Ian MacKay: Chaos’ Swiss Army Knife
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.
This season we’ve seen him come out the gates as an offensive midfielder with key players missing on that end of the field for Chaos. It’s led him to do what he’s always done: Step up.
MacKay’s presence provides a proven scorer who fits Chaos’ ‘box style’ to a tee, as well as someone who can play both ends of the field, effectively cutting off and creating opportunities in transition.
His knack for scoring against the Archers was, again, revealed this weekend scoring in that same fashion: transition.
With Dhane Smith surveying on the righty wing and Kevin Lindley cutting with pace off of the bench, MacKay set a pick on Lindley’s man and slipped inside. Smith found him and he buried to the bottom right corner off a silky quick release shot.
He’s a long pole who can spray it from two-point range and make sound decisions in transition. He’s a dominant SSDM, and a reliable offensive midfielder who fills in when needed. MacKay truly does it all.
The PLL has created a game that emphasizes pace of play. With the shortened field, two-point arc, and now the adjustments of the 32 second shot clock off of faceoffs and resets, having a player like MacKay is more important than ever.
“You see different strategies coming up within the game with the new [shot clock] rule and everything, so I think it just further emphasizes that two-way player type of role,” he remarked.
MacKay embraced every opportunity with open arms and has put everything he has into it. His career trajectory to this day wouldn’t have been possible without that openness and flexibility.
“Being a well-rounded player only increases your chances of being on any team,” he said. “Whether it’s a national team, NLL, or especially a PLL team, with it only being a 19-man [gameday] roster.”
You’re not always going to know where your opportunity is going to come from, when it’s going to come, or what it will be. Being thankful for the chance and making sure you make the most out of them leads to many more down the road. MacKay loves the game, his teammates, and is willing to do whatever he can to help his team win.