To many sports fans, there are times when athletes are our heroes, even if it’s only for a few hours a week when watching a game. In life, there are heroes that wear different types of uniforms but until March of 2020, they never heard the cheers from a roaring crowd or maybe their jobs were taken for granted.
And then there are times when our sports heroes are also heroes away from the fields, rinks or courts.
This coming Saturday, the New York Riptide will hold “Heroes Night” when they host the Buffalo Bandits at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island (7:30pm ET on ESPN+ and TSN.ca). The organization is going to pay tribute to healthcare professionals on the front line, police officers, firefighters and military personnel for their heroic duty.
The Riptide, in fact, have a few “everyday heroes” within their own organization.
“I’m very appreciative of the acknowledgement,” said Riptide Head Coach Dan Ladoceur, a sergeant for the Toronto Police Service in Ontario.
“Sometimes the work that healthcare professionals, firefighters and everyone does…there’s an expectation there. Sometimes we don’t give a whole lot of thought into what happens when they go home or the sacrifices and the price that family members pay for extended shifts for callouts and for some of the stress that it’s caused by some of the stuff that these first responders and heroes see.”
Ladoceur has two other heroes with him behind and on the Riptide bench. Defensive Coordinator Pat Jones works with Ladoceur as a police officer in Toronto while veteran defenseman Damon Edwards is a firefighter in the Toronto suburb of Pickering, Ontario.
“It’s good to know that we’re representing the first responders,” said Edwards, a four-year NLL veteran who scored a goal in last Sunday’s 13-12 win over Philadelphia. “Through this pandemic, the frontline workers have been our heroes and they haven’t stopped working and obviously their workload has gotten a lot more vigorous. To have this Heroes Night for the first responders is something that’s really special to me.”
It’s one thing to step onto the field in an arena and hear the cheering and the appreciation of the fans as a sports hero, but it’s another thing to also be one of the heroes that will be honored on Saturday night. Athletes can certainly play a role in providing smiles and pride in a community, but it’s the first responders and the healthcare workers that have put in and continue to put in long hours to keep people safe and also save lives.
For that, they deserve a huge standing ovation.
“We’re seen as heroes on the field but obviously first responders are heroes in everyday life,” said Edwards. “Being a first responder, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I really value giving back to the community.”
For the game on Saturday night, the Riptide will leave their regular home blue jerseys in their locker room and will instead wear custom-designed jerseys to honor healthcare heroes. A limited number of these jerseys will be available for fans to purchase at the game with proceeds going to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“It means a lot to me,” said Edwards. “The nurses, doctors…they’ve seen the brunt of this. The hours that they’ve put in, not only through this pandemic but before that, it’s something that we always should respect and honor. I’m honored to be able to show that on Saturday for Heroes Night.”
Throughout the history of the National Lacrosse League, including the days when it was called the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in the 1990’s, the players, coaches and staff have generally also had “full-time” jobs during the week. When Friday, Saturday or Sunday came, those individuals would change from their business suits into uniforms and lay it all on the line when they stepped onto the field.
And in some cases, the players, coaches and staff are changing from teaching kids or swapping a police uniform or a firefighter uniform into a lacrosse uniform as seen in this feature.
“I do see the irony in it,” said Ladoceur. “I really respect all of the members of the league, both players and staff, that are running two jobs that are in that service industry…the community-based industry because they really do put it out there for their communities and then they turn around and give everything they have back to the (NLL) organizations and their communities as well.”
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be your favorite lacrosse player or an athlete from another sport. They can certainly be a parent, a teacher or perhaps an entertainer. But, over the last two years, we’ve all come to learn that perhaps the most important heroes in our lives are the first responders and frontline healthcare workers that have been rockstars during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of those great people also spend some time with a lacrosse stick in hand. They will all be honored by the New York Riptide on Saturday night.
For those in the Long Island/New York area, tickets for Saturday night’s game are available at www.NewYorkRiptide.com.
Update – 1.28.22 – The Bandits at Riptide game scheduled for January 29 has been moved to Sunday, January 30 at 1pm ET ahead of an expected winter storm.