April 18, 2017 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Rochester Knighthawks
(April 18, 2017)... When Mike Kirk returns to Connors & Ferris Field at The Blue Cross Arena this weekend, he will walk into a building that houses many of his greatest lacrosse memories. For five seasons, the Orangeville, Ontario native called Rochester home as he wore the teal and purple from 2012 to 2016 and three times raised the Champion's Cup.
On Saturday, the Rochester Knighthawks will honor one of their most beloved former alternate captains on Mike Kirk Night. With his wife, Erna, and kids Emmersen and Bennett by his side, Mike will have a chance to relive and share some of his greatest triumphs.
"I spent five years there and won three championships, so I have long-lasting memories of friends, coaches and fans," said Kirk. "It will be a special night for me and my family to celebrate. My family is really excited about the night and to be a part of it. They have been behind the scenes for all these years and this is a great opportunity to thank my family as well."
Mike Kirk was a standout on defense for the Knighthawks and a key contributor to the run of three straight championships. He was a player who demanded respect by the way he played the game - with grit and passion. Knighthawks defenseman Scott Campbell admitted he still misses "Kirky" because he was a "glue guy" who held everything together.
"It is hard to appreciate how much a guy like Mike means to a team until he is gone and there is just this unexplained void on your team," said Campbell. "The car rides are longer, the flights aren't as fun, the dressing room is uneasy, and our opponents are a little braver.
"Guys like Kirky aren't recognized in the record books but certainly remembered by teammates as the guy who made a team feel like a family. I am very happy that we are able to recognize his contributions to the game this weekend."
Kirk, who announced his retirement on December 13, 2016, played 10 seasons in the NLL and made stops in Chicago, San Jose, Boston and finally Rochester. He played in 156 games and posted 65 points and 564 loose balls.
Kirk was a workhouse during his playing days, appearing in 105 consecutive regular season games. More importantly, he was a leader and a mentor that the Knighthawks were looking for when they scooped him up in the first round of the NLL Dispersal Draft prior to the 2012 season.
"There was nobody else that we wanted but Mike Kirk," said Knighthawks owner and general manager Curt Styres. "He was a mainstay on defense for our three championships."
"He was like another coach out there on the floor for us. He conveyed our messages clearly and concisely," added Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. "In the locker room, he was the guy who the players listened to a great deal."
The veteran defenseman made an immediate impact in his first season in Rochester, appearing in his first All-Star Game. During the 2012 playoffs, Kirk scored his first career postseason goal in the East Division Finals in a 17-13 win over the defending champion Toronto Rock. He capped off the playoff run by raising the Champion's Cup for the first time in his career. It's a feat he would repeat in 2013. Then in 2014, the two-time alternate captain recorded a career-high 75 loose balls as the Knighthawks captured their third straight Champion's Cup.
"I always dreamt about winning a championship, but winning three in a row is something I'll never forget," he said. "It's something only a small group of guys can say they accomplished together. No championship was the same. We won it a different way each time. I'll never forget those feelings when the final buzzer went."
Kirk will get another chance to reminisce as he returns home to celebrate his incredible career Saturday.
"When I look back at the whole thing, I was blessed to play the game to begin with," he said. "I had five good years before I came to Rochester, and had five years to cap it all off that I will never forget.
"You work hard to win championships. The moment I got to Rochester that was the expectation; we were able to achieve that three years in a row."
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Knighthawks to Honor Mike Kirk Saturday