Miles Giaehgwaeh Thompson, co-winner of
college lacrosse’s top honor last year with his younger brother
Lyle, arrived in the Twin Cities on Jan. 2 to a hero’s welcome
before he had even played in his first National Lacrosse League game.
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Twin Cities Native American Lacrosse
Club youth players, coaches and families joined other members of the
local Native community to greet Thompson with banners and an honor
song as he arrived at the Minneapolis airport. He was all smiles as
he posed for photos and signed autographs for the fans in the
airport’s baggage claim area.
The next night, Thompson scored three
goals and one assist in his NLL debut at the Xcel Center before a
crowd of almost 9,000 fans. Although the Swarm lost 20-13 to
Colorado, the team’s native players – forwards Thompson
(Onondaga from New York), veteran Corbyn Tao (Nishga First Nation
from British Columbia) and returning Swarm star Dean Hill (Turtle
Clan Mohawk from Six Nations) – accounted for more than half the
scoring, with Tao and Hill adding two goals each.
When Hill fed Thompson the ball for one
of his goals, a group of fans in the corner of the arena held up a
large Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) flag and danced.
It was just the sort of welcome and
excitement for the Creator’s game that Thompson was expecting.
“When I was talking to different
(National Lacrosse League general managers) and trying to decide
where I wanted to play, my brother Lyle told me about Minnesota,”
Thompson said by phone before he boarded his flight to Minnesota. “He
said the Swarm draws a big crowd and they really love lacrosse.
That's really how I decided I wanted to come to Minnesota.”
Miles was the Swarm’s top pick in the
2014 NLL draft. The team also drafted Joe Haodais Maracle, Bear Clan
Cayuga, who plays this year on the Swarm’s practice squad. Tao,
drafted by the Swarm in 2011, played on the practice squad most of
last season but returned to a starting role in 2015. Hill, played for
the Swarm from 2006-09 before he was traded to Washington, then
Colorado. He was re-signed by the Swarm as a free-agent last summer.
On the sidelines for the Swarm,
assistant coach Aime Caines (Mi'kmaq First Nations) is in his eighth
season with the team. Caines has been very involved in spreading the
game in native communities across Minnesota, including leading
Lax4Life camps at Fond du Lac and Prairie Island.
Thompson, too, wants to help grow the
game with native youth.
“My brothers and I have camps that we
run, Thompson Brothers Lacrosse, and we want to grow the game as much
as we can,” he said. “This is our game as native people, so we
want to take the camps to all of the reservation communities in
Minnesota and work with the youth.”
The Swarm play their next three games
on the road, returning to The Hive Feb. 6 for Native American
Heritage Night and a game with the defending NLL champion Rochester
Knighthawks. The game will be sponsored by the team’s 2015 partner,
Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin.
When asked if he had a message for the
native community in the Twin Cities, Thompson said, “I'm excited to
come out to Minnesota and I'm looking forward to meeting all of you.”
He got a pretty good start New Year’s
For more information about Native
American Heritage Night or to buy tickets, call (888) MN-SWARM or
Art Coulson is a veteran journalist
and member of The Circle board. His book, The Creator’s Game: A
Story of Baaga’adowe/Lacrosse, was published in 2013 by the
Minnesota Historical Society Press. He plays lacrosse and traditional
PHOTO: Miles Thompson signs autographs for the youth in the Twin Cities Native American Lacrosse Club, who came to welcome him as he arrived in Minneapolis on Jan. 2. (Photo by Alfred Walking Bull)
Minnesota Swarm Native player and
Assistant Coach Aime Caines,
39, finished his seventh season of coaching with the Minnesota Swarm
in 2014. He also serves as the Director of the Swarm's Youth Box
League and the head coach of the Jr. Swarm program. Prior to
coaching, Caines spent five seasons in the NLL from 2001-05 with the
Columbus Landsharks, Montreal Express and Buffalo Bandits. Caines
began playing lacrosse in Windsor, Ontario where he played minor
lacrosse. He later played for five years in the junior “A” league
with the Sarnia Pacers. The Winsdor native also spent time in the
Western Lacrosse Association (WLA) for the Newestminster
Salmonbellies and in the Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) for the Brampton
Excelsiors, Akwesasne Indians and Barrie Lakeshores. Caines has been
active in the local lacrosse community in his time with the Swarm. He
serves as the head coach at East Ridge High School, and is a former
assistant coach for the University of Minnesota Men's Lacrosse Club.
In the summertime, Caines directs youth lacrosse camps on the Fond du
Lac and Prairie Island reservations in effort to help restore the
tradition of lacrosse amongst Minnesota’s native population.
Dean Hill, forward, 30, was
drafted in the fifth-round (No. 48 overall) of the 2005 NLL Entry
Draft by Minnesota out of Brock University. The Scarborough, Ontario,
native led the Swarm with 32 goals in 2007. Hill played for the
Washington Stealth from 2012-13 and scored 76 points (37 goals, 39
assists) over two seasons. During the Stealth’s runner-up finish in
the Champion’s Cup in 2013, Hill tallied 38 points (20g, 18a) and
29 loose balls in the regular season. As a member of the Colorado
Mammoth in 2014, Hill scored three points (1g, 2) in two games
played. He signed a Free Agent Contract with Minnesota in the summer
Joe Haodais Maracle,
a 20-year-old forward from Ohsweken, Ontario, was the No. 10 pick
overall in the 2014 NLL draft from the Six Nations Arrows (Jr. A).
Maracle won a Minto Cup this summer with the Arrows and totaled 39
points (22g, 17a) in 13 postseason contests. In the regular season,
the 5-foot-11, 195-pound lefty scored 49 points (14g, 35a) in 18
Corbyn Tao, 26, a right-handed
forward from Coquitlam, British Columbia, was selected by Minnesota
in the second round (12th overall) of the 2011 NLL Entry Draft out of
Robert Morris University. Tao, who lives in the Twin Cities, has been
quite visible in the native community, speaking at schools and
helping with lacrosse camps on Minnesota reservations. In 2010, Tao
led his college team in goals with a school-record 41 and was ranked
first in the nation in shooting percentage, scoring on 53.2 percent
of his shots at RMU.
Miles Giaehgwaeh Thompson,
24, won the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2014 with his brother Lyle, becoming
the first native players to win the college lacrosse equivalent of
the Heisman Trophy. Thompson, a righ-handed forward out of the
University at Albany, was the Swarm’s top pick (third overall) in
the 2014 NLL draft. Thompson, who plays summer lax with the Rochester
(NY) Rattlers, finished his college career as Albany’s all-time
leader in points (293) and goals (189). In the World Lacrosse
Championships last summer in Denver, Thompson helped lead the
Iroquois Nationals to a bronze medal finish.