All-in approach helps Rock cash in

Dawick’s All-In Approach Has Helped Rock Cash In
By Derek O’Neil

It’s the dream of any sports fan to go from the arm chair to the owner’s box, and call all of the shots. For most enthusiasts, the closest they get is the General Manager mode in an EA Sports video game.

Not Toronto Rock owner Jamie Dawick, who is living the dream.

The 36-year-old poker pro was just a die-hard fan of the game a couple of years ago, but he upped his commitment by buying the Toronto Rock and guiding the franchise into a new direction.

“I have been following the Rock as a fan since the team moved to Toronto in 1999,” says Dawick, “I purchased the team almost two years ago and have completed two regular seasons as owner.”

The Rock were a bit of a gamble at the time as they were mired in a three-year tailspin with just 10 combined wins between 2007-2009, but they’ve been steadily on the rise since. In the two years that Dawick has been in charge, they’ve journeyed to the championship game (in 2010) and after falling short, they returned to complete the unfinished business by topping the Washington Stealth with a thrilling 8-7 victory to capture the 2011 NLL title.

The Rock were a bit shortstacked when Dawick took over, but the chips have come pouring in since. Part of that can be attested to his endeavors off the field, which has included generating more publicity, exposure and appeal for the team – all key goals that he spoke about when he made the purchase. He’s brought the Rock back to television, striking a partnership with TSN2, and they’ve worked deals with companies like to grow their exposure. They even brought back fan-favorite Colin Doyle to rekindle some old school appeal. All of which was important for the growth of the franchise.

“Really, it's all about exposing the game,” says Dawick, “Even though lacrosse is our national summer sport, people are still not aware of our game. First and foremost, it was about bringing in the right people and getting the franchise headed in the right direction, then do everything in our power to share our message and vision. The game will sell itself, I’m sure of that. It's about getting the people out; they will come back.”

And come they have – in droves. So much so that the Blue Jays and Raptors might be a little jealous. The Rock average home attendance this season was 10,985 with a whopping 14,488 piling through the turnstiles for the Championship game. Clearly, the fans are enjoying the product that Dawick has helped put together.

“It's a commitment to be the best. It starts at the top and works its way right down to whoever may be at the bottom of the totem pole,” says Dawick, who is humble in his role, “Tireless work and effort to be the best in every phase of the business and win.”

As is usually the case, nobody complains or criticizes when their team is winning, but a poker pro owning a lacrosse team could have generated more scrutiny had the results not been so positive.

It’s an odd parlay, to say the least, but Dawick has just always been passionate about the sport.

“I have always been a fan of the game. To me, it’s the most entertaining game out there. There are never any lulls in actions and it’s constant entertainment. The part that interests me the most is the league and its players. There are great athletes, who are regular people that play the game for the love of the game, not the money. All my players hold regular jobs Monday to Friday.”

Maybe it’s not such an odd marriage after all. The Oakville native is enthusiastic about the lacrosse and so far, it’s the best thing that could have happened to Toronto’s franchise. But leave it to his young, creative mind to make parallels between the two.

“The similarity is that you need to be able to get over a bad thing because they happen everywhere,” elaborated Dawick, “In lacrosse there are a lot of goals scored, but you can’t change the past. It's about keeping your focus on your goals and doing everything in your power to make that happen. In poker, the two biggest mistakes people make is tilting after a bead beat and trying to win the tournament in the early stages. In both realms, the mental aspect plays a huge role.”

There aren’t many bad things for the Rock to worry about nowadays. Dawick has the NLL champs in good shape both on and off the turf.

The best part for the fans, sponsors and players is that they can take comfort knowing they have an owner that is just as all-in about the sport as they are.

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