Hall of Fame Inductee: Paul Cantabene
Prior to his senior season at Loyola in ‘93, Paul Cantabene had only taken 105 faceoffs for the Greyhounds. He was a midfielder. An All-American midfielder as a senior – though earned equally through his offense (17G, 13A) and his faceoff play (54.9%).
Major League Lacrosse’s rules were too demanding to be both an offensive midfielder and a faceoff athlete. The league implemented a 45-second shot clock. Goals (and ensuing faceoffs) were nonstop. To faceoff well, you needed to faceoff full-time.
Cantabene crafted a career at the stripe. He studied and adapted to each opponent. He moved his wings to particular spots pre-whistle. And above all, he competed.
“Every week was a battering ram back then,” says Greg Gurenlian. “You didn’t get any weeks off. They’d blow the whistle the second you hit the ground, and you better be ready to just kill each other. It was real gladiatorial stuff.”
Cantabene led the Bayhawks to two titles (2002 and 2005), posting a 62.2% faceoff percentage during the ‘05 run. He created offense throughout his pro career with 85 points (60G, 1T, 24A) in six seasons.
“His best attribute is that he won the faceoffs that he lost,” said Philadelphia Barrage head coach Tony Resch. “He would somehow outwill the person and get it back himself even when he didn’t win it.”
Like a fine wine, Cantabene got better as his career went on. In ‘06 after being snubbed from Team USA, Cantabene unleashed his competitive streak on his MLL peers. And he knew exactly how to beat each and every one of them.
“By the time I got to play against him, he was the entire package,” recalls Gurenlian. “Ray Lewis talked about it towards the end of his career. Being older – physically, you might be knocked down a peg – but what you gain in experience far outweighs it. The GOATs of their position were truly masters of it by the time they retired, because they understood the entirety of the game. Even if you were younger, faster, whatever – it didn’t matter. Because he had seen everything.”
In the ‘06 MLL Championship, Cantabene lined up across from Team Canada’s Geoff Snider – seeking revenge against Snider, the Team USA coaches, and anyone who had doubted him.
Cantabene won 27-of-36 faceoffs (75.0%). Snider and Chris Cercy couldn’t solve him. The Denver Outlaws couldn’t overcome the deficit. Cantabene’s Barrage won, 23-12, and he left his cleats at midfield before riding off into the sunset.
“I think it’s a soccer thing where you leave your boots at the center dot. Paul did that at the faceoff X,” recalls Resch. “What could be more appropriate than that?”