THOMPSON READY FOR HEAVY WORKLOADFeatures | 1/26/2011 10:00:55 AM | Michael Jafari
Goaltender Mike Thompson is now in his fifth season as the backstop for the Buffalo Bandits, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The 33-year-old netminder will be looked upon to carry most of the workload this year due to an injury that will shelve Ken Montour for the remainder of the season. Thompson started the team’s first three games and has played 184:01 straight minutes while posting a 2-1 record and ranks fifth in the NLL with a goals against average of 9.78. He is coming off his best statistical season after finishing the 2010 campaign ranked second in the NLL with career-best .809 save percentage and registered a career-best goals against average of 9.92.
“I’m comfortable and willing to take the workload,” said Thompson. “I’m sad to see Kenny down, but I talked to him recently and he has high hopes. I’m looking forward to carrying on the workload and hopefully lead the Bandits to a championship.”
Thompson has handled a tough workload before as he has been around lacrosse for a long time. He grew up in Akwesasne, Ontario, and was introduced to the sport at a very young age.
“It’s been a family sport for a long time,” he said. “My uncle always had a stick and gave me my first one when I was three or four. I always have been athletic and tried baseball, but lacrosse really stuck out, which is why I am here today.”
Lacrosse was always been a fun hobby for Thompson, but he didn’t put the pads on until he was a teenager.
“I noticed I had some skills, but I never got into (competitive) lacrosse until after high school, which is when I slipped into goalie. I got kind of a late start compared to some kids who start playing goal young, but I still ended up where am I today.”
After high school, Thompson played a season of Division III college lacrosse at Cortland State in Central New York. However, Thompson took some time off from the sport so he could concentrate on attaining a degree in physical education. After he graduated, Thompson attended an open try-out for a former NLL franchise known as the Ottawa Rebel. Thompson impressed the organization with his skill and tireless work ethic and made the team in 2001.
“It was not really a dream because I never thought I would get to this level. I had an open try-out in Ottawa ten years ago, and I made the team by working hard, and that’s when I opened my eyes to see that I could compete at that level,” recalled Thompson.
Unfortunately, the surreal experience was short-lived for Thompson, as the Ottawa franchise disbanded the following season. However, Thompson was given a second chance when the Bandits signed him to serve as the back-up to goaltender Steve Dietrich. In 2007, Thompson got his big break when he took over the starting duties from Dietrich due to injuries.
“When the team folded, I made it a goal to work hard and get back into the league, and I was able to do that in Buffalo. Now it is my fifth season so hopefully I can continue to extend that,” said Thompson.
In 2008, Thompson teamed with Montour to form a two-headed goalie tandem for the Bandits and helped lead them to the franchise's fourth NLL Championship. Thompson made 39 saves, including one as time expired, to help Buffalo defeat Portland 14-13 in the Championship game.
“We won a championship with Mike, and we have all the confidence in the world in him,” said Bandits Head Coach Darris Kilgour. “Mike has been very solid, and the defense gets a lot more aggressive when they believe he’s on his game.”
When Thompson isn’t shutting the door on the opposition’s scoring chances, he is spending time with his wife and two sons. When his career is over, he hopes to stay involved with lacrosse in any way possible.
“I do as much coaching as I can on the side, especially with my boys’ teams. I will be more involved with them very soon, but I would really like to get involved in the junior level back home especially in an executive level,” said Thompson. “I love working with kids, which is why I got my degree in physical education, but if that doesn’t work out I want to get into recreation. Right now I’m a stay-at-home dad. My wife is an attorney, so I stay home and watch the kids. I also work with a company called STX on the side, but my main focus is raising my children.”