Nolan Heavenor’s prepared to trade in his lacrosse stick for a child’s rattle.
Still only 31-years-old with likely a few more seasons left in his legs, the Victoria, B.C. native announced his retirement from the sport he was born to play with a plan to spend more time with his expanding family.
No more NLL. No more WLA. Just family from here on out.
“I’ve missed a lot of the two kids already growing up because I’ve been gone for work five days a week and then gone on the weekends for seven months a year,” said Heavenor, a father to two young kids, with a third one on the way.
“I’m ready to lounge around and spend some time with the wife and kids.”
Fans may not know much about the eight-year NLL veteran, but he embodied the true Roughneck style – not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, strictly a hardworking lunchpail type of guy you’d want in the trenches beside you.
“He’s what a Roughneck is,” said Roughnecks general manager Mike Board. “He had passion for the game, he was an awesome teammate, he was always that guy that would go through a wall for you.
“He’s a champion at every level. He’s had a great career and we are disappointed to see him go, but understand his decision and wish him all the best.”
The thought of retirement started creeping in Heavenor’s mind late in the Roughnecks season, but an idea from his daughter made him step back into summer lacrosse with the Victoria Shamrocks for the first time since 2008.
“My oldest daughter said she wanted to watch me play some lacrosse and unfortunately it’s pretty tough to get my whole family to go to Calgary with the little rugrats running around,” Heavenor said. “I thought about playing a year in Victoria and having a chance to go to the Mann Cup. They were putting together a team that was pretty dynamic so it was an opportunity that you couldn’t pass up.”
What a final season it turned out to be.
With six fellow Roughnecks teammates also on the Shamrocks, Victoria went on an incredible run, winning the WLA Championship and nearly coming away with the Mann Cup.
Heavenor had already made up his mind about retirement though – after suffering a Game 6 loss to the Six Nation Chiefs that ended the Mann Cup, he told his teammates he had just played his last professional game.
“I liked the fact that I went out on my own terms and the fact I can still play, it wasn’t a career ending injury or anything like that that forced me out of the game. It definitely was not the fact that I wasn’t having fun anymore. It was just my body is getting tired. I got the passion for the game and I always will, I just have to think long term along the lines of my family and spending time around here.”
He’s got a few ideas about what retirement life might look like.
“I think right now I’m just going to let myself get nice and fat,” he said with a deep laugh. “I’m going to have some relaxing times and I’m going to concentrate and spend some time with the family and get some stuff done around the house that I’ve been putting off a little while.”
Heavenor arrived in Cowtown in time for the 2007 NLL season after being acquired from the Minnesota Swarm. He had the ability to play all over the floor, and do everything at 110 per cent. He scored a career-high 33 points in his first year, and eventually became a primary faceoff taker for the Riggers.
Last year, he saw action in all 16 games, scoring two goals and four points while adding 15 penalty minutes.
Over a career spanning 104 games, he finished one point short of the century mark at 99 points, but he has no regrets.
“I have made some unbelievable friendships, I have won the NLL Championship, the Mann Cup, the NCAA Championship so I’ve got the team accolades that everyone strives for when you’re playing lacrosse.
“I’ve fulfilled everything. I still have a passion for the game but I need think about the long term and be able to walk around at 35 or 40 and not be in a wheelchair.”