NLL: Calgary Roughnecks will miss Dobbie’s heart and spark

Dane Dobbie. San Diego Seals @ Calgary Roughnecks. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

When news broke that Dane Dobbie had signed with the San Diego Seals, I have to admit it caught me completely by surprise. Dane Dobbie gone. It didn’t happen in a blockbuster trade or an expansion draft, or even in a public breakup with the team. It just happened. Quietly, behind the scenes and in the middle of summer. This, of course, was not the first time the Roughnecks had managed to silently slide a massive move past the fans. Back in 2015, I happened to be surfing the net when I discovered Shawn Evans had been dealt away to New England. I immediately thought, “this must be an April Fool’s joke.” It was October.

In the world of pro lacrosse, playing for numerous teams is considered the norm. A recent posting of the NLL’s Top 30 Anniversary Team revealed that the majority of top players have played for multiple teams throughout their careers. However, there was one player on that list that stood out and not for the usual reasons. For a mind-blowing 24 seasons, yes 24, John Tavares played for only one team – the Buffalo Bandits. 306 games, 815 goals and 934 assists – all with Buffalo.

Dane Dobbie embraces Jeff Shattler after breaking Shattler’s Calgary Roughnecks’ scoring record. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

On December 19, 2006, the Calgary Roughnecks traded Kyle Wailes to the Philadelphia Wings in exchange for a 2007 first-round pick. Wailes was a highly-touted left handed forward from West Hills, Ontario who had just been drafted ninth overall, but had yet to play a game with the Roughies. After joining Philly, Wailes played only two seasons and accumulated a respectable 93 points. Calgary head coach Chris Hall had his eye on another young lefty playing for the Burnaby Lakers. With the fourth overall selection of the 2007 Entry Draft, the Roughnecks selected a 20-year-old forward named Dane Dobbie.

Over the next 13 seasons, Dobbie proceeded to become the most lethal scorer in Roughnecks history. Year in and year out, as rosters changed you could always count on Dane Dobbie lurking on the left side. We watched him as a rookie grow up to become the captain of the Roughnecks. Arguably Dane’s greatest year came in 2019 when he compiled 115 points and was named the league MVP. He followed that up with an incredible playoff performance culminating in his second NLL Championship and a playoff MVP award. Who else watched the NLL’s Huddle Up with Dane and Curt Malawsky and was struck by the deep bond they shared with each other? Nothing would lead you to believe that in a few short years, the Roughnecks would be letting their captain and greatest scorer slip away for nothing.

I was at the Saddledome when Dane broke Jeff Shattler’s franchise scoring record, but it wasn’t the record that I remember from that night. The ‘Necks were 1-4 and playing arch rivals Saskatchewan. It was as close to a must-win game as you could get and the Roughnecks were down 12-11 late. With a minute left in the game, Dane came flying off the bench, got the ball and soared through the crease beating Evan Kirk to tie the game. While fans and teammates were going crazy you could tell, in Dane’s mind, the job wasn’t finished yet. The contest went into overtime and a Ben McIntosh goal ended the night for Calgary. Despite an extraordinary accomplishment, Dane looked just gutted. In the post-game media scrum the questions all centered around the scoring record, but what stood out was the way Dane chose to answer. He credited those players who had mentored him – Kaleb Toth, Josh Sanderson, Curt Malawsky and Tracey Kelusky. He made it clear that as nice as the record was, the win was the only thing that mattered. When all the microphones were finally turned off, I remember him asking a reporter, “why do you keep making me talk about myself?” It truly was all about the team.

Dane Dobbie accepts the MVP award from commissioner Nick Sakiewicz. May 25, 2019. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

Dane leaves a lasting impact in Calgary and in the local lacrosse scene. Dane and fellow Roughneck Andrew McBride teamed up to coach the Junior A Raiders, turning them into a perennial powerhouse. One of his most important contributions came as the head coach of the Alberta Boys Midget team. He would guide Alberta to their first-ever win at Nationals in 2017, a feat they would repeat in 2018. Locally, Dane suited up and played for the Senior B Calgary Mountaineers of the RMLL. Perhaps most humorously, Dane starred in a local “Pete the Plumber” TV commercial that still plays to this day.

Like Kyle Lowry leaving the Raptors, Tom Brady leaving the Patriots or Mark Giordano leaving the Flames, we too will have to get used to life after Dane. There will be others. In fact, there is a certain cape wearing number 17 that’s been a Roughneck for 10 years that isn’t far behind the numbers set by Dobbie. Maybe Rigger fans do have a John Tavares to call our own after all. I know Dane will come back to the Roughhouse. One day, they will raise #44 to the rafters. Like his long-time coach and friend Curt Malawsky is known for saying, “Once a Roughneck, always a Roughneck,” Dane will always be a Roughneck.