International Men

July 18, 2014

Earl, Roy on Both Sides of Canada-USA Rivalry

Pair are American-born playing for Team Canada

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | World Lacrosse 2014

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – There are a few border-stradlers on the Canadian men's national team.

Midfielder David Earl was born in Connecticut. Defenseman Dillon Roy is from Denver. Even John Grant Jr., a proud Canadian son serving as an assistant coach for the team this tournament, gained dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship this year, having made his homebase in Denver with wife and young daughter. Eleven of Team Canada's 23 players have some ties to the Rocky Mountain state, either living or playing here with Major League Lacrosse's Outlaws or the National Lacrosse League's Mammoth, or both.

On top of that, the Canadian team is sharing quarters with other nations at Denver University, a familiar spot for many involved in the squad. It's the alma mater of five players, and still home for attackman Wesley Berg and assistant coach Matt Brown, who is running the Canada offense. He and head coach Randy Mearns' staff have access to Brown's office used for his full-time work as the Pioneers assistant coach for Bill Tierney. Team Canada has been in the Pioneers locker room and facilities throughout this Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship.

There is a lot of national crossover in lacrosse – be it Americans playing for Canadian teams in the indoor NLL or Canadians playing in the outdoor MLL, just as two examples – but the border-crossing cases of Earl and Roy with respect to these games are unique. When Canada meets rival Team USA in the gold-medal game on Saturday night, both will square off against a team of players representing their natural-born nation.

Both were originally in the 90-plus player Team USA tryout pool last summer. Earl withdrew before the process, but Roy spent three days in the heat at Goucher College in Baltimore going through the paces and drills, and made it through a first round of cuts down to 52 players. But he later elected to join the Canadian side.

Both are important members of Team Canada. Earl, the former Notre Dame midfielder, is a valuable two-way piece and Roy, a former captain at Denver now in his fourth full season with the Outlaws, is arguably the team's top defender after Brodie Merrill. When defenseman Jason Noble went down with an ankle injury in Canada's semifinal win over the Iroquois on Thursday night, Roy's presence was invaluable.

"Those are two huge pickups for us," Team Canada general manager David Huntley said.

Earl's father, Tom, is Canadian. He grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, went to Colgate to play hockey, was drafted by the St. Louis Blues and later played professionally in the then-World Hockey Association and National Hockey League with the New England/Hartford Whalers. Earl's brother lives in Toronto in is married to a Canadian he met at Yale. Plus, Earl is a dual citizen.

Former Notre Dame midfielder David Earl is a dual U.S.-Canada citizen playing for Team Canada at the FIL World Championship. (Scott McCall)

"We got a lot of Canadian roots," Earl said. "We're up and down to Toronto all the time. The Canadian side of the family is just as important as the American side. A lot of people just don't know my background and how important the Canadian side of my family is to me and what an honor it is represent my dad's side of the family. That really is the reason I am here."

Earl said he sometimes wears his father's old Whalers jersey during club lacrosse games. It's shrunk a bit and is a snug fit. And his father's hockey stories – having his nose broken by the legendary Gordie Howe is a go-to tale – have resonated with him.

Earl also plays in the NLL for the Minnesota Swarm and spent two seasons with the then-Hamilton Nationals, playing with current Team Canada teammates Kevin Crowley, Joe Walters and Jordan Hall, scoring at least 17 goals in both years. He was traded to the New York Lizards before the 2013 season and has since been dealt again to the Chesapeake Bayhawks, who moved him July 9 to the Florida Launch, the relocated version of the Nationals, in a deal to acquire Crowley.

For Roy, the Canadian connection isn't separated by just one generation, but its close – his grandfather was Canadian – enough to qualify him to play for Team Canada in FIL competition.

Brown, who was a volunteer assistant at DU when Roy played his senior season in 2006, kept in contact with him over the last two or so years about possibly trying out for Canada. Roy, who was born and raised in Denver, was around the DU facilities to train, and Brown made sure to remind him about the potential.

"It was running joke last year," Roy said. "And finally when push came to show, I started seeing if it would be legitimate and it ended up being legitimate. I had to hunt down some old paperwork and documents. In doing so, I ended up reaching out to some family that I lost touch with. It was really exciting for me and opened up a lot of closed doors. That only got me excited."

The late Clement Roy, his grandfather, was from Fort Francis, Ontario, but moved to the States, played hockey in college and then professionally, Dillon said. Dillon Roy connected with his grandfather's niece to track down the appropriate documentation to prove his lineage. Having a grandparent born in a particular country qualifies a player to play for that nation as a non-passport holder under FIL rules.

"That's when I knew it was an option. After the U.S. tryouts, I felt pretty good, but I knew a lot of the DU guys," Roy said. "We have six-plus guys form DU on this team and I felt more a part of it. For me, being from Colorado going back east to U.S. tryouts, it was a great experience but I kind of felt more at home with these guys."

So there you have it, two Americans playing for Team Canada, although given the tangled web of the lacrosse world, the border that needed crossing isn't necessarily as hard as imagined.

comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines