2009’S TOP ROOKIE CONTINUES TO IMPRESSBy Heather Crowley
The 2010 Major League Lacrosse draft class is entering their third week on professional competition. Some players have already made an impact on their MLL teams, including the top three picks, Ned Crotty, Michael Kimmel and Max Quinzani. Each year the best collegiate seniors wrap up their careers, graduate, get drafted by an MLL team and then make their pro debut all in the span of a week or two.
Last season Outlaws attacker Dan Hardy stood in the same place as those greenhorns do now. At seasons’ end Hardy took home Cascade MLL Rookie of the Year honors and so far in 2010 has not shown signs of a sophomore slump. Last week Hardy scored four goals and tallied seven points, earning him MLL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
When Hardy was selected eighth overall in the 2009 MLL Draft by the Outlaws it culminated a life long journey in the sport. Hardy grew up in Tully, New York, a small town with a lacrosse background. With a population hovering around 2,700 residents, the lacrosse inundated area provided a perfect combination of opportunities for a kid looking to play.
As a young lacrosse player Hardy grew up not only playing the field game but also jumped into the box game. The neighboring Onondaga Nation offered some of the best competition in box and eventually a team sprung up in Tully.
“I remember playing goalie at about five years old or so over in the box league at Lafayette High School,” Hardy said. “We lost something like 25-0 and I probably threw a temper tantrum at my dad afterwards. I remember my dad and my brother throwing me in the cage making me cry.”
Hardy also had a distinct advantage at home: his father Bill Hardy won a National Championship in 1983 with Syracuse. Later, his older brother Tom would grab two titles of his own while playing for the Orange from 1999-2002. It was only a matter of time before Dan followed in the family business.
After receiving the hallowed number 22 at Syracuse, the expectations were heaped onto the young player, and with age came wisdom. Hardy’s final two seasons at Syracuse were unquestionably his best, helping guide the Orange to a 32-4 overall record and back-to-back National Championships. As a junior, Hardy was named the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Tournament.
Even with all his success at the college level, Hardy admits the pros took some getting used to. The faster pace, physical play, less time practicing with the team and shot clock were all differences that he needed to adjust to in the MLL.
He adjusted quite well. In his first game against the Bayhawks, the rookie scored a goal and had three assists. On a team loaded with big time scorers like Drew Westervelt and Brendan Mundorf, Hardy managed to total 16 points in his first season on eight goals and eight assists during the ten games he played in for Denver. At the end of the season Hardy beat out teammate, and Tewaaraton Award winner, Max Seibald for Cascade Rookie of the Year honors. And his success on the Outlaws has only continued from there.
“Hardy’s been very, very good for us recently,” Outlaws Head Coach and GM Brian Reese said. “He’s gotten a lot of great ‘hockey assists’ and had a hat trick. When he is more aggressive we are definitely a better team. We need him to get in there, have him go to the goal and use his body. Sometimes I think he forgets he’s 6-foot-4.”
With this unique combination of box and field experience Hardy developed his hybrid style. The box game helped develop confidence with the stick, resulting from the close quarters of the box game and defenders playing tight. The field game granted him frightening dodging skills in conjunction with great field vision. Hardy at his flashiest perhaps came against Toronto on May 29. Coming around the side of the cage, he fired a behind the back shot past goalie Brett Queener who barely had time to react. His celebration, a simple raise of the hand.
“I’m not going to be the guy in the locker room who’s the talker or the screamer,” Hardy said. “I’m a pretty quiet guy and I’ll be there just taking it all in. I’ve worked on that, when I put on the helmet I try to be more aggressive.”
But that’s the type of guy Hardy is. He’s not showy or pushy or going to take bad penalties. Despite all the accolades and collegiate attention Hardy harbors a low key demeanor. He quietly contributes solid numbers while working on his skills. On a team of stars it’s easy to go relatively overlooked, but that’s starting to change.
“He is a tough guy to match up against,” Reese said. “He is big, strong, has good speed and is a good passer. The past few weeks, teams were sliding to him early and he was making the right passes. He wasn’t getting points but he was making the right play. If you don’t slide to him he will score 1 on 1, so it makes him a complete player.”
To date, Hardy has eight goals and six assists through five games on an annual playoff contender. This week he was selected to the 2010 MLL All-Star Game, the first of his career. So take note, rookies. Even the newest players can shake up the league.
Off the Field
Favorite Movie: Last of the Mohicans. Native American studies minor and being from where I am from (Upstate NY), it is naturally of interest.
You won the lottery the first thing you would do/buy: I would stop everything I'm doing and chill out on an island for a long time.
Best Vacation Spot: Santorini
First Car: Green Jeep Cherokee (not GRAND Cherokee). It's nickname was the Green Hornet.
Favorite Pregame Meal: Too many butterflies to be able to have a pregame meal.
Your Sport/Team to watch (outside of lacrosse): Philadelphia Eagles. Even though I am a little upset with them after they let McNabb go.
Favorite Childhood Toy/Game: I'd have to say my drum set. I was pretty legit.
First Job: I worked at "Mary Christmas Tree Farm" (I know Mary is not used in the right text, that’s the point). I would trip the trees in the summer and it was the most brutal job ever. Had to wear jeans, work boots, and long sleeves otherwise you would get cut up.
If you could have any animal for a pet you would own a: Well I have an American Eskimo dog and it’s just way too girly, so I'd have to make myself feel better by owning a husky. Those dogs are awesome.
Nickname: Don't really have one at the moment, but Coach Reese and I are working on it.
You are stranded on an island with just three things. What do you take with you: I'd take my new iPhone 4 that I just got, my new husky, and definitely my lax stick!
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com