The National Lacrosse League is home to the best box lacrosse players in the world. They are at the top of their game, put on stellar athletic performances and have diehard, competitive attitudes.
With lacrosse action suspended until the pandemic has subsided, NLL players have been missing the game fiercely. Thankfully, they have stayed busy in their day-to-day lives. They’ve spent more time with friends and family, honed different types of skills, and remained grounded during this tumultuous moment in history.
Gloves Off is a 13-installment series that peels back the layers of our athletes to uncover more about their lifestyle and personal lives, learning about their hobbies, passions and more, with the goal of making them inherently more relatable to their fans.
Need a faceoff guy at the drop of a hat? Tyrell Hamer-Jackson is your guy. The NLL rookie was called by the Vancouver Warriors out of the blue when Bob Snider went down with an injury during the 2019-20 season.
Hamer-Jackson was living in New Westminster, was in training for a summer season with the WLA’s New Westminster Salmonbellies and had just lost 50 pounds. He made the drive downtown for a tryout and was in the lineup the next game. The Warriors lost that game, and brought in a guy from Ontario to compete against Hamer-Jackson in a secondary tryout. Hamer-Jackson won that battle, and then helped the Warriors win their next contest against Saskatchewan.
And then the pandemic hit, and a promising rookie season was cut much too short.
But he’ll be back with the team for the 2021-22 season, and he’s been keeping busy working with a trainer, working out twice a day to keep himself in shape.
The five–pound spiked boots he wears every day while he runs logs for Hodder Tugboat help with his training, too. Hamer-Jackson is a deckhand on a tugboat in the Fraser River that tows barges of logs to sawmills and paper mills along the river.
“I’m the guy that runs out on the logs, balances on them, and has to connect and disconnect them,” Hamer-Jackson explains. “When I started I would fall in the water 3-4 times a day. Now, knock on wood, it happens maybe once every few months. You try not to because it’s pretty dangerous when you go in.”
Log driving has been a part of Canada’s culture since the mid 19th century, before traditional boats were used. It’s safernow, but it used to be much more dangerous – log drivers stood on small platforms and steered the logs down the river manually. Historically a seasonal job, it’s now a year-round operation.
“It’s terrible in the winter,” Hamer-Jackson says. “The booms are all covered in snow and it’s really slippery. You have to break the ice in the river.”
Hamer-Jackson underwent a rigorous training regime before starting as a deckhand. He had to pass intense medical exams and a naval firefighting course.He’s been on the boat for three–and–a–half years, and loves the responsibility entrusted to him.
“You have lots of accountability. You should be doing everything for your captain even cooking, cleaning and getting coffee. It’s a great place to learn. My captain, Eric ,is a really great teacher. Nobody will have you on their boat if you’re dangerous out there.”
Logs from forested trees are stored in the fresh river water because of Teredonavalis, commonly known as naval shipworms (don’t google them, they’re creepy), little bugs that are dangerous in the salt water of the Pacific Ocean. The river acts as a storage warehouse until the logs can be moved through the river to the mills, where they are then turned into paper – or toilet paper.
Twelve to 14 hour days are common, but an every-other-week schedule will allow Hamer-Jackson plenty of time to suit up for the Warriors once the season begins.
“I get to go out there and be athletic. You get to go on a boat every day, be out on the water. It keeps me in shape for lacrosse. I’ll be a little quicker than I was. Nobody else in the NLL is doing what I do,” he says.
And that right there is what has made his TikTok account explode. Hamer-Jackson has 200,000 followers and counting (follow him @tyrellhj). Some of his videos have over 12 million views.
“It’s stuff people haven’t seen before and to me it’s just another day,” he says.“When the first one took off, I realized that nobody’s ever seen this stuff before so I bought a Go Pro, threw it on my head and did a couple more. People go nuts for the first–person videos.”
A cool aspect that he shares is his experiences with the local wildlife.
Once he cut a tangled dolphin free from the logs, and to thank him, itswam happily alongside the boat all the way up and down the river. Not all wildlife is as cute, or as thankful, however. Seals and dolphins are a perk of the job, with their playful demeanors. Sea lions are larger, smellier, louder and more territorial.
“There was a 1200 lb. sea lion on a boom once,” he recalls.“I walked right up to it and it didn’t even move. Then it started literally running towards our boat, so my captain had to hammer the boat in reverse to get out of there. Sea lions just weigh the boom down.”
How’s Hamer-Jackson handling the newfound fame?
“It’s kinda weird. I get random messages from people asking for jobs.Honestly they just want to see me fall in, I think. They keep asking me for the bloopers! I probably wouldn’t be alive if there were bloopers.Logs can blow up and break, and you either fall in or get the job done. I’m out there balancing on a log, flipping over axes and hammering in staples on a skinny little log without hurting myself. It’s outrageous.”
The precision needed for log driving isn’t dissimilar to the precision needed to win a faceoff in lacrosse.
Hamer-Jackson came up through the minor lacrosse system of his hometown Kamloops, and made the move to New Westminster for Jr. A. He says he played wherever he was needed on the floor but always had an affinity and talent for taking draws.
Among the people who influenced him the most in his career are Neil Doddridge, Dan Perreault, Clay Richardson, Greg Rennie, Geoff Snider and Steve Goodwin. He says he takes draws because he’s looked up to Snider for so long. Goodwin was his first coach in New Westminster and “is a big reason” he does what he does.
With only two pro games under his belt, he’s looking forward to matching up with more experienced faceoff men in the new season.
“I’ve always wanted to go against Jake Withers. He’s kind of like a role model to me but I want to be up there with him.”
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