Last Saturday’s Lizards game had a different feel for faceoff specialist Greg “The Beast” Gurenlian, and it wasn’t because it was his first home game since announcing his retirement from Major League Lacrosse following the 2017 season.
It was because his four-month old son, Jackson, was in the stands watching him play for the first time.
“I was so excited to have my son in the stands, even though he had no idea where he was,” Gurenlian said. “I got to hold him right after the game, and that was a total dream come true. The thing that was most surreal for is that I’d always wondered if I’d be able to hang around in the league long enough to have my son or daughter watch me.”
The 33-year-old’s son, his first child, is one of three main reasons why the 2015 MVP is moving on from MLL. As outlined in a post pinned on his Twitter account, Gurenlian said his hope of playing in the World Games in 2018 and the fact that he had accomplished everything he had ever dreamed of in the MLL as other reasons for retirement.
News of his decision was met with a mixed bag. He said those closest to him — friends, family, teammates — understood. But he said fans were unhappy because he’s still in the prime of his career.
Still, Gurenlian is satisfied with the opportunity to spend more time with his family and the FaceOff Academy, a lacrosse skills organization which he co-founded which travels to camps and clinics around the country.
And so Gurenlian’s retirement tour, so to speak, is in full swing. Gurenlian said he doesn’t expect “anybody to do me any favors or celebrate me,” but part of his reasoning behind announcing his retirement before the season, as opposed to after, was to give his fans at least one last chance to watch him play.
“The fans deserve to know ahead of time,” he said.
Gurenlian has his sights set on the 2018 World Games in Israel, seeking a gold medal after losing to Canada in the 2014 championship game in Denver.
International and MLL rules differ, as do the styles of play, hence why Gurenlian believes it’s necessary to leave the MLL and focus on training. He said he’ll focus on being in “better cardio shape” because of the potential to play “six or seven games in a week.”
Leaving MLL also gives him the opportunity to focus more time and energy on his students at the FaceOff Academy.
“It’s going to give me an opportunity to be around and help my athletes during the summer,” he said. “That I’m pumped about, being accessible for them.”
For now, his attention is still squarely on the Lizards, a team off to a 1-1 start after a 13-7 loss to the Denver Outlaws at home.
“I want to help this team win one more time,” Gurenlian said. “It’s a great roster, a great staff. I want to win.”
He’ll be extra motivated to perform with his son watching from the Shuart Stadium bleachers. As for whether or not Jackson will be a lacrosse player like his dad, Gurenlian has other ideas.
“Obviously, he’s going to be around the sport,” he said. “I kind of just want him to be a world-famous DJ so we can save money on college.”
The Lizards are next in action on May 13, on the road against the Atlanta Blaze.