Rising star in lacrosse visits Keeseekoose First Nation

A rising star in the game of lacrosse, a game which has been described as the “fastest growing sport in North America” was in the Kamsack area recently.

Dakota Morrisey, 16, is a member of the Keeseekoose First Nation (FN), and attends Prince Andrew (PA) High School in Dartmouth. He was instrumental in bringing the first ever Regional High School Lacrosse Championship to Prince Andrew.

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For a third straight weekend in January, 40 junior-aged players participated in a Regional Combine as Canada prepares for the 2019 World Junior Lacrosse Championship in Hamilton, Ont. The Saskatoon combine, held at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, was the third of four such tryouts to be held, the other three being held in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario.

The Saskatchewan Regional Combine was the first on the 2019 circuit to include out-of-Province players. Players from Manitoba and Nova Scotia made the trip to Saskatoon for the opportunity to showcase their skill and build relationships with the Canada staff. "The commitment we are seeing from players speaks volumes to their dedication and passion to compete internationally at the World Juniors," 2018 Jon Paul, 2018 Canada assistant coach said about out of province players.

Dakota and his father, Steve Morrisey who is also his son’s manager, made a whirlwind trip to Saskatchewan for the tryouts held in Saskatoon on January 19.

“Thanks to the support from the Keeseekoose Chief and Council, Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services and the Saskatchewan SWAT (Saskatchewan Will Always Triumph) lacrosse team, Dakota was able to attend the Saskatoon Regional Combine tryouts.

“He’ll be notified in February as to whether he made the team,” his father said.

Steven Morrisey was born in Halifax, but has family ties to the Musqua family of Keeseekoose FN. In his earlier days, he came to Saskatchewan and received a BA degree from the University of Regina, after which he returned to Nova Scotia. His relatives of Keeseekoose FN include his aunt, Virginia Musqua, and cousin, George Musqua.

“I have travelled to Saskatchewan in the past for traditional events and family gatherings,” he said.

The journey to travel to the Saskatoon Regional Combine began with an email invitation in December, when the Saskatchewan SWAT (of the Minor Lacrosse Association of Saskatchewan) asked Dakota if he would be interested in coming to play for them.

“Once they saw Dakota’s sports résumé, he was invited to try for Team Canada at the CLL (Canadian Lacrosse League) world juniors, to be held in August in Hamilton, Ont.

On January 21, with the Regional Combine tryouts behind him, Dakota made a trip to Keeseekoose FN to make a presentation to students at KCEC (Keeseekoose Chief’s Education Centre.)

“This is his way to give back,” his father said. “He spoke to the students about the game of lacrosse, what it means to him, and how he has gotten to where he is with the sport. He gifted a traditional lacrosse stick to the school, and signed lacrosse balls which he gave out to the students who had their photos taken with him.”

“It’s more than a game to me,” Dakota said. “I’ve been playing for eight years now and it roots me closer to home. It is my passion and gives me something to concentrate on.

“I play the game to honour the grandfathers and the Creator. I can also honour my great-grandfather, Lala, who honoured the Creator by taking part in the game.”

Lacrosse is gaining in popularity as a sport in North America, and although it has not yet reached the popularity of hockey or football, it is a sport that Dakota took a shine to from the first moment he played, when he was a youngster in Grade 4.

“He asked if he could go to the tryout, and has never looked back,” said his father, who is the Bantam Select head coach as well as the equipment manager for the Dartmouth Bandits Lacrosse Association. Steve is also the Indigenous Director with the East Coast Junior Lacrosse League, a position in its second year on the board, that he was instrumental in developing.

Academically, Dakota excels, having made the honours list his first two terms at Prince Andrew High School.

Although he has a love of all sports, his favorite is lacrosse, and he has been playing it for over eight years with the Dartmouth Bandits Association.

The last few years of his lacrosse career with the Bandits, Dakota has represented the club outstandingly, playing at the Select Level in peewee, bantam and midget divisions, said Dakota’s biography.

In peewee Dakota stood out as one of the better players and received the Most Valuable Player award, coming first in the points race, it said. During his second year on the Bantam Select team, Dakota was named team captain and received the Most Valuable Player award. That same year he led his team to league champions.

In the 2017 season, his first year midget, Dakota took his team to the championship game of the Metro Minor Lacrosse League, with an impressive record of 15 wins and one loss, where his team won first place. The last five years Dakota has led and won the scoring titles in the same league. Last year he represented the Association at the Jr A level, again playing the highest level in the province, one year earlier than the norm for a 15-year-old.

Dakota was invited a year early to tryouts for the Dartmouth Bandits Jr A lacrosse team, it said. This is not a normal invite as this team in this league is composed of young men aged 17 to 22. To even play in this league at Dakota’s age required approval from various levels in the league which involved the team applying to the league for Exceptional Player Status in order to have an under-aged player on their team.

“This year he is playing at the Jr A level as an under aged Exception Status player,” it said. “Not only has he made the team, he has key role responsibilities which include a top shooting position both on his regular line and on the power play. He is off to an amazing start, one that no one could have imagined. He has been dominating in the overall league, both in assists, goals and overall points.

“Dakota lead the league in both overall points and assists in the first quarter of the season, something that is normally reserved for a seasoned veteran. He has managed to add to his overall points in every single game he played.

“As a 15 year old, Dakota is extremely dedicated and determined to follow his dreams while traveling on the right path through life. He brings his culture and spiritual beliefs to the game and shows great respect for this game, a game he considers the Creator’s game.”

Dakota tends to do everything with meaning, said his father. His choice of jersey numbers is one example. He chose No. 27 to play in the nationals in Calgary because it is his mother’s birthday. That number was unavailable when he came up to Junior A, so he chose No. 11, which is his father’s birth month.

Dakota has been given letters of recommendation by his teachers, coaches and Greg Knight, the executive director of Lacrosse Nova Scotia. “Dakota has been a dedicated lacrosse athlete over the past few years, and has dedicated himself to the sport in ways that others do not always do,” said Knight.

“Dakota Morrisey is the type of student and athlete who always takes the initiative to help out fellow students and teammates who may not have the same athletic ability that he has,” said Anthony Williams, teacher and athletic director at Prince Andrew High School, in a letter of recommendation. “He was the youngest member of Prince Andrew’s varsity lacrosse team and was one of the leaders in assists and goals. Dakota’s unselfish play helped lead his team to PA’s first Metro High School lacrosse championship.”

“Dakota’s teammates recognize him as a leader, a player of character, a fantastic young man who understands that there is more to the game of lacrosse than winning,” said Glenn MacDonald, president of the Dartmouth Bandits Lacrosse association. “Dakota understands that ‘game’ is about hard work, teamwork, unity and integrity and that the score at the end of the game is not the big prize.”

“Dakota aspires to attend a prep school south of the border, playing lacrosse and applying to several different universities which offer lacrosse, in hopes of receiving both an academic and sports scholarship,” his biography said. “These next few years will see him play lacrosse at the highest levels, in his province and the country, representing his home club, Dartmouth Bandits in Junior A, as well as aspiring to represent Team Canada at the CLL World Juniors.”

For more information on the Canadian Lacrosse League, Canada World Junior Team, and the 2019 IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship, please visit WorldJuniorLacrosse.com.