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Goalkeeper puts safety first

Mike Thompson is most known for being one of the world’s best lacrosse goal tenders.

The 31-year-old is in his third season with the Buffalo Bandits, the defending champions of the National Lacrosse League.

Thompson is hoping to get some further recognition for another lacrosse venture; for the past two years he’s been helping a Toronto-area company design a new line of goal tending equipment.

After numerous changes and tweaks, the Thompson-designed Gladiator Pro upper body protective piece of equipment was officially unveiled in January.

Since box (indoor) lacrosse is primarily played in Canada, it will, for the most part, be available through dealers there and is offered in youth and adult sizes.

Thompson has been instrumental in the design of goalie pants and leg pads that are also expected to be on the market soon. These pieces of equipment will be sold under the Gladiator Giant name.

“There are only a couple of other brands on the market now,” Thompson said. “And I had a couple of ideas for new ones.”

He hooked up with Terry Rowland, a former star lacrosse player and coach; Rowland now works for a company in Ajax, Ontario called Northern Amerex Marketing Inc., which is the Canadian distributor for STX lacrosse equipment.

Thompson, who took some graphic arts classes in high school, knew exactly what he wanted to do with his newly-designed upper body protective piece. “Everything is about getting it to weigh less and be more mobile.” Yet, the equipment still has to provide plenty of protection. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do now for a while, trying different foams and interchanging different parts.”

Trevor Jackson, a spokesperson for Northern Amerex Marketing Inc., said Thompson, who now lives in Akwesasne, N.Y., has been diligent in the pursuit of his designed equipment; and he’s logged his share of driving miles to meet company officials in the Toronto area.

“Mike has spent a lot of time on this,” he said. “And there’s been 10 – 12 different redesigns on the equipment. We’ve been really happy with our relationship with Mike.”

Though he has worn the Gladiator equipment and had it tested by facing shots against some of his Bandits’ teammates, it is unlikely Thompson will be allowed to use it in an NLL game. That’s because the 12-team professional league, which has franchises in the United States and Canada, has a contract with Reebok. Goal tenders are only allowed to don this brand of equipment.

Thompson, however, will be allowed to wear Gladiator equipment in the Major Series Lacrosse, the Ontario-based summer league he plays in with the St. Regis Indians, who hold home contests in Akwesasne.

When he’s not playing lacrosse, Thompson is a stay-at-home father. He has two sons, ages 4 and 2, and a daughter, who was born in December.