As kids, Chris Gill and Kurt Malawsky never dreamed of their place in the record books. Once school was out, their focus shifted to lacrosse, whether it was playing games, practices, or just playing pick-up games at an old outdoor surface in Coquitlam.
That drive that was instilled in them from an early age quickly paid off. They were stars in both the junior and senior ranks. They played pro. They coached. A life dedicated to a sport they love was reward enough.
But the lacrosse community certainly took notice and on Saturday, Nov. 14 the two were paid back handsomely, being inducted into the Canadian lacrosse hall of fame.
“Humbled, surprised, amazed,” said Gill, who lives in Pitt Meadows and now coaches the Maple Ridge Burrards in the WLA and the Colorado Mammoth in the NLL.
“All those things you always say in a moment like that, it’s all true. Looking around room at all the other inductees and players already in the hall, it’s surreal.”
Gill’s entrance to the hall is historic. He enters as the fourth generations of his family to be enshrined, after his great grandfather Les Dickinson, grandfather Bill Dickinson and father Sohen Gill were also recognized for their immense talent.
He said there was never any pressure growing up to live up to the expectations of his family. The emphasis was always to go out and have fun.
“I was just a kid. I was so proud of my great grandfather and grandfather,” said Gill. “Making the hall of fame was never something that even occurred to me. I just played to win games and win championships.”
Gill, now 43, was selected number one overall in the 1994 WLA draft and in his 13 WLA seasons with the Burrards and Salmonbellies, he scored 482 goals and 352 assists for 833 points in 282 regular season and playoff games.
He said when he first entered the league, he was a little awe struck.
“I remember coming in as a rookie and playing against all those big boys from New West and Victoria,” he said. “I caught myself watching them instead of playing. But now its come full circle and I’m in the hall of fame. It’s almost like a dream. I’m waiting to wake up and find out it’s all a joke.”
Gill was a five-time WLA All-Star, a two-time league leading scorer in 1997, and 2000 and was named the WLA’s most valuable player in 1998
He help lead the Salmonbellies to two straight Mann Cup appearances in 2008, and 2009, losing to the Brampton Excelsiors.
His NLL stats are equally impressive. Gill played 186 games with Baltimore, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado, where he amassed 354 goals and 235 assists for 589 points.
He won two NLL titles, one with Toronto and the other with Colorado. Gill also represented Team Canada at the U19 World Field Lacrosse Championships in 1991 as well as a member of the men’s National Field Lacrosse team in 1998 and 2002.
For the 45-year-old Malawsky, the induction was equally overwhelming.
“I was very, very humbled,” said Malawsky of Maple Ridge, “and very, very honoured.”
He said much like his friend Gill, he never thought about making it to the hall of fame. For him, it was about the love of the game.
“You play to win championships,” said Malawsky. “You play for the camaraderie, you play to fuel that competitive desire you have and when it’s all said and done it’s very satisfying to go into the hall with a group of guys that I looked up to and had played the game at such a high level.”
He started his junior career with Coquitlam Adanacs and scored 102 goals and 184 assists before becoming the top draft pick of the Salmonbellies in 1992. His 13-year WLA career has stops in New West, North Shore and Coquitlam. The six-time WLA all star also won the WLA’s Maitland trophy for sportsmanship, ability and commitment to minor lacrosse four times, in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2007.
In 227 WLA regular season games, he scored 326 goals and 390 assists for 716 points. In playoff action, he netted 179 goals and 231 assists in 137 games. Malawsky won the 2001 Mann Cup with Coquitlam in seven games over Brampton.
He played 12 seasons in the NLL with stops in Calgary, Arizona, San Jose, Vancouver and Rochester. In 177 games, he scored 287 goals and 294 assists for 581 points winning one NLL title with Calgary in 2009.
As a coach, Malawsky’s Junior A teams won three Minto Cups – two with the Burnaby Lakers in 2004 and 2005 and one with the Coquitlam Adanacs in 2010.
Malawsky currently coaches the NLL Calgary Roughnecks as well as helping out with minor players across the B.C. Lacrosse Association.
He said the passion for the game has never waned. It why he still is so heavily involved.
“I think it’s our responsibility as former players to continue passing on the great knowledge and the wealth of information that we learned from the older players over the years so we can keep the great game of lacrosse growing,” said Malawsky.
In order to keep the game going and to help grow the game, the Roughnecks coach said none of this would have been possible without the support of his wife Jill and his mother Sue Grouette.
He said between the countless hours his mother spent driving him to games and the sacrifices his wife makes looking after his kids, Cody and Dawson, while he’s on the road, an invite to the hall would never have happened.
“None of this is possible without family. I owe them so much.”