True passion for the game: Toronto Rock players pay the bills with day jobs before hitting the lacrosse box
With small salaries, professional lacrosse players on the Toronto Rock often have to work day jobs to pay the bill. (CP / Frank Gunn)
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 3, 2014 1:52PM EST
TORONTO -- Jesse Gamble has shown up for work with black eyes, cuts or just moving a little slower than usual. Professional lacrosse leaves a mark.
While not playing for the Toronto Rock, the 25-year-old Gamble is a financial analyst for Donville Kent Asset Management, a Toronto hedge fund. He analyses Toronto Stock Exchange-listed companies, sifting through them to determine which are worth investing in.
"There are days when I come in and the body's a little sore and it's hard to get in and out of that chair. But it's a desk job so it's nice to get a little rest and not work the body so much," said the third-year Rock player.
The good news is his firm is located on Bay Street, a stone's throw up from the Air Canada Centre. And president and CEO Jason Donville is a huge lacrosse fan.
"It's very good news considering today's Friday, so the market's open and I'm here," Gamble said after the morning shootaround prior to the Rock's season opener against the Calgary Roughnecks. "I've got a good gig, I appreciate it.
"I feel like I've need to continue to work hard for it. I appreciate every moment of both of these jobs."
With a maximum salary of $27,217 for veterans -- designated "franchise" players get an additional $5,000 for the season -- there's not much left to invest for National Lacrosse League players.
"I've been around so long I don't even have that conversation any more," said Rock captain Colin Doyle, a future Hall of Famer. "The game's been good to me. It's offered me a quasi-living for 17 years. I've met a lot of friends and people that I still stay in contact with throughout the years.
"So it's not all about the dollars and cents. We take a lot of pride in what we do and in hopefully impressing the people who pay to come and see us play."
Still no one is putting down a deposit on a Porsche.
"It's a lunch-bucket and hard hat, work boots kind of league," said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky, a friend and former teammate of Doyle's. "The guys just play because they love it. Some of these guys are really banged up come Monday morning going to their real jobs. But they're weekend warriors.
"With this new CBA (collective bargaining agreement), maybe who knows down the road, we get to be a mainstream sport. But it's not for lack of dedication of passion from the guys inside that locker-room and everywhere around the league."
Gamble says he doesn't get many investment questions from teammates although assistant coach Blaine Manning also works in the financial sector.
Toronto's playing and coaching staff includes teachers, police officers, sheet metal workers, medical salesmen and students. Doyle, a former teacher, is now selling FieldTurf -- synthetic grass fields -- and helping raise three daughters.
"No egos here ... You have to have a lot of respect for the guys that play this game," Rock coach John Lovell said. "Because it's a tough game and most of them do it for the love of the game. It's nice they can put a few dollars in their pocket but they're not getting rich."
Lovell was missing three or four players at Friday's shootaround because of work commitments. Still his players' love of the game was easy to see as they lingered on the floor to take shots at the goalie. Eventually the coaching staff had to shoo players off.
Both Toronto and Calgary enter the season looking to erase the bitter taste of last year.
Toronto won a league-high 10 games in claiming first place in the East with a 10-6 record, only to lose in the first round of the playoffs by a lopsided 20-11 margin at the hands of the Minnesota Swarm.
Calgary topped the West at 9-7 and made it to the division final before losing 14-13 to the Washington (now Vancouver) Stealth.