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Reaching the Pinnacle

04/22/2014, 1:00pm CDT
By Brent Hollerud

After nearly five years of dominance at The Hive, Callum Crawford holds a new Swarm record

#98 F Callum Crawford

January 15, 2010. In an early season matchup within the NLL’s West Division, the Minnesota Swarm took the floor in their home opener at Xcel Energy Center against the Calgary Roughnecks looking for their first victory of the season. Entering the fourth quarter, newly acquired forward Callum Crawford had already racked up six assists in his brief tenure as a member of the Swarm, but had not yet found the back of the net himself.  That changed when Crawford beat Roughneck goaltender Matt King in the waning minutes of the game to ice a victory for his team and give him goal No. 1 in a Minnesota uniform.

Fast forward four years, three months and four days, and Crawford is once again heading the Swarm offense at The Hive, this time in a late-season matchup with the Colorado Mammoth. The Ottawa, Ontario native finds himself in a familiar position, on the left side of the opposing net with the ball in his stick.  After ducking and weaving away from two Colorado defenders, Crawford leans into a check and uncorks a missile that finds its way through traffic and inside the far post.  As the ball fell in the back of the net a franchise record fell with it. The first-quarter goal was No. 142 in a Swarm uniform, breaking the all-time mark of 141 set by Ryan Benesch.

“My family was talking about it during the week,” said Crawford. “When it happened, it was good to have that off my back so to speak, and just concentrate on trying to get the win.”

Always the consummate competitor, Crawford’s NLL career started with a lack of continuity. Each of his first four seasons, starting with his rookie campaign in 2006, were spent with a different team, as he moved from Calgary to San Jose to Chicago to Edmonton. In the summer of 2009 Crawford was traded to his fifth team in five years, when a three-way trade between the Rush, Mammoth and Swarm brought the young forward to Saint Paul. 

Almost five years later Crawford is still thriving in Minnesota, and it is only fitting that he was able to become the Swarm’s all-time leading goal scorer in the same building, in front of the same crowd, which he had become enamored with over the years.

“To do anything in front of our fans is unbelievable,” Crawford explains. “The [support] they give us is incredible. It reminds us as players how committed they are, and it gives us something to play for regardless of where we are at [in the standings]. It’s a great feeling to have the record with such a great franchise.”

One would be hard-pressed to say this major accomplishment came as any surprise, as Crawford has long been a dominating force within the Swarm roster and the NLL as a whole. Prior to setting the Minnesota goal record, Crawford is already the franchise leader in both points and assists. He has been the team’s leading scorer in three of his first four seasons, and is one game away from making it four out of five in 2014. He became a member of the elusive 500 career-point club this year during a six-point night in Calgary on March 29. Despite of all this individual success, Crawford insists of giving the majority of the credit to the guys who have suited up alongside him.

“Being able to play with [Andrew] Suitor, [Kiel] Matisz, [Jordan] Macintosh, Shayne [Jackson]-- so many guys on this team are a big part of me having any personal success,” Crawford said. “Without the guys in the room and out on the floor being able to pick me up and help me perform, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

One teammate in particular who was instrumental in helping Crawford find success in the NLL happens to be the guy he supplanted at the top of the record books. In each of their four years of bolstering the Minnesota offense together, Crawford and Ryan Benesch held the top two spots when it came to point production.

As fate would have it, Crawford was able to tie Benesch’s mark of 141 goals against his old friend on March 23 during a victory over the Buffalo Bandits, where Benesch was traded last offseason.  While he might have broken his record, Crawford explains that he did not diminish his former teammate’s time at The Hive whatsoever.

“Ryan left his mark on this franchise and that won’t ever be forgotten. I had an extra year, so I was able to catch him,” Crawford explained. “He was at the end of most of my assists for four years.”

Crawford is not only thankful for those who have been on the turf with him during his stay in Minnesota, but also for those behind the bench­– specifically coach Joe Sullivan, who came aboard before the 2010 season just like he did.

Joe has been great for my career. I think that we came into this team together, and the confidence that he has in me sometimes makes me wish I could produce more for him,” Crawford said.  “He puts me in any position, and has faith in me as a player; to have a coach like that really helps your confidence and your ability out on the floor.”

“For Callum [setting the record] is incredible, it’s a great feat,” said Sullivan. “He prides himself on being a guy who makes people better and he’s starting to do that.”

As the 2014 season draws to a close this Saturday and the Swarm head into the offseason looking for answers to what was a disappointing campaign that ended outside the playoff race, Crawford is not consoled with the fact he will finish the year with a few new records under his belt. Rather the 29-year-old will return in 2015 hungrier than ever to make a run at something that he has not won yet in his illustrious NLL career, a Champion’s Cup.

"To have all of the records is something I can be proud of for a personal accomplishment, but Id much rather have wins and a championship with it."

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