Toronto Rock scoring star Brett Hickey doesn’t let obstacles stand in his way. Especially if it means he has to break a promise.
Player agent Elliot Saccucci found that out in April when Hickey was driving from Windsor to Toronto for a meeting. Half an hour into the trip, a wild turkey jumped in front of Hickey’s car, smashing the windshield. Hickey drove on, leaning to his right to see through the unbroken part of the windshield. Three hours later, he arrived — five minutes late — and apologized.
“Instead of pulling over or going back home, he made our meeting,” Saccucci said. “That was hugely impressive for me.”
Hickey, 25, also impresses on the lacrosse floor.
The right-handed forward scored 50 goals last year, fourth in the National Lacrosse League and five behind the league leader. He was the first Rock player to score 50 goals in a season.
This past summer, Hickey and the Rock agreed to terms on a three-year contract that will pay him $18,000 in 2016, $20,000 in 2017 and $22,000 in 2018. It was an under-market contract, considering the maximum for an NLL veteran is $28,128 (U.S.).
“He’s nothing if not loyal, and wanted to pay the Rock back for their faith in him,” his agent said.
The Rock, NLL finalists last season, launch their 2016 season on Saturday in Duluth, Ga., outside Atlanta, against the Georgia Swarm. The home opener is Jan. 14 against Rochester.
Hickey is a feel-good story because of where he came from and how he got here. Windsor is not a hot bed of lacrosse, and the jump from Junior B to the pro level is monumental. The road to the NLL usually goes through Junior A lacrosse or a U.S. Division I college.
At 21, Hickey was still somewhat of a kid when the Washington Stealth selected him 43rd overall in the 2011 draft, and he was nervous going to his first tryout. “I had never been on a plane before,” he said. “I was so green.”
Hickey and his family feel he didn’t get a fair shake with the Stealth, who relocated to Vancouver in 2014. He spent most of his time on the practice roster, making $127 every two weeks. He played nine games from 2012 to 2014, totalling five goals and five assists.
Despite some part-time jobs with the team and personal appearance money, there was barely enough left for food and rent. For one two-day stretch, he subsisted on Doritos chips, a big bottle of water and bottle of Coke. And by not eating right, Hickey put on weight. He still had the great hands, but he was slow and out of shape.
When his parents found out, they stepped in and got him back on his feet again.
As a police officer, Hickey’s father is guarded. He has tried to teach his son that people don’t, or can’t, always stand behind their promises.
“You’re only one draft or one decision away from not playing ever again, no matter how much they tell you they have faith in you,” his father, Ted, said.
In March of 2014, the Stealth asked Hickey to take a demotion to the practice squad again. He balked and took his release instead. He was bitter and disappointed. He thought about becoming a police officer like his father.
“He lived and breathed lacrosse,” his father said. “A lot of times we thought he should (come) home and start from scratch.
“Lacrosse isn’t enough to live off of. Most of these guys play lacrosse on the side. Brett was kind of the opposite. He was trying to make lacrosse his primary job.”
Hickey went to the gym the next day in an angry mood. The emotion fuelled him to a personal record on the barbell hang clean of 295 pounds.
Hickey loves inspirational quotes and once had the walls in his apartment plastered with them. Eventually, he created his own.
“Failure is good,” the saying goes. “You learn from failure. But fail today because you don’t want to fail on game day.”
Hickey’s brother, Eric, 22, had the words tattooed on his arm.
Hickey put on 25 pounds of muscle in the gym — he is six-foot-two and 225 pounds — and he got another shot at the NLL when the Rock offered him a tryout after Garrett Billings went down with a serious knee injury.
He immediately felt at home with the Rock. “I was able come into a room and be accepted right away.”
Hickey also works as a strength coach at two gyms, including the Rock’s training headquarters in Oakville, but his love of lacrosse seeps through. While other players moan they should have stuck with hockey and the potential for bigger paydays, Hickey’s biggest complaint is that practice is ending. He still has that child-like sense of wonder about the game, although it is combined with a man’s sense of duty.
“Everything’s always new and exciting to Brett,” Saccucci says, “and he’s always thankful for it.”