On December 18, 2017, the lacrosse community lost one of its most impactful members, Dave Huntley. Huntley left his mark on the sport not only as a player, but as a coach and friend. As we mourn this tremendous loss, we reflect back with NLL players, alum and staff on the impact he had on their lives and in growing the sport of lacrosse.
Growing up playing box lacrosse in his native Ontario, Huntley went on to further his education and play for Johns Hopkins University. At Johns Hopkins, he helped lead his team to two national championships. Later in life, he and his son would be the only father-son duo to win two national championships in lacrosse. In 1978, Huntley would play for the Canadian National team and with current New England Black Wolves Owner, Mike French, they would lead Team Canada to win gold in the World Lacrosse Championship. French recalls, “We talked a bit before he went to Johns Hopkins, I was at Cornell at the time. We really got to know each other when we played for Team Canada and we practiced and trained for the World Game in 1978. We won it in 1978, and I think it was a landmark event for the lacrosse in Canada. We did not have the same number of people going to US college and on our ’78 team we had probably 7 or 8 guys who had gone, but we were still focused on the indoor game. To upset the United States, they had a stacked team and they had 8 guys on that team from Cornell, but it was an unbelievable upset win and it brought a lot of notoriety to Canadian lacrosse. All of a sudden not only a hand full of schools were looking at Canadian athletes to go to Division 1, 2 and 3, a lot were and that was even more profound after that. Dave winning two National Championships, a lot of people were, but Dave was a real driver of the Canadian kids to get the opportunity to play in the United States. For me and especially for Dave, that was one of the things he was most proud of, as am I. Dave was in lacrosse 24/7, you could have a conversation with Dave and he was never in a rush, he would always help anybody in any area, he was understanding, thoughtful and he devoted his life to growing the game at the high school level, the indoor level, at Calvert Hall, with Team Canada in particular. You know I’m very indebted to him for all he’s done for Team Canada, it means a lot to a lot of us, you know he’s been involved on the ground doing the heavy lifting, coaching, directing. As an alum, we are very grateful.”
As French mentions, Dave Huntley’s capacity with the Canadian National Team would grow over the years. He would help establish the dominance of Canadian lacrosse and in the 40 years that he would serve, he would inevitably touch the lives of so many in the lacrosse community, including Steve Govett, President of the San Diego Seals. Govett reflects on his relationship with Huntley saying, “He is my mentor and friend. I worked for him, he worked for me, we competed together and against each other. 25 years and I was always learning. Greatest lesson was how to be a great Dad. That was most important to him. But, amidst the sadness of Hunts’ passing, I am also reminded of how he loved to laugh!! We always had fun… on the eve of the ‘14 World Games he was taking back to his dorm the left over brisket from our kickoff party, he said “the road to gold begins with aluminum!” Man was a prophet.”
About a decade later in 1987, Huntley would start as the General Manager and Coach to the Philadelphia Wings, in the inaugural season of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League. He’d recruit Mike French to play for the team, and as French recalled, the leader stepped down from his position and joined as a player when the team was afflicted with injuries. He would continue to serve in multiple capacities over the years, and leave his impact upon those around him. In 2008, Huntley returned as the Head Coach of the Philadelphia Wings leading the team to the National Lacrosse League playoffs and ending the team’s longest playoff drought in history. As Mike French allude to, here Huntley would develop some of the NLL’s top athletes, not only into competitors but as men. Geoff Snider, a Philadelphia Wings alum and nine year NLL vet, said of Huntley, “Few have the character or courage to lead in the manner that Dave Huntley did. Dave’s reach was felt farther than he possibly could have imagined, he impacted the lives of so many people, young and old. Dave was selfless in his direction, empowered to positively affect change, and he always pushed his players and peers to be better versions of themselves. I am incredibly grateful for the man that Dave has helped me to become, and for the example that he set for the man that I continue to strive to be. Thank you for the immeasurable impact that you have had on so many lives, and on the World Hunts, you will be dearly missed.”
As the lacrosse community reacted to the news, it was clear that not only did Huntley lead on the field, but he developed and guided everyone around him off the field with character and grace. He challenged them to look at things from new perspectives and grow. There are countless stories from NLL players and staff who shared their touching experiences with Huntley, including Brodie Merrill. The Toronto Rocks’ star said, “Dave was a coach, mentor, and friend. He had a profound impact on me as both a player and person. He was always someone I could lean on for guidance and support. Some of my most enjoyable and meaningful memories in the game came alongside Dave. I will miss Hunts very much. His impact on Canadian Lacrosse and Lacrosse in general will live on forever.” While Georgia Swarms’ Coach Ed Comeau said perfectly, “It was a privilege, an honor and a pleasure to get the opportunity to work with Dave Huntley on Canadian National Team programs and also as opposing coaches in the NLL. Dave’s insight and assessment on player’s talent, drive and character was second to none. He has touched the lives and careers of countless players, coaches and staff in the NLL, MLL, National Teams, college and high school. He challenged the way we looked at lacrosse and sought out new and improved ways to play. If you were around Dave his passion for lacrosse was obvious but his ability to connect with people was unique. I will always remember the many long conversations about lacrosse, the many characters he crossed paths within the game, his humor along with his story telling ability and his desire to improve the game. We will miss Dave dearly, but the many stories and laughs he shared with all of us will keep his memory close.”
A memorial service to celebrate Dave Huntley’s life will be held at Johns Hopkins this spring.