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Jan 13, 2014

By Craig Rybczynski -- Hall of Fame Night is about honoring the past and bringing back those individuals who have contributed to the success of the Rochester Knighthawks. That was certainly true on January 11th, but this time it was the Hall of Fame inductee making the presentation.

Hours before the fanfare and speeches that accompany Knighthawks Hall of Fame Night, Steve Donner presented Rochester Owner and General Manager Curt Styres with his 2007 championship ring.

“That season was your first introduction to the Knighthawks and was your first big save for the Knighthawks,” said Donner, as he displayed the gold ring trimmed in white diamonds. “It is with heart-felt pleasure to give this to you.”

When the rings were designed, Styres was at the top of the list. At the time, Donner was close to finalizing the deal to transfer majority ownership of the Knighthawks to Styres. Even though he hadn’t known him for long, Donner knew how much getting a championship ring would mean to Styres.

The presentation was five years in the making. Donner thought the ring was lost or stolen when he cleaned out his belongings in 2008. It was something that has been troubling him since he moved to Florida. 

“I thought it was lost because it wasn’t in one of the boxes with my business belongings. I had many sleepless nights,” said Donner. “I wanted to give that ring to Curt.”

All the while, the black felt box had moved from place and place, finally finding its resting place in a desk drawer in the Knighthawks office.

“Every time he would see his ring case, he would again agonize over wondering what had happened to Curt’s ring,” said Steve’s wife, Lynne. “We weren’t sure if it had gotten packed up with his office things or misplaced within the office or stolen. When we were getting ready to move to Florida, he was certain we would find it since every inch of our house was going to be packed.”

Six years after Rochester raised the Cup in Arizona, Styres accepted the ring on the Knighthawks’ turf. It was the first of three rings he has won with the Knighthawks, joining the hardware from the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

“I am truly honored to receive this ring,” said Styres. “I saw a ring a couple of years ago, but I didn’t know if it was mine so I put it back in the desk.”

Styres has always championed Donner as the person who saved the National Lacrosse League franchise. In June 2008, Styres became the majority owner of the third oldest franchise in the NLL. The Knighthawks have blossomed and this season the team is setting its sights on a third straight Champion’s Cup. It was Donner’s diligence over a 14-year period that earned the respect of Styres.

“If it weren’t for Steve, I don’t think I would own an NLL team. I owe it to Steve for making my dreams a realization. Steve put everything he had into the teams, his heart, his passion, everything he had to build the franchises into what they are,” said Styres to the Democrat & Chronicle. “You have to respect a guy who lays it on the line every day, every year.”

It was during the 2007 season that the business owner from Six Nations first met Donner through a mutual friend, defenseman Regy Thorpe. That season, the Knighthawks were in the midst of winning an NLL record 15 straight games en route to a 17-2 season and the franchise’s second league championship. Styres and his sons, Bo and Hunter, were in attendance when the Knighthawks raised the 2007 championship banner the next season.

“It was during the 2007 season that Regy first introduced me to Curt, who came aboard as an owner,” said Donner. “That season was Curt’s first major role with the Knighthawks.”

The presentation provided Donner with such an incredible honor and was a great way to kick off a night that included his induction as the 12th member of the Knighthawks Hall of Fame.

“That made my entire trip,” said Donner.

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