Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Saying goodbye to two Knighthawk greats

By Alex Hinkley

Before the Knighthawks' 2011 season officially opens this weekend against the Swarm, it is only fitting for Rochester fans to say goodbye to two Knighthawk greats that retired last year - Regy Thorpe and Steve "Chugger" Dietrich.

Regy Thorpe was an original Knighthawk that played with the team during their inaugural 1995 season. Back then the league wasn't even the NLL yet, it was still the MILL. He stuck with Rochester for 15 seasons and never played for another team during his career. Thorpe was a hard-nosed defender that was also a great leader on the floor. When team captain Mike Hasen (who is now the Knighthawks head coach) went down with a season-ending injury in 2007, Thorpe took over for him. He would help lead the team to a Champion's Cup victory that year.

Regy actually already retired in the past when he was named General Manager of the Knighthawks in 2008. Before the 2009 season started, however, he signed a new contract and became the first ever player-GM in league history. Thorpe stepped down from office after the season and re-signed with the Knighthawks as a player for one more year in 2010 though he never played during the 2010 season.

Thorpe was always fun to watch when he had the ball. He played 193 games in his career and managed to score 5 goals during that time. When Regy was able to put one in, the crowd would always go crazy. He officially retired on December 4th, 2010 and will be missed.

Steve Dietrich was also an original Knighthawk. He played seven seasons with Rochester and helped them win the Championship in 1997 where he was named the Championship game MVP. He was a great goaltender that could have been with the Knighthawks for many more years if he had not suffered a season-ending injury during the 1999 season.

Dietrich thought the ref was calling a delayed penalty and so he ran to the bench. When the ref seemed to put his arm down and the other team got the ball with no whistle, he sprinted back into the net. The other team took a shot from half rink and Dietrich dove to stop it. Considering this happened 11 years ago and I was just a kid, it's hard to remember exactly what happened but I like to think that Chugger made the save. He tore something in his knee during the process and the Knighthawks were forced to sign another goalie, Pat O'Toole, to replace him. Considering O'Toole would play 12 seasons in Rochester and set a National Lacrosse League record for all-time saves, things ended up working out.

O'Toole and Dietrich played on the same team for a couple of seasons before Chugger was eventually traded to Buffalo in 2001. It was ironic because O'Toole was a former Buffalo Bandit so it was like the two teams just switched goalies.

Dietrich went on to have an illustrious career with the Bandits. He was named NLL Goaltender of the Year in 2005 and 2006 and was the first goaltender to be named NLL MVP after posting a league low 9.97 goals against average during the 2006 regular season. In the final three years of his career, Dietrich played for three different teams: the Calgary Roughnecks, Edmonton Rush, and Toronto Rock. He retired on November 22nd and became the Toronto Rock's goaltending coach. A job Pat O'Toole also currently holds in Rochester.

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