Sports

Jeff Teat Leads Ottawa’s New Professional Lacrosse Franchise

Photography by Sean Sisk
By Steve Warne

2020 was a banner year for Ottawa’s first-round draft picks. The Senators got Tim Stutzle, Jake Sanderson, and Ridly Greig in round one of the NHL Draft. And even though they didn’t exist then, Ottawa’s newest professional team got Jeff Teat, the first overall pick in the 2020 National Lacrosse League Draft.

If you had to pick the most dominant player out of that group, Teat would be the easy choice.

The former Cornell University star was chosen by the New York Riptide, who announced in February they would move the team north to the capital and become the Ottawa Black Bears. It will be the first time this city has had a pro lacrosse team since the Ottawa Rebel left town in 2003, posting a 9-37 record over three seasons.

But that team never had a player like Jeff Teat, one of the sport’s most dominant players and now the biggest name in Ottawa’s thriving lacrosse scene.

Teat led the NLL this year with 58 goals in 18 games and finished third in points with 131. He got a league MVP nomination in 2022-23 but didn’t win despite leading the NLL in both goals and points.

The 2023-24 season will undoubtedly be one Teat will never forget. It’s not every day that your team announces that it’s moving to a new city in the middle of the season.

“Yeah, we found out about seven or eight games in,” Teat said. “We had a Zoom call with our entire team, staff, and organization. “I think it was definitely a little bit of a challenge, right? You create this awesome culture, team, and family in a certain spot, and then get that news. We had to take it in stride. We had to finish this year and leave it all on the floor as best we could. Had a ton of questions, obviously. But that’s in the past, and I’m really looking forward to the new season in Ottawa.”

Through bloodlines and environment, Teat comes by his incredible lacrosse skills honestly. The 27-year-old Brampton native has been around or playing the highest level of lacrosse for his entire life. His father, Dan Teat, was also an NLL star from 1997 to 2010. Young Jeff not only followed in his dad’s footsteps, wearing his number 15 or 51, but his father also coached him from the moment he started playing until his final year of junior,at age 21.

Like Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk, Teat’s favourite childhood memories include being at the arena with his dad, being around
his dad’s teams, and absorbing everything.

“Absolutely, I think that was my favourite part of the week,” Teat recalled. “Whether I got to be the ball boy at their games, throw a ball off the wall at practice, be in the locker room and see how the guys string their sticks and how they play, I think that was something that was a huge advantage for me and something I loved as a kid doing. It was a huge part of my childhood and something that I truly believe was really instrumental to where I got to now.”

Like many Canadian kids, Teat played hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer. But he moved to lacrosse full-time in 10th grade at the Hill Academy in Caledon, Ontario, billed as Canada’s number one lacrosse program. The prep school also has golf and hockey programs and features notable alums like Mitch Marner and Laura Stacey.

Once Teat began to focus on lacrosse, things took off, and he continued to pursue a professional career like his dad. In fact, he planned for nothing else. When asked what non-lacrosse job he might have been interested in, Teat admitted he loved the sport so much that he never thought about a plan B.

“I don’t know if this is a good thing, but I’ve always banked on lacrosse,” Teat said. “I didn’t think there was another option for me, to be honest, so I never really thought that far, which is a good thing. Looking back on it, maybe it’s always good to have a plan B. But for me, growing up, it was this or nothing.”

To say that Teat is fully immersed in the sport would be a wild understatement. He’s preparing for the Ottawa Black Bears’ first season in December by playing for the New York Atlas in the Premier Lacrosse League this summer. The PLL is a professional outdoor 10-on-10 field lacrosse league with a 10-game season. The Bears and the NLL play five-on-five indoor box lacrosse in the winter, with an 18-game schedule.

As of this writing, Teat already leads the PLL in assists this summer, helping the Atlas to a 3 and 0 record to start this season. But through all of his accomplishments in the sport, one of the things Teat is most proud of is representing Canada on the world stage.

“Yeah, I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Canada for three world tournaments now, and I’m still looking to top that off with a gold medal,” Teat said. “Any time you get the opportunity to put on the Team Canada jersey is always special, no matter who you’re playing or where you’re playing. And that’s always been at the top of my list.”

As if that weren’t enough, he also coaches kids during the week. Teat returned to “The Hill” and now works with the younger grade 8 players. He says he’s open to continuing at higher levels after his playing days.

“Yeah, I love coaching,” Teat said. “I love playing more than anything, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to coach when I can as well. I’ve got an amazing group up at the Hill Academy. My grade eights are super grateful, super thankful, and I love coaching those guys.”

As one of the game’s top players, Teat certainly has much to offer today’s young players. He shared some of the best life advice he’s picked up in his lacrosse journeys.

“Two things kinda pop into my head,” Teat said. “Well done is always better than well said. Actions speak louder than words. It’s something I carry close to my chest. Another one is to be a great teammate. I think there are a lot of things that fall under that umbrella. Almost everything does. Do your best to be a great teammate, no matter what the circumstances are.”

That’s the plan as Teat, wearing his dad’s old number 51, leads the Black Bears into Ottawa in less than six months. Teat doesn’t have many ties to the nation’s capital beyond a hockey tournament or two when he was a kid. But he is pumped to be here and knows local lacrosse fans will love the team and the league as a new entertainment option.

“Hopefully, we can get as many people out as possible,” Teat said. “We’re a competitive, fun team. We play with a chip on our shoulder. The game is extremely fast. It’s up and down, and it’s physical. It’s something that every time somebody tunes in for the first time, they enjoy watching.

“And hopefully, from our perspective, we can maybe inspire a younger kid to pick up a stick and play lacrosse.”

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