second to none,” Swarm associate general manager and head coach Joe Sullivan said. “With Andrew Suitor, Callum Crawford, and Jeff Gilbert as our captains, I’d put them up against anybody in the league.”
As the NLL’s youngest captain for the past two years, Suitor, 24, has helped the Swarm reach the Division Finals in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. Known as one of the league’s toughest players, Suitor has become a fan favorite at The Hive with his gritty defensive skills and knack for making big plays on both sides of the ball. In 2012, Suitor was named the NLL’s Transition Player of the Year and was selected to the All-Pro First Team in only his second season the league.
Suitor’s new long-term contract ensures that the Swarm’s captain will be playing at The Hive for many more years to come.
“Words can’t describe how excited I am,” Suitor said. “This is the organization that gave me a chance as a rookie, then to be a young captain, and now the chance to grow up in front of these fans. I plan on bringing multiple championships here and we have the team to do it. We’re going to continue to get better and I don’t want to play anywhere but Minnesota and I think a five-year contract says a lot about that.”
"We are elated to have Andrew sign the longest contract in franchise history,” Swarm Owner and Governor John Arlotta said. “To put it simply but emphatically, he is our Captain. He is our leader. He is the heart and soul of the Minnesota Swarm."
Arlotta continued, "There aren’t many players who can inspire and motivate like he does, both on and off the field. It's great to have him back, and we are honored by the long-term commitment he has made to the Swarm family."
Coach Sullivan also acknowledged that Suitor is the “heart and soul” of the Swarm. “He has an impact on everybody, that’s just the way he plays and the way he leads,” Sullivan added. “I couldn’t be happier to know that I have Andrew Suitor on my bench for the next five years.”
Minnesota selected the Orangeville, Ontario native in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2010 NLL Entry Draft. In his three years with the Swarm, Suitor has not only excelled on the field, but he has also been actively involved in local community, having lived in St. Paul for the past three seasons. In his time in the Twin Cities, Suitor has worked with Swarm co-owner and president Andy Arlotta in helping build the country’s largest youth box lacrosse league -- the YBL -- and helping coach the team’s Jr. Swarm program.
“Since Day One, John and Andy Arlotta have treated me as a part of their family,” Suitor said. “With this five-year deal, it shows how much trust I have in them, and how much trust they have in me. I’m not just signing a contract; I’m signing a five-year family agreement.”
In 2013, Suitor sustained an ACL injury in Week 8 against the Edmonton Rush that forced the third-year pro to miss the rest of the regular season as well as postseason action. Despite his injury, Suitor remained with the team on the weekends and played a critical leadership role in the locker room to help fuel the Swarm’s run to the East Division Finals. Entering the 2014 season, Suitor has made it clear as to how he plans to return to the field.
“This is the hardest that I’ve ever worked to be ready for a season,” Suitor said. “I’m going to come back ready to go and come out of the gates flying on December 28th against Rochester.”
In 2012, Suitor posted career-highs in points (26), goals (15), assists (11) and loose balls (120) in 16 games. In addition to being named the Transition Player of the Year and making the All-Pro team, Suitor also served as an assistant captain for the West All-Stars.
Crawford, 29, is fresh off another incredible season at the helm of the Swarm offense. Named a 2013 First-Team All-Pro, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward led Minnesota in scoring with 95 points (32g, 63a), which was good for fourth in the NLL. In 2013, Crawford became the Swarm’s all-time leader in points (344) and assists (234), and needs 26 goals in 2014 to become the franchise’s all-time leader in goals.
Crawford also spent time as the Swarm’s interim captain in 2013 when Andrew Suitor sustained a season-ending injury. The Ottawa, Ontario native is entering his fifth year with Minnesota and his 9th in the NLL, and set a career (and franchise) high with 96 points in 2010.
“I want to spend the rest of my career in Minnesota,” Crawford said. “During my contract discussions with the team, every conversation was about winning championships and what we need to do as a team, and what I can do to contribute to getting championships. Our whole focus behind this season is becoming a championship team. We have the pieces to be successful, and we’re bringing in players who will help us reach that goal, and I’m happy to be one of those players."
“Assigning Callum as our permanent assistant captain is going to speak volumes to our commitment to both Callum and the development of our team,” Sullivan said. “He portrays everything we are looking for in a Minnesota Swarm lacrosse player. He speaks it, he does it on and off the floor, and I don’t think you could find a better mentor than Callum for this young offense to look to.”
Gilbert, 30, finished his second season as an assistant captain with the Swarm in 2013, and posted a career-high 15 points (3g, 12a) along with 64 loose balls. In 2012, the Barrie, Ontario native finished second in the NLL with 26 forced turnovers and earned NLL All-Pro Second Team honors.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman is a graduate from Robert Morris University, and also has a Champion’s Cup under his belt with Toronto in 2011. Coming into training camp Gilbert has his sights set on repeating that feat with the Swarm.
“It’s a good feeling to get a deal done, we have some really nice intangibles and more experience coming back,” Gilbert said. “If you aren’t playing to win a championship, you are in the wrong business. So this year, more so than any other, we should not be willing to accept anything less than a title, and it starts right out of the gate. You have to believe early and you have to believe often.”
“We’re excited to have Jeff back as an assistant captain with the experience he brings to the table, along with his leadership on and off the floor,” Sullivan said. “His accomplishments in winning a Champion’s Cup go a long way in showing our younger team what it takes to get there. He reinforces that each and every day.”
All contracts are currently pending league approval.
The Swarm will open their first weekend of main camp on Friday, Nov. 29 and will practice until Sunday, Dec. 1 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ontario. The team is set to return to Oakville for two additional main camp sessions from Dec. 6-8 and Dec. 13-15.
In 2014, the Swarm will be celebrating their 10th season of professional box lacrosse in the NLL and will kickoff the regular season on the road against the defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday, Dec. 28.
Minnesota will make its home debut at The Hive celebrating Native American Heritage Night Sunday, Jan. 19 during a 2 p.m. matchup against the Philadelphia Wings at Xcel Energy Center.
Swarm fans looking to lock up 2014 Season Tickets can take advantage of a Buy 2, Get 2 at 25% offer. By purchasing two season tickets at full price, fans can add an additional two tickets for 25% off. Call 1-888-667-9276 or visit www.mnswarm.com for purchasing information.