Rochester Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson played through an injury to help deliver a second-straight title to the team. (Photo: Dan Brodie)
When Rochester Knighthawks owner and general manager Curt Styres began his partnership with the Six Nations Arrows junior lacrosse club, he had a vision. That vision included a professional lacrosse championship with his nephew Cody Jamieson.
Jamieson was a young Arrows lacrosse player when his uncle purchased the Knighthawks, but he was part of a long-term plan that Styres drew up to return the Rochester franchise to postseason glory. The long-term plan, however, has accelerated now that Jamieson has helped the Knighthawks win back-to-back NLL championships in just his first three seasons as a pro.
“He came into this organization with a lot of expectations and he’s proving his critics wrong and proving the guys who believed in him right,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “He’s becoming a vocal leader as well as a leader who does stuff on the floor. Leading by example is a big thing for the organization and he does all of that.”
“It’s a good thing that plan was written in pencil or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” added Hasen.
The 25-year-old product of Six Nations, Ont. became just the second player in NLL history to win NLL Championship Game MVP awards in consecutive years, joining Buffalo Bandits captain John Tavares, the league’s all-time leading scorer, who did so in 1992 and 1993. Jamieson also became the sixth player to win multiple title game MVP awards.
“It’s awesome just to have your name just mentioned with (Tavares) at any time,” Jamieson said. “One of the memories I have was at my first All-Star Game when I got called out right with him. My second All-Star Game, I started with him. Anytime you have your name mentioned with the greats, it’s definitely an accomplishment.”
Prior to the 2011 season, Styres drafted Jamieson with the first overall pick in the 2010 NLL Entry Draft. In a short period of time, the Syracuse University product has established himself as one of the most dangerous players in the league with a penchant for scoring goals when his team needs them most.
Jamieson scored the game-winning overtime goal for Syracuse in the 2009 NCAA Championship Final. In the 2012 title game, he earned a game-high eight points (4+4) to lead the Knighthawks to their 9-6 comeback victory over the Edmonton Rush. Then again in 2013, he led the team's offensive attack in their 11-10 title game win against the Washington Stealth by scoring a first-half hat trick and finishing with six points (3+3).
“There are guys who show up in big games and Cody’s one of them,” said teammate Joe Walters. “He’s just that kind of player. He’s a special player. We’re just happy that he’s on our side.”
Although he was his usual playmaking self on the floor, Jamieson was playing on an injured ankle. In the first-round East Division Semifinal against the Philadelphia Wings, he hobbled off the floor during the second quarter and did not return. He was told by doctors he would miss anywhere from two to four months.
“That was our initial report, although we weren’t counting him out,” Hasen said. “It wasn’t looking good. Even at practice the week before, it wasn’t looking good.”
Jamieson had other plans. His Knighthawks were playing for the East Division title the following week against the Minnesota Swarm. He told himself he was not going to miss the Division Final and that his team wouldn’t miss the chance to hoist the Champion’s Cup again.
“I knew I was going to play the whole time,” Jamieson said. “It’s just somebody’s opinion and they don’t take into account how hard you work and the work you put in throughout the week just to be able to play this game every weekend.
“I’ve been proving people wrong my whole life. That’s all I thought I was going to do; I was going to prove these doctors wrong and get, I wouldn’t say 100 percent by far, but get to a level where I was comfortable playing and that I knew I wasn’t going to be hurting the team by being out there.”
Knighthawks athletic trainer Steve Lobsinger worked closely with Jamieson to ensure he would be healthy enough to play. He walked on crutches to avoid putting additional pressure on his ankle and also changed his diet to avoid losing his cardio fitness while he wasn’t able to run.
It was obvious after the championship victory that Jamieson was in pain. After the excitement of the trophy presentation, he limped to the media press conference. When asked how he felt, Jamieson replied, “Oh yeah, it’s hurting now.”
“At the start of the game in warm-ups it was hurting,” he added. “Once you get in the game, the adrenaline takes over and you just forget about it.”
“I never doubted him at all,” Walters said. “To not be 100 percent and to bear through it and be tough just shows what kind of character he has. I would take him at 50 percent over someone who is 100 percent healthy any time.”
Having the Champion’s Cup return to Rochester for the second-straight year made the pain Jamieson endured more than worth it.
“The sacrifices you make, you really feel gratified that you did it after a championship,” he said. “Had we lost that game, would I have been a little bit bummed out? Yeah, probably, because I did all of that and we still didn’t win. At the end of the day, as long as my teammates can say that I gave it my all and I know that I gave it my all to play, and I didn’t hurt my team by doing it, that’s all I wanted.”
The Knighthawks will celebrate their 2013 NLL Championship Game win with a parade on Monday, June 3 at 10:30 a.m. The parade, which will include the Champion's Cup, will start at Blue Cross Arena and end at City Hall. Rochester mayor Thomas S. Richards will present Curt Styres with the key to the city.