December 2nd, 2009 by Bob Chavez
The debate among Rochester Knighthawks fans and who their favorite player might be almost always includes Tim Soudan. Is he team’s all-time leader in goals? No. Was he the smoothest finisher the team’s ever seen? Probably not, not with the likes of Paul Gait and John Grant Jr. having donned the Knighthawks sweater. But when it comes to pure grit, heart and hustle, few top Soudan and what he meant to the Knighthawks. So the fella who played 11 seasons for his hometown Knighthawks, after four seasons with the old New England/Boston Blazers, takes a look back.
1. So you wrapped up your NCAA days at UMass then got your pro career started in Boston?
I was drafted by the New England Blazers (No. 5 overall in 1990) and the year before, they were in the championship game and then the following year, we got to play in the Boston Garden. That was really cool.
2. You were pretty new to box lacrosse, right?
I was, but we had a bunch of American guys playing and back then, if you were a physical guy, it suited you. Big defensemen and big strong middies excelled. It was a natural fit for me.
3. The game was a bit different than today.
It was an interesting time. The culture of the league was like being a weekend warrior. You played offense, fan back on defense and then came off. I remember being soooo tired after games. I’d sit there in the locker room for an hour after games just trying to recoup. We ran ourselves into the ground.
4. Still, it has to be fun to look back at those days.
I remember in my first season, we were in Philly and the glass behind the penalty area was really, really short. It was 1991 and I got called for a penalty and my name is Soudan and the fans were calling me Sadam because of the first Gulf War going on. Then that one fan, Chopper, is leaning over the glass and yelling at me. And he has this beer that gets stuck between his chest and the glass and it squirts all over me. I smelled like beer the rest of the game. But it was cool. I met him after the game and we all had beers together.
5. Nice. Sounds like fun.
The worst was in Toronto, where they had no glass behind the team benches. The fans were crazy! And I remember this one game (with the Knighthawks), things weren’t going our way and we called a timeout. And all of a sudden, that team mascot comes flying out of nowhere over our bench and on to the floor. I remember wanting to go after that mascot and take it all out on him.
6. Rochester got the Knighthawks in 1995, just in time for you, I hear.
I was a stockbroker in Boston and didn’t really care for the job. My boss was giving me a hard time about taking off for weekends to play and then I made the U.S. National team in 1994 so I was going to need time off to go to Manchester, England. So I told my boss, listen, you’re paying me $800 a month, hardly any commission and I had to go through my couch this morning to find 80 cents to take the train into work this morning. I basically walked out.
7. So that was it for you in Boston?
Yeah, I remember I had a 1982 Buick Regal and it died on me right in the driveway. I was living in Harvard Square. My grandmother was sick and we’d just taken her to a hospice. So I took that car to a junkyard, my brother-in-law came to get me and I went back to Rochester. It was a trying time.
8. You weren’t kidding about the Knighthawks arriving just in time.
On top of that, the Detroit team folded so we got guys like Chugger, Brian Lemon, Peter Parke, Paul Gait and Chris Driscoll. Automatically, we had a pretty good team. And I found out I really missed Rochester, and it was for the simple things. In Boston, I had to drive around for 25 minutes just to find a parking spot when I went shopping for groceries. That wasn’t for me.
9. Tell me about that first year with the Knighthawks.
First, that old War Memorial (before the renovation) was great. We knew we weren’t going to share a locker room with the (hockey) Amerks, so they stuck us in this locker room below the stage. But they had a bar on the stage and the floor leaked so we’d come back in at halftime and after the game and our stuff would have beer all over it. Didn’t have much of a shower room, either.
10. Had to be fun playing in your hometown.
The fans really took to the game, 100 percent. They saw the passion on that was on the floor. And I remember in 1997, we came into the playoffs at .500 and no one was giving us a chance to win anything. But we went to Philly and beat the Wings in front of 18,000 and then went to Buffalo and beat them in front of another 18,000 for the title.
11. For being a field player, sounds like you did just fine in box lacrosse.
It was a different game back then, but luckily my transition to the game took place as the league was transitioning. Like I said, we all ran back then but today they have the offensive and defensive shifts and the transition guys. It would be really hard for me to make a team like the Knighthawks these days.
Soudan played 173 total games over his 15 seasons, finishing with 198 goals and 203 assists for 401 points. These days, he’s plenty busy as a physical education teacher at Fairport High, his alma mater, a suburb of Rochester. He’s also an assistant lacrosse coach at the school and runs the Blaze, a travel lacrosse team that has about 100 players making up four different teams. He’s also director of player development for the Knighthawks. He’s married to Colleen and they have a son, Tanner, who’s in 2nd grade. Soudan’s daughter, Kaitlyn Bondi, is about to start her freshman lacrosse season at SUNY Cortland.