Dawson, Rochester's Ironman

By Craig Rybczynski........Dan Dawson will join some elite company in the lacrosse world when he steps on to the Pepsi Center turf in Denver Saturday. That night, the Rochester Knighthawks forward will play in his 188th straight National Lacrosse League regular season game.

Dawson will move into a tie for second place all-time with Colin Doyle and Steve Toll for the longest consecutive games-played streak in NLL history. He will trail only Buffalo’s Shawn Williams, who has played in excess of 200 games.

In typical Dawson fashion, the former NLL MVP deferred the credit for his amazing Ironman streak.

“In the NLL, you have to educate yourself on living a certain lifestyle in order to play that many games in a row,” said Dawson. “You have to surround yourself with an amazing staff. I have been blessed to play in organizations with an athletic training staff, and strength and conditioning coaches that keep my body in-tune at all times and focus on injury prevention.”

Dawson broke into the NLL during the 2001-02 season with the Columbus Landsharks, who selected the lanky forward in the sixth round of the 2001 NLL Entry Draft. His consecutive games streak began as a 20-year-old rookie with the Landsharks. Back then he was focused on earning a permanent spot on the roster.

“I was more concerned with making the game-day roster. It was obviously pretty tough being my first year in the league,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can predict they are going to play every game their first year. I definitely wasn’t concerned about playing an Ironman streak. I was concerned about getting better and becoming an everyday player in the league.”

Fast forward 13 years later, and a lot more has changed than his jersey number. Dawson, who once wore No. 40, is a well-respected NLL veteran and an NLL champion. Rochester represents the sixth team that Dan Dawson has played for in his NLL professional career. This season, he is third in the NLL with 33 assists and second on the Knighthawks with 41 points

His career numbers rank among the top players to ever play in the league, having recently eclipsed 600 career assists. He is also closing in on two more milestones: 1,000 points and 200 games. He enters this Saturday’s game with 377 goals and 987 points in 195 games.

“He has a love of the game. He is a true professional who works hard on and off the floor, and extremely hard on his fitness,” said Assistant Coach Paul Day. “He continues to grow as a player and leader.”

Rookie Mark White, 24, has seen Dawson’s commitment firsthand as his workout partner. Four days a week during the season, and five in the offseason, the duo heads to The Dynamic Athlete to work with Sean Holmes in their hometown of Oakville, Ontario.

“Dan's a guy I've always looked up to. His dedication and work ethic in the gym are a direct correlation to how he performs on the floor,” said White. “He's always trying to get better in the weight room and really pushes himself, which is one of the many things I admire the most about Dan.”

It’s tough not to be envious of a man who plays pro lacrosse and runs several lacrosse camps, but more importantly, serves as a firefighter in Brampton as a full-time job. The combination of lacrosse and firefighting have been a perfect fit for Dawson.

At the fire hall, we push each other to make sure we are physically fit. Being on the fire grounds and running drills at the fire hall is also great exercise,” said Dawson, who also hooks hoses and climbs high-rises. “I am lucky that both jobs are geared toward being physically fit.”

The 6-foot-6, 214-pound forward, who has added Olympic Training to his workout repertoire, admits he is always looking to improve off the turf through new training methods. In the past five years, Dawson has also zeroed in on his nutrition to complement his workouts.

“I want to take that to the next level because that is the full battle. Recovery is based on what you put into your system,” he said. “I put a huge emphasis on my nutrition.”

Paul Dawson, who followed his brother into the firefighting profession, was impressed to learn of his brother’s Ironman streak. Paul, who recently became only the 15th player in NLL history to play in 100 straight games, marveled at the body of work his older brother has compiled in his NLL career.

“He does everything he can to be in game shape, be ready and avoid injuries,” said Paul. “He is a testament to all the young players out there that if you want to have longevity in your career, you have to do things away from the floor not just on the turf to be a good player.”

Paul and Dan have played together three times during their pro careers, but Rochester has proven to be the best fit for the brothers. In 2013, they both raised the Champion’s Cup for the first time in their careers. More than anything else in his career, including records and games-played streaks, Dan appreciates playing with his brother above anything else.

“It’s something I am forever going to cherish. He’s my best friend, and every time we get to suit up with each other is a blessing,” he said. “I am not going to take it for granted. Every time we step on the floor it could be the last time we could do that together, so we are going to cherish these moments and look back when we are done playing.”