VETERAN HARASYM DOES A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHINGFeatures | 3/9/2011 11:02:28 AM | Michael Jafari
Buffalo Bandits transition runner Jon Harasym has played for seven different teams during his nine-year National Lacrosse League career, but it’s not because he isn’t wanted.
Harasym is known league-wide for his solid two-way play and his ability to adapt to any position bestowed upon him. Although he is playing a more defensive role with the Bandits this season, Harasym has picked up 408 loose balls while posting 44 goals, 86 points and 130 points in just 101 career NLL games. The versatile veteran reached a career milestone over the weekend when he played in his 100th career game on Saturday night against Rochester.
“I didn’t even realize it’s been that many games,” a surprised Harasym said. “I am getting a little older and have been in the league for a while. I never really thought about it, but it is a privilege to play in this league, and you can’t take it for granted. It’s an accomplishment to stick around for this long, so that is something that I am proud of.”
The Bandits made the most of Harasym’s milestone game and put on show in front of a sold out crowd of 18,690 fans at HSBC Arena with an 11-8 thumping of the Rochester Knighthawks. Buffalo pulled off an encore performance the next day by defeating the Boston Blazers 9-8 to move into second place in the East division.
“I really appreciate the support that Bandit fans bring,” said Harasym. “I played for quite a few different teams, and the support here is unmatched. It is amazing to play in front of 16,000 people, and that’s just a testament to the fans. I speak for everyone in that locker room when I say we really appreciate our fans.”
Harasym had a well-traveled journey before he played in his 100th game, a journey that started in his hometown in Alberta, Canada. Like most pro lacrosse players, Harasym was introduced to the sport as a hobby during hockey’s offseason, but he knew right away that he was best suited for lacrosse.
“I grew up outside of Edmonton, Alberta, and lacrosse wasn’t as big as it is in the east or the British Columbia area. I just kind of got into it with some of my hockey buddies for an offseason gig, but I fell in love with the sport, and it kind of grew from there. Lacrosse got me a scholarship and schooling opportunities, and the reason I am living out here now is because lacrosse evolved as a major part of my life.”
Harasym’s skills landed him a scholarship to play college field lacrosse for the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). After his collegiate career, he was the second overall selection in the 2002 NLL Entry Draft by the Columbus Landsharks. The following year, Harasym made his debut for the Landsharks and posted 27 points (13-14-27) in 15 games.
“Breaking into the league, I was more of an offensive player, but at school I was a midfielder, and I worked hard defensively. I always tried to keep that game relevant despite it not being my niche early on in my career. It has helped me get to where I am in my career because I can be relied on on the defensive side while contributing offensively,” recalled Harasym.
Columbus was just the beginning for Harasym, who moved on to Rochester the next year. He then played for Minnesota, but was traded to the Bandits during that 2005 season. After his year-and-a-half tenure with Buffalo, Harasym was picked up in the expansion draft by the Chicago Shamrox prior to the 2007 season. He played for the Toronto Rock for parts of two seasons after his stint with Chicago, and then made a brief stop in Philadelphia before coming back to the Bandits in 2010. Despite the strenuous travel he endured during his career, Harasym kept a positive attitude and treated every new team as a different opportunity.
“A lot of the traveling is just the nature of the league with all the expansion and contraction. I was picked in every expansion draft, and every time some emotions come to to play, like wishing for the team to protect you, but on the other hand, it’s nice to be noticed by other teams,” Harasym said. “All you can do is take the positives out of it, and that is something I always did so I can continue to work hard on my game and stay relevant in hopes of having a lengthy, productive career.”
In 2010, Harasym came over to the Bandits in a trade with Philadelphia that sent Buffalo’s fourth round pick (40th overall) to the Wings in exchange for his services. The Bandits were more than happy to re-acquire the versatile player and have been pleased with his overall performance.
“We really like all-around players because we can use them on offense and defense, which ‘Johnny Har’ fits that bill. He can play defense, where we put him now, and when we need to, we can move him up to play some offense no problem,” said Bandits Assistant Coach Rich Kilgour. “When you’re playing in a league that is as tight as it is now, it’s really good to have a lot of those two-way players because when injuries go down, you can mix and match them anywhere. He is just a great all-around lacrosse player because we can put him on the floor at anytime, so we’re glad we got him back because he has been doing his job. We love him here.”
When Harasym isn’t working hard on the turf at HSBC Arena, he’s working hard on building the community in his new home in Brampton, Ontario. Harasym is currently employed by the town of Brampton, where he does snow removal and road maintenance.
“I have been doing this for over six years, and it’s a real steady, secure job. It is really flexible for traveling because they give me a lot of time off. It relates well to playing on the weekends, because I feel the Bandits are my priority job… It is my number one priority until my career is done, and then I’ll take my other job more seriously,” said Harasym.
Harasym compares his day job to playing lacrosse, since they both require teamwork to get the goal accomplished. Harasym says he works with a lot good people, many of whom are lacrosse fans.
“Some of the guys follow the league closely, and it’s kind of cool for them that I am able to get them tickets here and there. I think for the most part, they don’t make it that big of a deal working with a professional athlete because we don’t make tons of money, but the guys who follow the sport really get a kick out of it.”
The two jobs keep the Bandits’ utility man busy, but it doesn’t take away from what is most important to him. Harasym is a proud dad of a two-year-old girl who lights up his day every time he comes home from a hard day of work or a grueling road trip.
“Once you start having kids, your life changes quite a bit, so every chance I get I spend it with her since I travel so much to begin with. It’s tough leaving her for road games sometimes, so I try to make it up by spending as much time with my family as possible.”