(June 29, 2017)… In Bill Meagher’s 17-year professional lacrosse career he experienced the game from varying perspectives. For four seasons, he was in the middle of the action on the turf. For the remaining 13, he was high above the fray in the broadcast booth.
From 1992 to 2008, Meagher was a big name in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and then the National Lacrosse League. In the beginning, he was a versatile forward for teams in Buffalo and Rochester. In fact, he had the rare distinction of playing for the first teams in Bandits’ and Knighthawks’ history. He also had a knack for reaching the championship game, advancing to the title in three of his four seasons.
“Bill was simply a team guy,” said former teammate Tom Emmick. “He wasn’t looking to score but it’s what he did for the team that helped the guys scoring that was so valuable. He was the guy who set the important picks, gave up his body for a ground ball and always looked out for his teammates. Every team needs guys like Bill Meagher on the floor.”
Over his playing career, Meagher appeared in 23 games and posted 11 points, 50 loose balls and 58 faceoff wins. He also won back-to-back championships with Buffalo from 1992-93. One of his most memorable moments was his first game at Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium on Jan. 4, 1992.
“Our first game at the old Aud in Buffalo only sold about 6,000 tickets for the game, and they told us there would be about that many people there,” he said. “The walk up to buy, however, was enormous and they sold something like 10,000 for the game. We sold out – 16,325 – the next 22 straight games and won two championships.”
Playing before a packed building was something new for the players. Meagher noted that the biggest crowd he played in front of was roughly 500 when he suited up for Nazareth College in a game against rival Hobart.
Meagher was a four-year standout at Naz and earned second team All-Empire Lacrosse League honors as a senior. Meagher captained that team in 1990 and helped the Golden Flyers win the ECAC Upstate Tournament.
He moved on to pro lacrosse two years later, spending his first three seasons in Buffalo. In 1995, the MILL expanded and his hometown of Rochester was awarded a franchise named the Knighthawks. Meagher was an inaugural member of the team and was reunited with former Naz greats like Jeremy Hollenbeck and Brian Silcott.
“It was the ultimate experience being back home and playing with teammates from Buffalo and other teams–guys like Tom Emmick, Tim Soudan and Regy Thorpe,” said Meagher. “It was also great to have all my family and friends at every game. I think I had about 35 season tickets that year and it was one of the most amazing times in my life playing in my hometown.”
Meagher recalled the Knighthawks very first home game. In front of a jam-packed crowd of over 7,300, Rochester defeated the New York Saints, 12-8.
“I remember it to this day,” he said. “The vibe was electric. Our dressing room was under construction so the dressing room was in the basement. I can remember being so fired up to play in front of my hometown. I think there was almost a sell out at the War Memorial.”
The Penfield native played in five games in 1995 as the Knighthawks advanced to the playoffs with a 4-4 record. In the semifinals, Rochester knocked off the Boston Blazers 10-8 to setup a showdown against the defending champion Philadelphia Wings. In the MILL title game, Rochester fell one-goal short, dropping a 15-14 overtime decision to the Wings.
“The great news about making the Finals in our first year was that we had a ton of playoff experience having (previously) won in Buffalo,” said Meagher. “Although we lost in overtime on a Gary Gait goal in Philly, it solidified Rochester as a team to beat in the league.”
Following the Knighthawks’ 1995 season, Meagher retired from the game and moved into his new role as the team’s color commentator. It was a role in which he was well suited after playing locally at the collegiate and pro levels.
“It was a nice experience. I wanted to stay close to the game and the team gave me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “I learned a lot about broadcasting, interviewing and live TV, which was great. I knew everyone in the league, and on my former team, so it was pretty easy to add color to the game.”
Meagher worked alongside several play-by-play men during his 13 years in the booth, which included Rich Funke, Mike Schopp, Dan Carpenter and Craig Rybczynski. He had an opportunity to work with the Knighthawks during their runs to the 1997 and 2007 championships.
The 49-year-old Meagher returned to The Blue Cross Arena in March for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Knighthawks’ 2007 championship. It was a chance to reminisce and see past players, coaches and members of the lacrosse staff.
None of that success would have been possible had he not heeded the advice of Mark Rice. It was at the urging of the current assistant lacrosse coach at St. John Fisher, that Meagher made the move from baseball to lacrosse.
Playing lacrosse in Rochester in the 1980s, Meagher was a fan of the Gait brothers. Paul and Gary were rewriting record books and reinventing the field game at Syracuse University.
“I always looked at the Gait brothers as leaders in our sport,” he said. “It was great to play against them and with Paul Gait here in Rochester, even though they were my contemporaries.”
These days, Meagher and his wife, Lynette, live in Fairport and are raising their four children: Courtney, 19; Sydney, 17; Delaney, 15; and Billy, 13. He also works as an account manager at Oracle Corporation. Bill even finds time to play lacrosse each week at Total Sports Experience (TSE).
“I still play with former teammates like Brent Rothfuss, Shawn Wilkins, Billy Warder, Tommy Emmick and ‘Soudo’ (Tim Soudan), occasionally, on Wednesday nights at TSE in the winter league,” he said. “Every summer my family and I go to Lake Placid for the Summit Shootout and I play on a couple of teams there. I play with former players 35 and older from my Nazareth team called the Olden Flyers, and on a 45 and older team that I have been on for 15 years, Sailin’ Shoe.”
With close to 35 years in the game, and a member of The Greater Rochester Chapter of U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Meagher has advice for players in the modern-era.
“Work…you have to put the work in,” he said. “I use this with my guys I coach and with my own kids. If you put the work in you will set yourself apart from the kids that only do the things required.”