Brad Lyons Eager for Opportunity in Senior Lacrosse
In 2018 and early 2019, Brad Lyons was on top of the world. His hat trick in the gold medal game led Canada to the top of the IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship podium. Then he was drafted by the Toronto Rock with their first pick in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) entry draft and spent the season on their practice roster, which he saw as a huge learning and development experience.
The Courtice native was ready to return to the Peterborough Lakers (OJALL) and have a great Junior A season in 2019 and just keep rising in his lacrosse career. That's not quite how things worked out. A nagging ankle injury limited him that summer. While he returned to the 2019 World Juniors as an alternate captain for Canada, and was effective on and off the floor as the team repeated as champions, Lyons didn't completely feel like himself yet.
Then, when he was fully healthy again and ready to rock his final season of junior in 2020, the pandemic intervened. No one having seen him play at 100% for two and a half years contributed to the defender not being selected in the Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) draft this year. But Lyons isn't disillusioned with the sport he fell in love with as a four-year-old in the Clarington minor lacrosse system. He's got his body and his mind right, and he can't wait to get back on the floor, saying “I don't think I've ever been this eager to play in a game before, or even a practice for that matter.
When and where that will be is an open question at this point. 'When' because there's no certainty there will be a 2021 season in Canadian summer lacrosse. 'Where' because no one owns his senior rights at this point. The latter, while not the situation a high-calibre player envisions finding himself in after his Senior A draft, could actually wind up being a benefit to playing out one scenario Lyons does envision.
He says that he's been speaking to some teams in the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA) and is definitely interested in playing in another part of the country.
“People always say you have to experience that part of lacrosse if you never have,” Lyons says. “I've always played in Ontario, I've never played in BC.”
Since no MSL team drafted him, WLA teams won't have to worry about negotiating a transfer with an Ontario club. They can just sign him bring him out when they're able to play again.
So why should western teams be interested in having Lyons fly (or drive, if he were to choose the Steve Priolo approach) across the country to join them? Well, his coach for Canada makes it pretty clear what Lyons can bring to the table.
“Brad is one of those guys who could play old-school lacrosse,” says Jeff Dowling. “He is gritty, can play defence, can play offence and he runs very well in transition. He is so smooth in transition and nonchalant. I remember in Saskatoon [at the 2018 World Juniors] wondering what he was doing on a break. It looked like he didn't realize we had an odd man rush then just like that the ball was in the back of the net.”
Lyons was a standout in transition at those Saskatoon World Juniors, scoring 6 Goals and 5 Assists in 3 Games, including having a pair of hat tricks. While he didn't score at that prolific pace through his junior career, you can see from his trio of goals in the championship game that Lyons is comfortable moving into the offensive zone and has some creativity, while it all comes after taking care of the defensive end first.
Lyons isn't fussy about the role he'll play at the next level, he's just looking to help a team any way they need him.
“I pride myself on my defensive abilities but I enjoy the transition part of the game because I do like getting involved in the offence and getting assists and getting goals,” he says. “Anywhere that anybody needs me to play, that's where I'm going to play. If that's defence or if that's transition going into the offence, I'm willing to do whatever my team needs me to do to help them be successful.
Another aspect of Lyons' game to which Dowling alluded was his grittiness. As with many young players, Lyons has had to learn how and when to channel that element of the sport and he credits his time with the Rock for helping him to do so.
“I feel like I've really learned when and when not to push that line. Maybe when I was younger, in minor and my first few years of junior, I would cross the line when it wasn't necessary and I would end up hurting my team, putting them shorthanded,” Lyons explains. “I feel like when I got to Toronto and really learned how the professionals play and watching the NLL [as part of the team] for a season, you really understand the mental toughness of the game and that you really can't cross the line whenever you want to.”
Learning that is all part of the evolution of a player's game, and Lyons believes his game has evolved in many ways. Positioning is another big factor in effective defence and Lyons credits all the coaches he had through minor for helping him to master it. His D-Coach when he got to the Lakers, Mark Farthing, really helped it all coalesce for him.
“He was a really big role model for me when I was young. I had him when I was 17 years and he really taught me a lot about the defensive aspect of lacrosse and I feel like that's where my game really took off to where I'm the player I am today,” Lyons says. “Being a players' coach is a really big part of it. I built a very strong relationship with him from the first day that he stepped in. Just the little things he notices when you come off every shift, he'll say one thing that you did good and one thing that you can work on. He's not in your face or yelling at you. When you really have a strong relationship with a coach I feel that helps and you really want to work for those kind of people.”
Part of the process of maturing as a player is also learning to make other players around you comfortable so they can get the best out of themselves for the team. Dowling and his staff for Canada noticed Lyons leadership, which is why they made him an alternate captain when he returned for the 2019 World Juniors.
“Good team guy, good in the room,” is Dowling's succinct explanation of that decision. Lyons took wearing that A on his jersey seriously.
“It means a lot to have a letter and know that your management and coaches believe in you and think of you as a leader on that team.” Lyons says. “When you have not a lot of time to bond with the team, I think it's really important for a leader to get the team to gel quick and build that relationship with one another. On the floor as well, some guys might be shy, you've got to be vocal out there, get everybody talking. In the room, too, it's important to make sure that everybody gets along, everybody feels welcome and that nobody feels left out.”
Now, he's just waiting like the rest of us for lacrosse to be able to be played again. And, while he did express an interest in playing out west, he's definitely not closing off the possibility of starting his senior career in his home province.
“I would be open to playing in MSL. I would like to play wherever I can get a shot. I really would like a chance to showcase my abilities. I'm just hoping that a team would take a chance to give me a tryout and I would run with the opportunity,” Lyons says, and concludes, “I'm looking to hopefully make an impact on any senior team that's willing to give me the opportunity. I feel like I have a lot to bring to any team. I feel that in the past I've been held back a little bit with injury and things but I'm ready for a fresh start and I feel like I'm ready to go.”