The National Lacrosse League (@NLL), the largest and most successful professional lacrosse property in the world, today announced its first six season awards. Tracey Kelusky of Panther City Lacrosse Club is the winner of the Les Bartley Award, as the Head Coach of the Year; Steve Dietrich of the Buffalo Bandits takes the General Manager of the Year Award; Toronto Rock Owner, General Manager, and President Jamie Dawick is selected as the Executive of the Year; Pat Gregoire broadcast analyst for TSN’s Game of the Week broadcasts and the Halifax Thunderbirds claims the Tom Borrelli Award for Media; Lyle Thompson of the Georgia Swarm nabs the Sportsmanship Award; and his brother, Jeremy earns Teammate of the Year.
Kelusky, inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame in 2016, in his first season as a head coach in the NLL, led the expansion Panther City Lacrosse Club to a 7-11 record. At 1-8, the season looked lost for Panther City, but PCLC went on a five-game winning streak and won six of seven games to fight for a playoff spot late into the season. Kelusky is the third coach to win the award as a first-year coach and the first to win the award as a rookie coach for an expansion team.
Dietrich, who also serves as assistant coach for Buffalo, earned his third General Manager of the Year Award which now ties him with Saskatchewan Rush General Manager, Derek Keenan, for the most all-time. Dietrich’s other two wins came in 2016 and 2019 after starting with the Bandits as General Manager in 2012, the same year he was inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame. Under Dietrich, the Bandits tied a franchise record for the most wins in a regular season, finishing at 14-4 after starting the season 13-1.
For Dawick, this is his second Executive of the Year award, the other coming in 2013. Coming out of the global pandemic, Dawick made the difficult decision to relocate his team’s home games from Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto to FirstOntario Centre in nearby Hamilton. This bold move has certainly seen success at all levels.
In year one in Hamilton, the Rock rebuilt their season membership base, exceeding the number of season members from their last season in 2019.
Midway through the season, Ontario provincial guidelines put restrictions in place that did not allow fans to attend indoor professional sporting events. Instead of postponing games, Dawick chose to forge ahead and play games without fans and without revenue in the best interests of all league partners. The decision allowed both the television and regular season game schedule to continue without interruption.
The atmosphere in Rock City was electric from start to finish and through Dawick’s leadership, the team has laid a foundation for long-term success in the Hamilton market.
This is Gregoire’s first Tom Borrelli award for outstanding media coverage of the NLL. Gregoire was instrumental to the success of the NLL’s first season on TSN and its’ Game of the Week broadcasts. He is also the analyst for the Halifax Thunderbirds on TSN.ca and ESPN+, his second year with the team. Gregoire is also the co-host of the popular, “Off the Crosse Bar” podcast alongside former Tom Borrelli award winner, Teddy Jenner. Through his work, he has introduced the game and the NLL to millions of fans across North America.
Lyle Thompson, 29, won his fourth consecutive Sportsmanship Award. Lyle finished with 102 points on the season on 47 goals which was tied for a league high and is a career high. The 2017 MVP has continued to represent the game of lacrosse and the NLL to the highest degree and is the only player to win the award four times since its inception in 2002.
Jeremy Thompson, 35, won the Teammate of the Year Award, a particularly high honor as it is voted on by the players of the NLL from among one nominee per team. Jeremy helped lead the expansion Panther City Lacrosse Club to a 7-11 record and at one point, a five-game winning streak. The veteran helped lead the team that played 10 rookies throughout the season. The 10-year veteran totaled 17 points on the season, 146 loose ball recoveries, 13 caused turnovers and won 52.0% of his faceoffs.
All awards were voted on prior to the start of the 2022 playoffs and were based on regular season statistics.