During Ian MacKay’s first summer playing defense with the Jr. A Orangeville Northmen, Brodie Merrill reached out to him with the opportunity to attend The Hill Academy. It came with one caveat – he’d be playing long pole.
Merrill told him, “If you come to the Hill, we’ll work on you playing pole and it’ll give you a good chance of making [U-19] Team Canada.”
“I can’t say no to that opportunity,” said MacKay, who made Team Canada later that year as a long pole and helped the team win silver in the 2012 FIL U19 Men’s World Lacrosse Championships in Turku, Finland.
“Defense, whether it’s with a short stick or a long pole in field, it doesn’t really matter to me. Other than the fact that you have a six-foot stick… In terms of footwork, at the end of the day you’re still playing defense,” said MacKay.
In his final season at The Hill Academy as a post-grad, he went back to the position recruited to Vermont for: Offensive midfield.
Both Orangeville and The Hill Academy served as a launching pad for the rest of his career. It exposed him to defense, elevated his talents on the offensive end, and blended it all together to create his Swiss Army Knife playlist that he’s well known for now.
At the University of Vermont as a two-time team captain, MacKay was an offensive juggernaut. He had plenty of success at both attack and midfield, finishing his career in 2018 as the program’s all-time leader in points (230) and goals (150).
After Vermont, MacKay’s multifaceted background came together in the professional ranks. He was drafted by the Chesapeake Bayhawks in the MLL to play offensive midfield, and in the NLL by the Buffalo Bandits as a defender.
“I think playing defense in the box has really expanded my game… playing defense in box and offense in field opened up eyes to how well rounded of a game I could have,” he said.
It was in box lacrosse where he got his start on the defensive end and has expanded his skillset in the PLL with the Chaos. He’s become a reliable two-way midfielder who plays lock down defense as a SSDM and LSM.
After spending two seasons with the Archers as an offensive midfielder, MacKay got traded in the 2020 off-season to the Chaos. That’s when the idea of Ian picking up a pole again came about.
“Coach Towers called me, he was like, ‘What do you think about playing long pole?’ It didn’t even cross my mind to not jump at that opportunity because for me, defense is defense.”
It was then the lacrosse world was introduced to Ian MacKay, the Swiss Army Knife.
Now in his third season with the Chaos, MacKay has played nearly every position under the sun for them – SSDM, LSM, FO, and offensive midfield. For the most part, he comes out of the box as a SSDM, but he does whatever the team needs.
“I don’t like to categorize myself as one position, I think of myself as a lacrosse player. And whatever is going to get me on the field and help my team be successful – I’m willing to do. Whether it’s offense, defense LSM, faceoffs, filling up water bottles it doesn’t matter to me. As long as it puts our team in a position to win then I’m all game for it,” he said.
In his first season with the Chaos, he spent most of his time at LSM where he showcased his ability to spray it from deep. He scored all three of his two-pointers that year against his former team the Archers. Two of them came in his first rematch with the Archers in week two in Atlanta. But his third was the game winner in the regular season finale in Albany.