Ask Paul Gait about the biggest surprise of his storied lacrosse career and he’s likely to tell you it’s the fact both he and his twin brother Gary are likely the first two professional lacrosse players to make their entire living from the game.

“Lacrosse chose us,” he says.

As boys they excelled at anything that could be played—soccer, basketball, rugby, track and field. Take your pick, there’s a good chance they could have taken it pro. Yet, in the end it was lacrosse. First as players, then coaches, then equipment distributors, and from here, who knows. In today’s world of multi-million dollar contracts and ballooning endorsement deals for athletes in other major sports, it doesn’t sound like much of a statement—“to make your entire living from the game”—but first consider where they came from, where the game of lacrosse was, and where Paul Gait went with it.

Born in Victoria, Paul learned the game beside his twin brother Gary and next door neighbours Greg and Grant Pepper, also twins their age. Their father Fred and Greg and Grant’s father, Bob, first introduced them to lacrosse and coached the boys until age eleven. Looking to take their play to another level, the dads hired former Victoria Shamrocks player Ron McNeill as coach. Both Gaits attribute much of their success to McNeill now, ahead of his time in terms of teaching young kids technical skills and visualization, meditation, interval training, and nasal breathing techniques that just weren’t taught at that time.

In 1986, Paul won a full scholarship to New York’s Syracuse University and with brother Gary led the Orange to three national championships in four years. Three times Paul earned All-American standing and was named MVP of the 1989 NCAA Championship tournament.

Upon graduation, professional lacrosse was just taking hold in the US. A Kansas entertainment company specializing in monster trucks had established a fledgling indoor professional lacrosse league and needed star power. Enter Paul and Gary Gait. Over Paul’s thirteen-year pro career he won nine championships: one Minto Cup (with Esquimalt-Victoria Legion), four Mann Cups (one with Victoria), three NLL championships, and one MLL title.

The only player whose team and individual accomplishments rival those of his twin brother, it’s not difficult to see why Paul’s name enters the discussion for greatest lacrosse player of all-time early and often. Four times he led the NLL in goal scoring, eight times was named to the First-Team All Pro, and in 2002 he won the league’s MVP award. Paul currently ranks as the NLL’s third all-time goal-scorer (410) and eighth in points (712). Lacrosse Magazine and the NCAA named him to its All-Twentieth Century Team and 25th Anniversary Team respectively. Four times he represented Canada at the ILF World Championships, earning All-World honours in 1994.

Like Gary, Paul is also inducted into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame and the NLL Hall of Fame. Currently, Paul remains heavily involved with the Gaits’ own brand of lacrosse equipment, Gait Lacrosse based in Syracuse.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.