November 15, 2012 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Rochester Knighthawks
Last month, Jordan VanDamme received a once in a lifetime phone call. Rochester Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres personally called VanDamme to invite him to the Knighthawks' Open Tryouts.
After impressing Styres and the Knighthawks' coaching staff, VanDamme signed a one-year deal and will return to compete for a spot on the roster in Training Camp, which opens Saturday, November 24th and Sunday, November 25th at Total Sports Experience in Gates, NY.
"It was a pretty big honor to have Curt call me himself to invite me to the camp. That's pretty big," said VanDamme. "I was pretty excited just to go to that minicamp. I would have been happy with just the opportunity to go."
Earning an invite to Training Camp was another milestone in what has been an outstanding year for VanDamme.
The Junior "B" Wallaceburg Red Devils ended the 2012 season with their best finish since winning the Founders Cup in 2001. VanDamme, a resident of Wallaceburg and a native of nearby Chatham, Ontario, had the best season of his five-year career with the Red Devils.
Wallaceburg finished the regular season with a 13-7 record, second in the Far West Division, earning a spot in the playoffs. After defeating the St. Catharines Spartans in five games in the opening round, the Red Devils swept the London Blue Devils in three games. However, in the semifinal round, Wallaceburg lost to the Six Nations Rebels, 5-4, in the decisive Game 5.
The Rebels jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. The Red Devils clawed back, and VanDamme tied the game at 4-4 in the third period with his second goal of the game. However, Six Nations' forward Jacob Bomberry netted the game-winner 65 seconds later. It was a "heartbreaking loss" for VanDamme and his teammates.
"It was such a hard letdown. That was the core group of guys that I grew up playing with. We were the foundation of that team. All of us fifth-year players, we wanted it pretty bad. We poured everything we had into it. It was a battle. Every single game was a complete battle, and that's why it was such a disappointing loss there by a goal," said VanDamme. "If there were two more minutes on the clock, that game could have gone either way."
VanDamme set new personal-bests throughout the season, twice scoring a career-high five goals. He scored at least a hat trick in seven games, and racked up 29 goals and 22 assists in 12 games. VanDamme continued to score in the playoffs, adding 37 more points in only 10 games.
"This year was different from every other year. I don't know what it was. Maybe I just got older, more mature. I had a kid, bought a house. Everything just completely changed my whole life in the last two years, absolutely for the better. I can't explain it. I just don't know," said the 21-year-old.
While he was scoring goals, VanDamme was also collecting penalty minutes. In 22 total games played in 2012, he earned 143 minutes in the box, although he doesn't consider himself an enforcer.
"I go hard. I go 120 percent all the time. I mean, there was a lot of fights and five-minute (majors). Lacrosse is a physical game. It's all part of the game," said VanDamme.
In the first game of the semifinal round against Six Nations on July 20th, VanDamme supplemented his three point performance with 20 penalty minutes. All 20 minutes were earned in a fight with Spencer Hill of the Rebels. VanDamme was given two five-minute majors and a game misconduct penalty, while getting the best of Hill.
VanDamme will now be fighting for a spot on the Knighthawks, fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional lacrosse player, a dream he has been working toward since he began playing lacrosse at the age of seven.
"It's something every kid dreams of. They grow up playing sports and they get on that next level. It's every kid's dream, every athlete's dream, to get that call," said VanDamme.