He’s done so much for the game for so long, it’s hard to imagine pro lacrosse existing without Colin Doyle.
Following 19 professional seasons, Kitchener’s Colin Doyle, one of the finest players ever to wield a lacrosse stick, has decided to step away from the playing floor.
“My drive to compete had decreased and that was a sign to me that if I’m not driven to be the best, it’s the right time to walk away,” the longtime Toronto Rock captain and future hall of famer said at a news conference to announce his retirement on Wednesday.
Doyle, 39, leaves the National Lacrosse League as a six-time champion.
The former Kitchener-Waterloo Brave has won just about every trophy and accolade his sport offers — NLL’s rookie of the year, most valuable player, playoff MVP, world box and field lacrosse titles and multiple Canadian major lacrosse titles.
Doyle departs the game as the Rock’s all-time leader in goals (440), assists (664), points (1,104) and games played (218).
His career numbers — including a three-year stint playing pro lacrosse with the San Jose Stealth — put the Grand River Collegiate grad third on the NLL’s all-time list with 1,384 points.
He was never the biggest or fastest player. But Doyle combined his rubbery durability with a sixth sense of anticipation. He appeared to see the game unspool before the rest of us.
Even while he was a scrawny high school student, Doyle displayed an uncanny knack for versatility.
He was named Waterloo County’s high school hockey MVP for the Grand River Renegades in 1996 after serving as the team’s starting goalie, and at one point, was also his team’s leading scorer, having also played centre.
Seventeen years later, Doyle donned the goal pads for his Six Nations Chiefs in a Mann Cup senior national lacrosse victory after both Chiefs goalies were ejected for illegal equipment.
Doyle, who hadn’t even practised in net for years, made six saves to preserve an 11-7 victory over the home-floor Victoria Shamrocks. This, after he scored a goal and added two assists as a runner.
“I have officially seen just about everything,” a chuckling Doyle told The Record back then.
Doyle suffered a frightening injury this past spring, a displaced vertebra with a small fracture in his neck during a fall away from the game, a mishap that may have hastened his decision to retire.
Despite his Hamilton surgeon’s assurance he would make a full recovery, Doyle said this past spring his future in the wintertime pro lacrosse league was up in the air.
“I don’t know. I’ve been back and forth on (a decision) all year even when I was healthy,” he said in April.
Doyle, a tireless lacrosse ambassador and married father of three girls, has left an indelible impression on the players he inspired in his hometown.
Fellow Kitchener natives and current pros like Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch, both of the NLL’s Buffalo Bandits, grew up watching Doyle play the game.
Doyle, Benesch and Smith were briefly united on the floor for the first time for a season of summer lacrosse by the Six Nations Chiefs in 2015.
“He was such a big impact in our dressing room. He’s definitely a role model — not just for myself and the other guys from Kitchener — but for the entire lacrosse world,” said Smith, named the pro league’s most valuable player last season after he tallied a league record 72 goals and 137 points in 18 games.
“I can only hope to be as successful as he has been one day,” said Smith, 24.
Doyle wasn’t the first big lacrosse name from Kitchener to burst onto the pro scene.
Hall of fame netminder Steve Dietrich, now general manager of the Bandits, had a chance to play briefly with Doyle and the Rock in 2010.
“Colin is the complete package,” said Dietrich, named the NLL’s general manager of the year last season. “He’s still at the top of his game so he’s going out at a great time. I’m really going to miss watching him play.
“He’s done such a great job. He’s always been so selfless. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he does away from the floor,” said Dietrich.
Doyle never forgot his roots in Kitchener-Waterloo minor lacrosse, returning many times to coach teams and run clinics.
“He set the bar pretty high for the rest of us,” said Benesch, traded by the Rock to San Jose for Doyle back in 2006. “It’s not too easy to follow in those footsteps.
“Colin was always that guy you wanted to be like.”
Since July, Doyle has worked as the director of an indoor sports facility, the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, in Oakville.
“I hope I’m remembered for being a great teammate and being someone that played their best when it mattered the most, someone that didn’t cheat any fan that spent their money to come and watch me play,” Doyle said Wednesday.