Dan the lacrosse man
Dan Pilon was a natural selection to be the co-lead for lacrosse for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.
The 46-year-old Ottawa Valley native has a long, varied and impressive lacrosse resume which includes playing at the junior, senior and university levels, as well as coaching and serving on both the St. Catharines Minor Lacrosse Association and St. Catharines Junior Lacrosse Associations boards.
“I’m involved in a lot of different ways with lacrosse in the community and have been for some time,” Pilon said. “I’ve always had the bug. It’s a whole lot of lacrosse.”
Michelle Race was first approached for the position, but quickly deferred to Pilon and the two agreed to tackle the position together.
“They reached out to Michelle and Michelle in turn reached out to me,” Pilon said. “I’ve not forgiven her for that and agreed to come on board!”
Before he came on board as lacrosse co-lead, Pilon was involved with the Games through his former job with the Niagara region at a crucial juncture while the bid was being prepared.
“They needed the Region on board as the guarantor that if the games go over budget they pick up the tab,” he said. “I was involved on that side just so we could go bid. I was there in a professional capacity throughout the whole big process.”
Pilon remembers sitting in the theatre at the Performing Arts Centre with Games Board Chairman Doug Hamilton and others when the good news was announced Niagara would be getting the Games.
“We were cheering and jumping up and down,” Pilon said. “I was really excited putting the bid together. I was involved supporting and putting that bid together.”
Pilon, now the Chief Executive Officer of the Niagara District Airport, feels Canada Summer Games Park will be the crown jewel of the Games.
“When we heard lacrosse was coming back, I was excited to hear what was happening,” he said. “A huge piece for me having been here so long is the legacy. There are certain things you need the assets to do it. If you go into Oakville and the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre or the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena, those facilities allow those communities to do things around lacrosse others can’t.”
Pilon is excited not only with the two lacrosse pads at the new facility, but the fact both are turf and the turf is portable.
“For the first time ever, we’ll be playing with turf which allows you to do a whole bunch of stuff,” he said. “The turfs can be used at the Meridian Centre, or the four-pad (Seymour-Hannah). They can move around and be used in other communities. That’s huge and it allows you to do other stuff which we’ve never been able to do because we haven’t had the facilities.”
Pilon said lacrosse wasn’t a huge sport in the Ottawa area when he was growing up.
“Where I’m from, saying you’re a lacrosse player is akin to saying you’re an Aussie rules football player,” he said. “I didn’t pick up a stick until I was 11. I was a hockey guy and back then it was a way to stay in shape during the summer because there wasn’t summer ice.”
He quickly fell in love with the physicality and intensity.
“It was an intoxicating game to jump into and I played junior and senior and came to Brock and played for the team and coached the team for 10 years,” he said.
He also enjoys the lacrosse community.
“There is a consistency of really good, solid people in the game,” he said. “If you’re involved in the game, you’re involved because you love it. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You’re in it for usually the right reasons.”
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