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Mike Thompson celebrates with the Mann Cup on Saturday.  [photo courtesy of Danielle Lazore-Thompson]
Mike Thompson celebrates with the Mann Cup on Saturday. [photo courtesy of Danielle Lazore-Thompson]

Akwesasne goalie wins coveted lacrosse trophy

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Akwesasne is celebrating the return of a sports hero today. Lacrosse goalie Mike Thompson was declared the Most Valuable Player after winning North America's biggest lacrosse championship, the Mann Cup, on Saturday.

Thompson's team, the Peterborough Lakers, was losing two games to none against the Langley Thunder. The Lakers' younger goalie was pulled in favor of 36 year-old Thompson in game three. The Lakers went on to rattle off four straight wins with Thompson in goal and win the team's second Mann Cup in three years.

Thompson announced his retirement from the Buffalo Bandits major league lacrosse team earlier this year. He says this may also be his last game with the Lakers because he wants to spend more time with his family and training lacrosse players in Akwesasne.

David Sommerstein profiled Mike Thompson in May 2011. Here's that story.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Indoor, or box, lacrosse is loud and fast, with lightning quick passing, fierce brawls in front of thousands of roaring fans, and goalies like Mike Thompson clad in huge pads and armor, saving 110 miles per hour shots…

So it’s quite a juxtaposition to visit Mike Thompson at his peaceful home in Akwesasne.  He’s sitting on the couch, bouncing his two year-old daughter Stella — “daddy’s girl,” he says, "those toes, those toes…" [cooing and laughing]

"Yeah, my two older boys play lacrosse.  One boy’s gonna be a goal scorer, and my second boy’s gonna be an enforcer.  Four years old and he drops the mitts with his older brother already pretty good, so…" [laughs]

Mike Thompson’s a muscular, stocky guy, with a hint of a goatee and a little chuckle after everything he says.  Thompson’s uncles taught him to play lacrosse, he said, "They were the first ones to throw a lacrosse stick in my hands."

It was the 1980s, when kids in Akwesasne were playing more baseball, even though Native Americans across the continent had been playing lacrosse for centuries. "I still like to think of it as a medicine game.  We still have traditional medicine games and that definitely goes back to the heart of many of our players."

By medicine game, Thompson says, he means, traditionally, sick people would be brought to watch a lacrosse game, to be healed by it: "Just the emotions that come out during a game.  It’s very positive.  It’s something I still feel every day I go out and get on the floors.  I’m not playing for me.  I’m playing for everybody else."

Mike Thompson’s play has thrilled scores of fans, from the Canadian junior leagues to his first professional gig in Ottawa to a national championship with the Buffalo Bandits in 2008.

But the pinnacle was when his summer team, the Petersborough Lakers of the Canadian professional lacrosse league, won the Mann Cup last year.  That’s the lacrosse championship considered the most prestigious in North America.

Thompson’s cousin, Randi Rourke Barreiro, remembers the thrill in Akwesasne to follow Petersborough’s and Mike Thompson’s progress through the tournament: "Peterborough won, oh good, y’know, you see somebody at the store, share the news, and then they just kept winning and winning, and it was like, you almost don’t even want to go there.  Like, oh my god!  It’s Mike!  He could win this and it just kept building.  And so, for us on this side of it, it was that exciting.  You almost didn’t want to jinx it too much by talking about it too much."

Mike Thompson became just the second Mohawk to win the Mann Cup.  He says he and his family became heroes in Petersborough, "We’d go to have breakfast and if the owner didn’t buy me breakfast, like, somebody in the restaurant would.  It was stuff like that."

The spotlight can be stressful, he says.  And over a career, grueling.  Thompson’s blew out his knee in 2005.  He suffered a concussion two years later.  And with maximum salaries of $25,000 a year, lacrosse players aren’t exactly paid like the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. "[He] probably doesn’t sweat half as much as we do."

At 33, Mike Thompson’s thinking about life after professional lacrosse.

Today, kids’ lacrosse leagues are taking off in Akwesasne, a far cry from when he was growing up.  "[I] really would like to work with the kids.  That’s where it all begins.  Need some more positive role models out there."

Lacrosse has given Thompson a thrilling career.  He says he wants to give back and help fuel the revival of an ancient game that’s intertwined with Mohawk identity.

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