Halifax Thunderbirds captain Cody Jamieson shares his passion for lacrosse with his new community
When Cody Jamieson found out Halifax would be the next career destination, he had mixed emotions.
Jamieson, the captain of the Halifax Thunderbirds lacrosse team, has been with the franchise owned by his uncle Curt Styres since they selected him first overall in the 2010 National Lacrosse League (NLL) draft. Back then, they played in Rochester, N.Y.
“This is my tenth year in the league and it’s been all with the same team,” he says. “Not a lot of players get to experience that so I was excited because it is a new market, a new team,” he says. “You hear nothing but great things about Halifax.”
It’s not his first brush with the city. In 2007, Halifax hosted the FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Jamieson competed as one of the youngest players in the tournament and helped his Iroquois Nationals team claim the silver medal.
The city left a good impression that has stuck with him for years. “Everybody is out and about, is friendly and is welcoming,” he says.
Since then, Jamieson has learned a lot more about the city. Being a history buff, he did some research to learn about the Halifax Explosion. A fan of CBC’s Mr. D, Jamieson checked out Citadel High School, where filming takes place.
As so often happens, Halifax has taught him to love donairs. “My friend and I always say that every summer, we should just drive down to Halifax and come and get a donair and drive back home,” he says. He adds that he’s tried just about every donair shop in the city.
His first love is lacrosse, though—culturally ingrained and passed down to him when he was three years old from his father, grandfather, and older brother. “My first memory of playing lacrosse, I just always remember always having a stick in my hand,” he recalls. “If we went to the grocery store, or we went for a walk in the park, I brought my stick with me. My stick was always with me and my stick was like my best friend growing up.”
Growing up in Six Nations in Ontario, the sport was everything to him. No matter what time of year it was, Jamieson played lacrosse with his brother and cousins. During winter, they shovelled off the laneway and shaped snowbanks into the boards of a lacrosse rink. They wrapped the ball in black tape so they could find it in the snow.
Now, Jamieson shares his passion for the sport with his children and wife who used to play it. However, his greatest pride is assuming the role he has in the NLL representing the First Nations.
“It gives our young hope,” he says. “There’s more of us in the league now, but still the fact that we’re out here doing it and having success; it gives the young people hope of ‘maybe I can do it one day’ and it might steer them away from some bad around them.”
Faced with challenges, the Thunderbirds captain used the sport to help him deal with life and personal struggles. “I used lacrosse as a healing tool for everything; as small as getting into trouble from my parents growing up, to playground fights and disputes with friends,” he says. “Growing into adulthood, there were many times I needed it. Mental health, injuries: all were draining on the mind and lacrosse was the tool I used to cope.”
He started a company called Teammates to offer workshops for youth in classroom and gym settings aimed at suicide prevention. “We consider lacrosse a medicine game and for me, it always was,” he says. “It makes you feel good, it makes you feel positive and I like to teach that; I like to bring that to people.”
The sport has been a constant in his life. “My stick was always there waiting; it wasn’t like other people, it was always willing and able,” he says. “I like to share the medicine I’ve had because lacrosse helped me through some tough times in my life when I didn’t know what was going on or how to think. Lacrosse was my outlet.”
An outlet that has brought him droves of success, Jamieson has won three straight Champions Cups (NLL championship) from 2012–2014, four consecutive Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League championships with the Six Nations Arrows Express, and a Minto Cup (the Canadian junior men’s title). He catapulted Syracuse Orange to the 2009 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship by scoring the clinching goal in overtime. He was named to the All-Tournament team for his postseason run, netting eight goals in six games.
During his NLL career, he has put together 85 plus point seasons except for the 2017 season, when he only played one game because of a torn ACL. During two straight playoff years, Jamieson was named Championship Cup MVP (2012–2013) as well as league MVP in 2014 and won the scoring title that year with 108 points.
Overall, he ranks third in the franchise’s all-time scoring with 704 points (255 goals and 449 assists).
Styres knows what it took for Jamieson to be successful in lacrosse. “He believed hard work will get you what you want,” he says. “He has a strong enough character that it must be good for us too.”
Echoing those sentiments is John Catalano, Thunderbirds’ president and COO. “He is very inspirational and he inspires me,” he says. “He’s great to have in the community because if you listen to Cody’s story, what it’s taken him, the hard work, the work ethic, and his family values, it’s just his character and what makes him as great as he is.”
Jamieson credits his role models for being the guiding force in achieving his goals in lacrosse including former players Darris Kilgour, John Tavares, and Rich Kilgour. While his older brother ignited a constant competitive fire, Jamieson cites his father as his key influence on his career.
“He taught me everything that he could,” he recalls. “He would leave for work early in the morning, come home, change his clothes and drive me straight wherever I had to go. We went and watched our junior or our senior team’s lacrosse game together. He didn’t have to say much but he would say ‘Did you see this? Did you see that?’ His experience was invaluable because it taught me at a young age where to be and to go where the ball is going to be. He was hard on me, he pushed me hard but I wouldn’t be where I am at without him.”
Jamieson hopes to help lacrosse grow in Halifax through his leadership on and off the field. “The more success we have, the more people will want to watch and come support a successful franchise,” he says. “They are very passionate already so it’s a matter of getting non-traditional lacrosse people through those doors and watching a game because we like to say it’s a party. This city will start embracing it when more people see it, start coming and giving it a chance. It will be great here.”
Known as the largest organized team sport in North America, Lacrosse’s origins are rooted in Indigenous nations.
One of the unique parts of the sport is the stick that consists of a head and a shaft. The head catches, carries, passes and shoots the ball into the goal. Made of solid rubber, the ball is the size of a baseball.
During a game, each team has five runners including forwards, transition players, and defencemen, as well as a goaltender on the floor. Overall, both competing teams dress 18 players (two goaltenders and 16 runners). This fast-paced game runs for four quarters (15 minutes each) and a team’s goal is to score more points than their opponents. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, it must be decided in sudden-death overtime as there are no tied games in professional lacrosse.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly gave the rules for field lacrosse instead of box lacrosse, which is the version played in the NLL. The text above has been corrected. Halifax Magazine regrets the error.