Legend ready for swansong

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

DENVER -- Doctors often say we should listen to our bodies. Gary Gait, professional lacrosse's most prolific athlete and the biggest name in the game, did just that and what he heard told him it's time to retire.

The National Lacrosse League's all-time leading scorer announced earlier this month he'll hang up his stick after this season.

The Victoria, B.C., native will take to the floor to kick off his final campaign tonight when his Colorado Mammoth host the defending NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks at the Pepsi Centre in Denver.

"I've been doing it a long time and I just feel it's time to move on," said Gait, who at 37 is entering his 15th season in the league. "The body's getting older and I want to retire while I can still walk and I'm still healthy."

Gait and his twin brother Paul, who retired after the 2002 season, redefined the game of lacrosse and helped put it on the sporting map.

Gary's career numbers are nothing short of stellar. He's scored 628 goals and 499 assists for 1,127 points in 179 games. That's an average of 6.3 points a game over his career.

Paul is third all-time in NLL scoring behind Gary and Buffalo's John Tavares, having scored 455 goals and 337 assists in 138 games over his 12 seasons.

Among the notable records the 6-ft. 2-in., 210-lb., Gary can lay claim to include: Most goals in one game (10), a record he shares with Paul; most points in a game (14), which he shares with two other players; and most goals in a season (61).

Last season, the six-time MVP recorded 55 goals and 38 assists and finished tied for first in league scoring with Tavares.

Despite the fact he's still at the top of his game, the wear and tear has caught up with him, said Gary.

"I'm not one of the youngest guys out there," he said. "I don't think anybody could accuse me of retiring early. I'm one of the older players in the league and I've had my run and I've enjoyed it. I'm looking to have one more great year and then leave."

Gary hopes that great year includes a championship, something he hasn't won since 1995 when he played with the Philadelphia Wings.

"That's at the top of the list every year," said Gait. "Certainly it is this year. It's been a long time for me.

"That's our goal this year but I'm sure it's everybody else's goal as well. We're all on the same page that way.

"But I'll feel good however I go out. I put my time in and helped grow the league and I look forward to watching it grow in the future."

The impact of the Gaits is not on lost on the Roughnecks, who have many personal connections to the superstar.

Roughnecks head coach Chris Hall knew Gary and Paul as kids in Victoria and coached them in club-level field lacrosse before they went to Syracuse University where they won three NCAA national titles in 1988, '89 and '90.

"He's been so creative and so innovative and he's taken the game of indoor and outdoor (lacrosse) to another level, both he and Paul," said Hall.

Roughnecks assistant captain Kaleb Toth looked up to the Gaits as heroes growing up in Calgary. Years later, he was a teammate of theirs when the twins returned to the West Coast to help the Victoria Shamrocks win the national Sr. A Mann Cup championship in 1999.

"It was amazing," recalled Toth. "It's a memory I'll cherish forever -- getting to play with them and win that Cup. "I remember going out there on the powerplay with them and having Paul set it up, Gary on one side as shooter and myself as the other shooter. Growing up you never thought you'd never get to play with those two guys and it was a very special thing.

"Being able to say I scored a goal assisted by Gary Gait and Paul Gait is a pretty special thing."


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