FERGUS – Bringing home the National Lacrosse League (NLL) trophy was a “very surreal moment” for 23-year-old Carter McKenzie.
He recently finished his first year playing for the Buffalo Bandits, who won the championship on June 3.
Now, it’s his turn with the cup, and he gathered with family and friends on Aug. 5 to celebrate with a golf tournament and barbecue in his hometown of Fergus.
The celebration was an opportunity for him to share a moment with most of the important people in his life who have supported his journey, played lacrosse with him or watched him play, McKenzie said.
He noted his sister Lauren organized the celebration and has always been his biggest supporter.
“She has been a rock through me and my brother’s lacrosse career,” he said in a phone interview with the Advertiser.
Lauren often drives three to four hours to watch her brother’s games and cheer him on.
“I really wouldn’t be where I am now without her,” McKenzie said. “I’m very, very lucky for that. My mom, dad, brother and sister are my biggest fans.”
McKenzie said there’s also a sense of family within the Buffalo Bandits team, with the players developing a strong bond.
Though McKenzie was on the team’s practice roster, he played 13 of 18 games this season. He said he feels good about what he added to the team, noting he wasn’t “just there for the ride, [but] actually able to contribute to the regular season.”
He will be playing for the Buffalo Bandits again next year after resigning with them on Aug. 3.
McKenzie was born and raised in Fergus and played all his minor sports here.
“It’s nice to celebrate with the community. I feel like I owe a lot to minor sports and everyone that helped me along the way,” McKenzie said.
He attended high school and university elsewhere, but McKenzie said he returned to Fergus every summer.
“It’s my home here,” he said, and it’s “been a great home for me.”
McKenzie has always been passionate about sports, including baseball and hockey, and he said he fell in love with lacrosse when he was about seven.
He said thanks to the sport he was able to attend a good university in Kingston. The sport has also given him strong connections to the other athletes on his teams.
He said growing up playing lacrosse was like “growing up with 20 other brothers,” whose bond strengthened with every win and every loss.
Playing lacrosse offers an “escape from reality,” McKenzie said, as in the midst of the game “nothing else matters – what’s going on at home, what’s going on at school just disappears and I can forget about life for an hour, hour and a half and just enjoy the sport.”
McKenzie’s goals are simple: to improve every season.
“If I see improvements every year, that’s what’s going to make me happy,” he said.
Ultimately, McKenzie said it would be “pretty awesome” to win the cup again, but he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself.