On January 29th, Jay Thorimbert moved into second place all-time with 2,096 career face-off wins in the Black Wolves loss at Toronto. For the veteran, it’s something he will appreciate more at the end of his career.
But at the moment, reaching the top spot is not his first priority.
“I mean, I’m chasing the best ever,” he said, referring to Geoff Snider, who is No. 1 all-time with 2,468 career face-off wins. “I’m still trying to get a Champions Cup. Personal stats, that’s one of those things that when you are at the end of your career, you look back and appreciate it. But right now, it’s not the main objective.”
Although he self-deprecatingly credits the amount of face-off wins to the amount of draws he’s taken, Thorimbert is just one of three players in NLL history with more than 2,000. This season, he leads the league with 92 face-off wins, which puts him on track to finish No. 1 in that statistical category for the fourth straight season.
Thorimbert, who started taking face-offs in his first collegiate season, compares the experience of being in the face-off circle to the phenomenon that Kevin Costner referred to as ‘clear the mechanism’ in the movie For The Love Of The Game.
“I just try to stick to my routine and pay attention to who the referee is and who the opposition is,” he explained. “When you actually get into it, you kind of zero it all out (music playing, etc.). I also kind of zero out the refs whistle too, and rely on timing and an understanding of who everybody is.”
Fans may notice that during the course of a game, once Thorimbert takes the draw and passes the ball off to the offense, he heads off to the bench. The reason? He needs to switch sticks. He has one stick for face-offs and another for game play.
“On a face-off, the shooting strings can be pulled tight,” he explained. “You never know how it would shoot when it comes out of there, plus guys are bending it and twisting it so you’re never quite confident where it’s going to pass and shoot. So that’s one reason why I switch, so that I can have a stick I can shoot with and I can trust. And it’s also a little bit tailored to face-offs – it’s lighter, it’s taped a certain way and the stick has more of a profile, I find, that’s beneficial to face-offs.”
Thorimbert is not just a face-off specialist for New England, however. He leads the NLL with 66 loose balls, another statistical category he has dominated over the years, and provides a veteran presence on a defensive unit that has seen significant change from last season.
“Obviously we had a lot of new faces, so we needed some time to adjust and gel together and get on the same page,” he said. “We preach communication back there, but sometimes you just have to have a sixth sense of where your buddy is going to be and learn their tendencies and things like that. Sometimes defensively we’ve come out and played stellar, nine goals-against, and we look like ‘oh we’ve turned this point, we’re going to be a force.’ And then, all of the sudden, you get brought back down to reality against Toronto where every mistake you make is in the back of your net and we’re not communicating well.”
While Toronto may be brought the New England defense, which had allowed just 26 goals in the three previous games, back down to earth, Thorimbert remains confident in the potential of the 2017 Black Wolves.
“The future is bright for us for sure,” he said.