It would seem logical to compare Arrow superstar Paul Suggate with Boston Bruin superstar Bobby Orr. First of all, both are defensemen. Both wear number four. Both spend more time per game on the area of combat than any of their teammates. And both require only a five-minute observation by one who has little knowledge of their respective sports to know that each is something special.
Suggate finished the regular season with 239 points, which was 56 more than NLL runner-up John Davis. You put all of these facts together and calling Paul Suggate anything but a superstar is a gross understatement.
This makes the 25-year-old Suggate a master of understating his own cause. “John Davis was here for a million years,” he says quietly. “If I play for a million years and do what he did, then I’m a superstar. Until then, I’m not.” Oh? Try convincing former superstar Cy Coombes, the Arrow coach, of that fact. “The greatest,” Coombes boomed. “l played with Johnny Davis for eight years. Right now, today, Paul Suggate’s the greatest if we lost him I don’t know where we’d be.”
It’s certain that the Arrows wouldn’t be playing the Wings here tonight in the Nations Cup semi-final without him. One more comparison to Orr—Suggate goes out of his way to praise his teammates. “The line gets me the ball a lot,” he says. “The rest of the guys take care of me. I walk around the floor like nobody can touch me.” This could be simply because nobody CAN touch Suggate. He might be too good for the rest of the league: Again, the man doth protest.
“I’m on the power play, the short- handed shift, and I take my regular turn. I consider myself as one of the better players in the league but far from the best.” What about those 239 points from a defenseman position? “Don’t categorize me as a defenseman the way people categorize hockey defensemen,” he said. “l mean, all they do is come up to the blue line and take a long shot once in a while. I go where the ball is. In this sport, when you’re on offense, everybody’s on offense. When you’re on defense, everybody’s on defense.”
There are times, though, when it appears that Suggate can play offense and defense at the same time. He has that much ability. Some of the best man-to-man action this year involved Suggate and Wings’ captain Carm Collins. In the first game of the season, Collins broke Suggate’s nose. “I would call it a sucker punch,” Suggate said later. “But I’m sure Carm would tell you otherwise.”
One thing for sure, there is a great amount of respect between the two. Another thing, there is no love lost between the two. And that, along with the intense rivalry among the other members of the Wings and Arrows, made that the most competitive series of the NLL’s first season. But back to Suggate. It turns out the guy gave up a promising career in real estate to come to the States to play box lacrosse. “l was selling barns,” he explained. “It was quite a lucrative business. But they made me a good offer here so I took it.”As a result, the former barn salesman became the biggest barnburner in the National Lacrosse League.
BY FRANK BILOVSKY
Of The Bulletin Sports Staff 1975