Michael Montgomery intends to dedicate upcoming season to Ryan Crowther
Dave Dawson/The Packet & Times Twin Lakes Secondary School student Michael Montgomery was recently drafted in the second round by the Jr. A Peterborough Lakers. Montgomery, 16, will play for Orillia’s Experience Nissan Kings this year and hopes to move up to the Lakers next year. Montgomery and the Kings open their season April 29 with a 7 p.m. game at Rotary Place against Markham.
Michael Montgomery began playing lacrosse when he was three. By the time he turned six, he had moved up to rep lacrosse and has never looked back.
"It's the fastest game on two feet and I love that," said the 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Twin Lakes Secondary School. "I love the contact and the speed of the game and the rush I get every time I step on the floor."
That rush is like oxygen for the teen who is passionate about the sport and getting better at the game that has helped to shape his young life. Over the years, he has developed into an offensive force and a leader - traits that were evident last year when he helped the local midget team earn a provincial championship.
"That was the best season of my life," he says with fondness. "I will never forget it and I will remember every one of those guys for the rest of my life."
It was almost the worst season of his life. At a mid-season practice, only five players showed up. Head coach Ryan Crowther and assistant coaches Blake Mainer and Jay Mainer were so frustrated with the lack of commitment, the team was in danger of folding.
"All three coaches were so ticked off. So me and assistant captains Brett Castellani and Ryan Monkman talked about how badly we wanted to play. I called up all the guys and said 'If you want a team, you have to come out to practice.' From that moment on, every guy was at every practice and we ended up winning All-Ontarios."
That playoff run catapulted Montgomery onto scouts' radar and at the Ontario Jr. A Lacrosse League midget draft, the Peterborough Lakers selected the lanky teen in the second round - 15th overall. "I was not expecting to be drafted. It's pretty cool to get drafted - especially considering I played 'C' all my life," he said, of Orillia's designation.
Getting drafted came with an invitation to the Lakers' training camp - an experience the Orillian loved. "It was an awesome experience to have an opportunity to play with older guys and get a feel for the faster pace of the game at that level. I was one of the smallest guys out there."
The two-day camp earlier this month helped solidify for Montgomery where he wants to play. He knows he needs to get bigger and stronger to make the jump to Jr. A - something he hopes to do next year. With that in mind, the self-described "gym junkie" is working hard to do just that but also finds time to be on Twin Lakes' track and cross-country teams and plays basketball at his high school.
While sports and training keep him busy, academics are also important to him; he is a consistent honour-roll student who has a 90% average this year. After high school, he hopes to go to university to study kinesiology. But, for the short term, he's looking forward to lacrosse season starting. This summer, he will play for Orillia's Experience Nissan Jr. B Kings and try to improve his skills.
"I'm extremely excited. I can't wait to get this season going," said Montgomery. "They've told me I would get tons of floor time this year and play a big offensive role. I just want to be a ball player, play my game and be a good teammate on and off the floor."
While he is counting down the days to the team's home opener April 29, that game will not be his first with the Kings. Last year, he was called up to play for the squad twice. He got his feet wet, learned what it was like to play junior and scored his first goal against Clarington, who lost just one game all year.
"I'll never forget that. The crowd was going wild, my teammates went crazy... as a midget call-up scoring against the best team in the league? It was the best feeling ever," said Montgomery. "Getting called up last year was a great experience. It was intimidating at first because I am small and playing against bigger, older players, so I was pretty nervous. But that helped prepare me for this year."
He's dedicating the upcoming season with the Kings to Ryan Crowther, who coached his midget squad a year ago. Crowther died unexpectedly in November while on a trip to Chicago with the AAA hockey team he coached; he was 37.
"Honestly, Ryan was almost like another family member to me. He felt like a brother," said Montgomery. "He made a huge impact on my life even just in one season, as a coach and person... he was a role model all around. His death really hit me hard."
Crowther, who was part of the last Kings team to win a Founder's Cup in 1994, will be honoured prior to the Kings home opener when the team presents his widow, Sarah, with a Kings jersey. The game starts at 7 p.m. April 29 at Rotary Place.