Photos courtesy of Garrett James Langley Events Centre

Opportunity knocks — twice — for JP Kealey

WLA player balancing duties on and off the field

Some people need to do a bit of soul-searching before making a big decision about their career.

But JP Kealey – who had not one, but two major choices staring him in the eye – knew that both were “no-brainers.”

And so Kealey said yes to both.

First, he inked a two-year pact to return to the National Lacrosse League’s New England Black Wolves. And while he prepares for his second season of professional lacrosse, Kealey will keep busy in his new role of head coach of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s field lacrosse team.

Both places offered a sense of familiarity, as well as a keen desire to bring Kealey back.

An unrestricted free agent in the NLL, there was little doubt Kealey would return.

“It was a good experience playing there last year. Ultimately, that is where I wanted to be and I am happy to be there,” he said. “They wanted me so it was a no-brainer signing back there.”

Kealey suited up in a pair of games for the Black Wolves in 2018, registering a pair of goals and two helpers in the process.

“We are very excited to get JP back in the fold,” said New England general manager Rich Lisk in a press release announcing the signing. “He has raised the bar playing this summer out west (and) we’re excited to see what he brings to us in his second year.”

The general manager was referencing Kealey’s summer with the Western Lacrosse Association’s Langley Thunder. He led the Thunder with 33 goals and was second with 52 points in 16 games. Kealey’s goal-scoring prowess saw him finish seventh in the entire WLA – not bad for someone who came out west to play out of Langley Events Centre after going undrafted in Ontario’s Major Series Lacrosse.

Kealey downplayed his summer success.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, team success comes before individual success,” he said, referencing the fact the team missed the WLA post-season after going 7-10-1. There were positives for the league’s youngest team, which had 10 first-year, eight second-year and three third-year players.

“It wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but we are a young team that has lots of talent and we have time to figure it out.”

As for landing the head coaching gig back home in Ottawa, that wasn’t a major surprise either.

Last season, Kealey was a Gee-Gees assistant offensive coach. But after head coach – and Black Wolves teammates Callum Crawford stepped down to accept another coaching position in Oklahoma – Ottawa offered Kealey the post.

“I love coaching lacrosse and have always wanted to be a college lacrosse coach, so it was a no-brainer to take this as well,” Kealey explained.

“JP was the perfect candidate to fill the position as he breathes hard work every day and a ‘Go Get It’ philosophy that shapes our program,” the Gee-Gees wrote in a Twitter post announcing the hiring.

Kealey – who turns 25 on Aug. 21 – takes the reins of the Gee-Gees despite the fact he is just a few years older than the players he is now tasked with instructing. Even he finds it a bit surprising to land such a big job at a young age.

“But at the same time, I am so excited for it (and) I don’t think it’s something I am not capable of,” he explained. “I look forward to giving it everything that I have got and trying to bring a championship home to the University of Ottawa.”

The Gee-Gees season gets underway in September while the Black Wolves begin in December.

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