When #22 Took Flight

It was an average day in our backyard. Casey and Ryan were going one on one in front of a goal made of out of a series 2” PVC pipes, my sister Gretchen was sitting on the deck talking with her friends and I was digging in the dirt underneath the lone giant pine tree in the corner. The date was May 29, 1988 — I was 6 years old. 

I sat up and turned quick when I heard a stampede of footsteps come flying around the corner of our house. It was the Coffman Brothers and our next door neighbor Joe. They all had huge smiles on their faces and were yelling something excitedly as they made it into the backyard. I couldn’t quite make it out because they were all talking at the same time. Finally Jason Coffman said loudly over the others, “Casey? Ryan? Did you hear about it? Did you hear what Gary Gait did?”. Jason stole the stick out of Casey’s hands and ran behind our rickety goal. Jason said, “It’s called an Air Gait! Last night at the Syracuse game Gary Gait took the ball and dunked it over the back of the goal. It was so cool! The crowd went crazy!” Jason took the ball and attempted to show Casey and Ryan what he was talking about. In that moment I could see Casey and Ryan’s eyes light up and almost feel their excitement.

For the next several hours I sat and watched Casey, Ryan, Jason, Josh and Joe all trying to do the “Air Gait”. I was too small and not good enough at lacrosse to even entertain the idea of trying it myself, however it made me look differently at lacrosse for the first time. Up until that point, lacrosse had seemed like a pretty straight forward sport. Big strong guys running around, hitting each other and scoring goals.

But when I saw this element of innovation and self expression it showed me something – it showed me what lacrosse was all about…creativity.

When I was young I always gravitated towards sports like skateboarding and freestyle BMX because the whole idea was to be more creative than anyone else and invent moves that no one else had thought of yet. That’s how you won competitions. The only thing that was lacking from freestyle BMX and skateboarding for me was the team element that I loved, the physicality and true classic athleticism. Gary blended these worlds on May 28, 1988 against Penn and completely rocked the lacrosse world.

Gary is a once in a lifetime player.  You won’t see another player like Gary Gait for as long as you live, I promise.  Everyone knows how great of a player he was, all of the awards he’s won, and all of the championships he has led teams to. But what I admire most about Gary as a player is his amazing ability to innovate. From 1987 to 1991 Gary completely changed the way college 8667lacrosse was played. He broke the mold and opened the minds of lacrosse players world wide. Massive crowds gathered inside the Carrier Dome to watch him and his brother Paul play a totally one-of-a-kind never before seen brand of lacrosse. It was fun, it was different, it was spontaneous, it was free, it was exciting – and most importantly it worked…I mean it really really worked. 

After Casey and Ryan went inside for the night and I was the only one left in the backyard I picked up Ryan’s stick by the back door and decided to give it a try. I wanted to fly like #22. I didn’t even come close obviously but it gave me something really fun to try that was a combination of athleticism and creativity. 

-ae2fa98f9fe04188_mediumIn 2005, I had the amazing opportunity to win an MLL championship alongside Gary. I played attack with Gary Gait and another Syracuse legend Tom Marachek. To this day it stands out as one of the greatest experiences in my lacrosse career. I remember during a game against New Jersey I scored on an Air Gait. Gary came up to me after the play and said, “nice shot” with a big smile on his face.  We both laughed and returned to our spots on the field to get ready for the next face off.  

A long way from the dirt pile.  

We named our Flight 22 shaft to honor the moment that took place inside the Carrier Dome on May 28, 1988 when #22 took flight and changed lacrosse forever. The moment when a player had the courage and ability to put a whole sport on his shoulders and singlehandedly bring it to a new place. It was in many ways a launch pad that brought the sport of lacrosse into a new and exciting space. This moment symbolized the beginning of legacy at Syracuse and a jersey number that in many ways would become synonymous with greatness.

The Flight 22 handle is our innovator.

It’s made of an alloy designed specifically for Powell that allows for an awesomely light shaft (155 grams) and blends it with a classic octagonal finish. We designed this handle for the player that cares about the details and is ready to fly.

2 replies on “When #22 Took Flight

  • Claire Weeks-Conroy

    So impressed with how far how you guys have come. Mikey, you’re story telling truly brings the reader in and enables them to live those moments along side the memories.

    I’m so honored to have known all three of you. You truly all are a legacies we as Syracusens can be proud of.

    Reply

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