By Craig Rybczynski – After wrapping up his day at Prince Philip North Public School, Ken “Mojo” Millin reflected on his professional lacrosse career. For the 42-year-old Grade 8 teacher, it was a chance to rehash his remarkable 12-year run in the National Lacrosse League.
Millin was your prototypical role player, who was never afraid to get involved physically and do the dirty work. However, when called upon, he could play a more offensive style which was evident by his 227 points in 128 games. Simply put, he was the kind of player that every team needs to be successful.
“Most of his career he was that role player,” said Ed Comeau, who coached Millin in Toronto and Rochester. “He was a grinder who brought energy to the floor every night. He did a lot of great things that didn’t show up on the scoresheet like getting loose balls and setting picks.”
Millin broke into the league after getting selected third overall in the 1997 NLL Entry Draft by the Ontario Raiders. At the time, he was still attending Brock University and he was blown away the first time he saw a crowd of people waiting to get into an NLL game in Hamilton.
“‘Willy’ (Shawn Williams) and I were walking to Copps Coliseum with our bags over our shoulders and I remember seeing a lineup of people,” said Millin. “I am like, ‘What are they here for?’ He said, ‘They are here to watch us.’ I remember thinking that was so cool.”
Millin appeared in five games with the league’s newest franchise and contributed nine assists and seven loose balls. The following season, he moved with the franchise to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. With the Rock, he experienced unprecedented success, raising the Champion’s Cup four times in five seasons (1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003).
“I was blessed to win as many times as I did in my career, and I have always been a role player,” he said. “I was never the top scorer or the top defensive player. I just played those roles and did whatever they wanted me to do.”
After spending seven seasons with the Rock organization, he became a Knighthawk. The Caledon, Ontario native arrived in Rochester on October 26, 2004, courtesy of a blockbuster deal that included five players and three draft picks. On Draft Day, Rochester acquired Millin, Mike Accursi and the eighth and 32nd overall picks from Minnesota in exchange for Derek Malawsky, Brock Robertson, D’Arcy Sweet and the sixth overall pick.
“What I loved about Kenny was that he was a true professional,” said Jody Gage, who was the Knighthawks general manager at the time. “He was a lefty who could do the dirty work to get (John Grant) Junior and Willy open. He was the ultimate team player. He knew his role and scored some big goals for us.”
Millin, who was dealt to the Swarm from the Toronto Rock a week earlier, brought sterling credentials to his new team. In 56 career games, the versatile forward posted 84 points and 176 loose balls. He was also coming off a season in which he won a team-high 117 faceoffs and recorded a career-best 12 goals, 15 assists and 27 points.
Gage said Millin was the “missing piece that the Knighthawks were looking for.” It also helped that the veteran was being reunited with former Raiders/Rock teammates Mike Accursi, Pat Campbell, Sandy Chapman, Mat Giles, Carter Livingstone, Ryan O’Connor, Steve Toll and Shawn Williams.
“To know that I was going to be meeting up with guys who I had played with at the start of my career, I was beyond words,” said Millin. “It was almost like a dream. You had Paul Day, who was a phenomenal coach, and Eddie Comeau, who I have the utmost respect for. Accursi was there and I had the chance to work with Willy again.”
Playing for Comeau, Millin knew that he was joining a tight-knit group of offensive players.
“We built those close ties (in Toronto) – that’s what we prided ourselves on under Eddie Comeau. We were an offensive family,” he said. “When Eddy and Paul (Day) got us into Rochester, we continued that feeling of family.”
In his inaugural season with the Knighthawks, Millin notched a career-high 18 assists and recorded the second-most points of his career with 26. He played in all 16 regular season games and helped Rochester reach the 2005 NLL East Division Finals.
“He was always in great shape and athletic,” said Comeau. “Playing on the same side as Willy and (John Grant) Junior, he had a great season for us.”
The 2005 campaign was his first playing with John Grant Jr. and Scott Evans, along with a cast of future Knighthawks Hall of Famers that included Pat Cougevan, Regy Thorpe, Chris Schiller, Casey Zaph, Mike Hasen, Tim Soudan and Pat O’Toole. After arriving in Rochester, Millin had a feeling that he was once again on the verge of winning another championship.
“There were the new faces with the Cougies, Regies, Ditzells, Schillers and all those other guys. It was just magical. All of us were so similar. To know I was going there and being with those guys – and I didn’t know how much longer I had left in my career – I couldn’t have been happier,” said Millin. “With the talent that we had, knowing how we had won in Toronto, I thought we had a really good shot to win here with this team in Rochester. It sweetened the pot when we were able to pull it off in 2007.”
Millin, who played in Rochester from 2005-09, recorded 44 goals, 99 assists and 213 loose balls in 72 games with the Knighthawks. His most memorable season was in 2007 when the Knighthawks dominated the NLL by ending the season with a record 15 consecutive wins.
After starting the season 2-2, Rochester reeled off 12 straight victories to finish with a league-best 14-2 record. In the postseason, the Knighthawks knocked off Toronto and Buffalo en route to the NLL Finals. In the championship game, Rochester defeated the Arizona Sting 13-11 to bring a second Cup to the Flower City.
“It was a special moment that I will never forget. It is something that has left a lasting impression; it was an unbelievable experience,” said Millin. “I smile every time I think about that team.”
Ken Millin file
Married: Wife: Jennifer
Kids: Daughters: Raiya and Kennedy
Resides: St. Catharines, Ontario
Occupation: Grade 8 teacher (17th year)
Growing up, who taught you the most about lacrosse?
Who was your favorite player as a kid?
How did you get the nickname “Mojo”?
What do you miss the most about playing in Rochester?