Hall of Fame Inductee: John Gagliardi
A student of Dave Pietramala’s at Johns Hopkins, John Gagliardi was the premier cover defense in Major League Lacrosse during the early 2000s.
“He was just so cerebral,” said Long Island Lizards teammate Keith Cromwell. “He was always in great position. And when you got the ball, he was just a tough physical dude. A typical Long Island defenseman.”
Gagliardi was one of the best poles at turning defense to offense – less common in the pre-LSM era when two-way midfielders typically dictated the tempo. Gagliardi (11G, 2T, 9A) could carry from close defense across midfield better than anyone.
As an on-ball defender, Gagliardi had a reputation for his surgical stick checks. Attackmen wore bulky shoulder pads and binky mouthguards back then, bracing for contact in an era with few flags. Gagliardi didn’t maul his opponent; he would strip the ball and turn upfield.
“He was so technical in how he would get the ball away,” said Spencer Ford. “He had a plan, and he was so patient, and then next thing you know – ball down.”
Gagliardi’s Lizards played in the first three MLL Championships ever. Each matchup was against the Baltimore Bayhawks, and in each, Gagliardi’s assignment was fellow Hall of Famer Mark Millon.
The winner of the Gagliardi versus Millon matchup often determined the winner of the game. Gagliardi held Millon to one goal in ‘01 in a Lizards victory. Millon answered with seven points (5G, 2A) in ‘02 as the Bayhawks hoisted the trophy. And in ‘03 after Millon dished an assist 22 seconds into the game, Gagliardi held him in check until a fourth quarter fast break goal.
“He would turn you into something different than you were,” said Ford.
A 10-year veteran, two-time MLL Champion, and 2004 All-MLL defenseman, John Gagliardi can now add inaugural Pro Lacrosse Hall of Fame class member to his resume.