All rise for the Calgary Roughnecks new King, I mean, Captain, Jesse King.
Before the start of their 2022-23 NLL season, Roughnecks Head Coach Curt Malawsky and his staff chose forward Jesse King to be the team’s 9th captain in franchise history. King, who has been a member of the Roughnecks organization since the 2018-19 NLL Season, has been through it all with this team.
Having suffered a myriad of injuries in such a short time, King has spent more time watching Roughnecks games in recovery than actually suiting up for his team. Yet, when he plays, King makes a tremendous impact on the floor.
During his first season with the team, King only played in two games, but he averaged 4.5 points per game that year. More importantly, during his inaugural year with the Roughnecks, King stepped up when he needed to the most. King tallied 17 points in four playoff games, including six points in Game 2 of the NLL Finals. His efforts that postseason helped the team to their first NLL championship since 2009. The following year, he was again hindered by injuries, and COVID-19, but when King did participate, he was giving his all for his teammates. He racked up 15 points, 18 loose balls, and even three caused turnovers in four contests.
Having shown glimpses of the impact he could make for the Roughnecks, King, finally healthy, put together his most impressive season in the NLL – it was King’s first full season played since his 2017-18 campaign with the Georgia Swarm.
In the 2021-22 season, King led the Roughnecks with 95 points. He also led the team with 10 power play goals, recorded the second-most loose balls, and his 15 caused turnovers were the most among any other Roughnecks forward.
And we can’t forget his season-opening debut just last weekend, where his team-leading six points helped the Roughnecks to a win against their fierce West Conference rivals, the Vancouver Warriors.
But, King is much more valuable to this team than the numbers he puts up on the floor. As Head Coach Curt Malawsky has witnessed firsthand, King embodies what it means to be a member of the Roughnecks organization, whether on the floor, in the locker room, traveling with the team, or even at fan appreciation events.
“Jesse is a great leader and a great person,” Malawsky said. “He treats everyone with respect, and he’s a fierce competitor. He’s got a great passion for the game and studies the game. He’s got a great IQ, and he’s able to adapt to situations that are thrown in front of him. The biggest thing is that he’s a selfless leader who always looks out for the guy next to him… With all those qualities put together and knowing he’s maturing to a point where he’s earned the right to be the captain, it wasn’t a hard choice.”
Coach Malawsky is right. It’s tough to find a player that is as well-liked and respected as Jesse King. King has always held himself to the highest standard, both as a person and as a player. His selflessness on the floor – King, now has 81 goals and 180 assists in his NLL career – is indisputable proof that he is often looking to create opportunities for his teammates before himself.
“For me, it’s always been, ‘How can I support this team I’m on?” King said. “For many guys, that often end up earning some sort of leadership position, but for me, I kind of think that happened naturally. In the situation of Calgary, we have so many guys that could wear a letter on their chest.”
“I have always tried to be the best player that I need to be for my team. Whether that’s scoring goals, passing the ball, getting back on defense, picking up loose balls, or blocking a shot here and there. I think that earns a lot of respect from your teammates, and a lot of guys see that I do that.”
King, who will be aided in his captaincy by long-time Roughnecks defenseman Curtis Manning and the highly touted, up-and-coming Eli Salama, will be using his personal experiences on and off the floor to try and get the most of his teammates.
The Victoria, BC native believes that the trials and tribulations that he’s endured, and the successes that have followed since, will allow him to relate to each and every one of the guys around him.
“I went through all of those injuries, and I feel that shaped me into the person I am,” King said. “I didn’t get to play for like three seasons, and that really put things into perspective of how much I desired the game of lacrosse and how much I missed it when I couldn’t play. I think that also kind of drove me into that leadership role because I could also have that perspective for other people. You’re able to understand why things may have happened, and you’re able to be empathetic about the situations they’re going through and how they can learn from it.”
There’s something to be said for players who have experienced high highs and low lows in their careers. It really does make a player, and a person, more relatable because, what haven’t they been through?
To that point, the fact that King has experienced so many of these things since coming to the Roughnecks only makes him more respected by guys that have been with or are just joining the organization.
“I’ve been in this system of Calgary’s for a few years now, so I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of how we want to play offensively and defensively,” King said. “For these young guys to approach you and ask you a question, it takes a lot of bravery to ask an older, veteran player because it can be intimidating. As a leader, I know when I was younger and came into the league, that’s how I felt. So, for me as a leader now, my goal is to create a comfortability with these guys, so they’re not afraid to ask these questions.”
For this team, the goal is to win the NLL Cup again. Any player or coach will tell you, ‘Once you win an NLL Cup, all you want to do is win the next one.” It would be special for many on this year’s squad because many of them weren’t part of the team for the 2019-20 championship run.
In fact, other than King, Tyler Pace and Dan Taylor are the only forwards who were on that year’s Roughnecks team. While there hasn’t been as much turnover on the defensive side of the ball, there have been a handful of changes since the 2019-20 season, including no longer having players such as Tyler Burton, Tyson Bell, and Dan MacRae.
Coach Malawsky believes that King’s story of becoming an NLL champion will inspire the younger players that have not won an NLL title and have joined the team since the big win.
“I think that’s everything,” Malawsky said. “When someone stands up in a room and says, ‘We need to do this, this, and this,’ everyone looks at him at says, ‘He’s done it. He’s got the championship pedigree and knows what he’s talking about. He’s not saying something that he hasn’t done and that he’s not aware of.’ When you win a championship, you know exactly what it takes, how hard it is to actually win, and what goes into winning an NLL championship.”
This is a cherished opportunity for King. As a deeply passionate and dedicated lacrosse player, it is his dream to be a great player and a great teammate in this league. Being captain of a team was never front of mind for King, but now that he is dawning the “C” on his chest, he is going to make sure that he does everything in his power to respect his title just as those who earned it before him.
“I never would have believed that at one point I would be wearing a “C” in this league,” King said. “It truly is an honor, and it is a testament to all the guys that I’ve been able to learn from who were in leadership around me.”