THROWBACK THURSDAY WITH TOM EMMICKJun 22, 2017
By Craig Rybczynski -- The moment that Tom Emmick stepped onto the turf at the Rochester War Memorial, he knew that professional indoor lacrosse was here to stay.
“It was awesome,” said Emmick, as he fondly recalled opening night in 1995. “I think the players were a little nervous about how the Rochester fans were going to accept us, but the minute we ran onto the turf for the first time we knew we had great support.”
The 48-year-old was a member of the Knighthawks’ inaugural team 22 years ago. For the Horseheads, NY native, signing with the Major Indoor Lacrosse League’s expansion franchise allowed him to play even closer to home.
“It was the best,” said Emmick, who spent three previous seasons with Buffalo. “The Rochester community, in general, really welcomed the team from the start. Being able to play in front of all my friends and family was great as well.”
Emmick was already an established player when he arrived in Rochester. The former attackman was a two-time All-American at RIT, where he posted 74 goals and 63 assists for 137 points from 1988-91. He was also named the MVP of the North-South Senior All-Star Game.
Before making the jump to college lacrosse, Emmick played at Horseheads High School and found a great mentor in coach Tom Moffitt.
“He was an old school, tough coach who was able to get the most out of me,” said Emmick. “He was also my college coach for two years.”
Growing up in Horseheads, it’s not a surprise that one of his lacrosse idols was Ricky Sowell. Sowell was a member of the first Horseheads varsity lacrosse team in 1979 and went on to star at the junior college, Division III and professional level before moving into collegiate coaching at Navy.
Emmick also said that former SU attackman Tim Nelson was a player he tried to emulate. Nelson led Syracuse to a 1983 NCAA title and was a three-time National Attackman of the Year.
“Ricky Sowell was from Horseheads as well and I loved to watch him play the game,” said Emmick. “(Then there was) Tim Nelson from Syracuse. I loved the way he played the attack position. He was a great feeder.”
Similar to Sowell, Emmick graduated to the MILL after college. He was a combination of toughness and finesse, which was required at the time when players played both ends of the floor.
“He was pound for pound one of the toughest players we had in the early days,” said former Knighthawks assistant coach Tom Cincebox. “He was a great offensive attackman at RIT who modified his game to play indoor. He was a great defensive player as well as a good scorer. He was (also) never afraid to drop the gloves.”
During his pro career, Emmick notched 19 points, 72 loose balls and 71 penalty minutes in 31 games. He also raised the Cup in 1992, 1993 and 1997. Winning three championships in seven seasons of professional lacrosse is an amazing feat, and something he still treasures to this day.
“To be part of three championship teams is very special,” he said. “Winning championships at that level doesn't happen for many lacrosse players that were far better than me. For a guy like me to be a part of three is very fortunate.”
Emmick retired in 1998 from the newly rebranded professional indoor lacrosse league, now known as the National Lacrosse League. He admitted he still misses game days at the old War Memorial. But he wasn’t out of the game for long as he stepped behind the bench as a Knighthawks assistant coach for the next four seasons.
“Coaching was great. My time as a player was up and I was good with it,” he said. “When Paul Day asked me to come on board, I couldn't say no. To have the opportunity to work with Pauly and the other coaches at that level was a great honor. The players actually called me ‘coach’ from time to time.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and Tom remains very much involved in lacrosse. The husband and father, who works as a packaging specialist/salesman, still gets his lacrosse fix from watching his son Jacob, 15, and daughter, Haley, 14, play the game.
“The game is still a big part of my life,” he said. “Both my kids play; I still play and I coach the Rochester Blaze Lacrosse Club in the summertime. There’s nothing better than watching your kids play the game you love.”
Having achieved success at the collegiate and pro levels, his advice to his kids, and to the next generation of lacrosse players, is to “put the time in.”
“The more you practice the fundamentals of the sport, the more fun the game will be,” he said. “I was fortunate to be able to play with some of the best lacrosse players of all time and those guys always ‘put the time in’ practicing the fundamentals.”