Hill: 'I want to leave lacrosse better than I found it'
Mar 21, 2023
Sarah Griffin I Halifax Thunderbirds
Lacrosse runs in Warren Hill’s blood.
Like so many in Six Nations, from as young as he can remember, he had a lacrosse stick in his hand.
“Other kids grow up playing hockey because they dream of being in the NHL, in the states they play football because they want to be in the NFL - here in Six Nations, it’s lacrosse all the time because the goal is to play in the NLL.”
Hill grew up in a family heavily involved in the sport. His uncles Corey and Cam Bomberry both played professionally, with Cam going on to be named to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“I grew up going to their games, whether that be in Rochester or Buffalo,” he explained.
Hill also played alongside his cousin Roger Vyse for some years. Even now at the professional level, the family ties continue, with his cousin and longtime mentor Stew Monture as the offensive coordinator for the Thunderbirds.
“He’s [Stew] been someone for the past seven, eight years that has been my coach more than any other. That’s someone that I’ve learned a lot from.”
Coming from Six Nations, it was not just his own family Hill had to look up to. With the amount of lacrosse talent bred on the reserve, he’s been surrounded by the best of the best in the sport even since playing tyke.
It was in tyke around 7 or 8 years old when Hill first stepped into the net. Like so many goalie origin stories seem to go, it was a classic case of “our team didn’t have a goalie, so I decided to try it out.”
“Once I hopped in there, I didn’t have the opportunity to leave so I just rolled with it,” he laughed. “But I fell in love with the position. It’s something that I enjoy and I've never looked back.”
Hill played alongside the same group of guys for the most part from minor to the biggest stage in lacrosse.
In 2012, he and many other teammates from Six Nations made the Haudenosaunee Nationals team for the U19 World Lacrosse Championships in Finland. It was there they made history, as they defeated Team USA in a 15-13 upset victory.
“I remember our tryouts for that team. We only had about 60 kids try out, and they took a majority of us. We were fortunate to play together for a few years and to have that group go on and beat Team USA together who have probably a quarter of a million kids to choose from. It was really special.”
A few years after the win in Finland, Hill won big again with the Six Nations Rivermen as he backstopped the team to the President’s Cup.
“All of us were older this time around, but to bring that trophy back to Six Nations and represent the community and play another native community in that, that was pretty special.”
After spending two seasons playing in the NCAA at Syracuse, Hill was drafted by the Georgia Swarm in the 2017 NLL Entry Draft. Despite all his success leading up to that point as one of the premier up-and-coming goaltenders in the sport, Hill struggled to break through with the Swarm. He spent the majority of the first couple years of his professional career on the practice squad for Georgia.
“I had my personal battles getting into the league,” he said. “I didn’t see playing time with Georgia, so I spent time in the Arena Lacrosse League (ALL) in 2017 and 2018 in Ontario to put my time in and get better.”
Hill’s persistence paid off. In December 2018, he signed with the Rochester Knighthawks, earning significant playing time and eventually the starting role. Since making the move to Halifax, he’s become the heartbeat of the team and enjoyed every second of his time in The Nest.
“It gets rockin’ in there - it’s a really supportive crowd. To win for the fans in Halifax and ride that high is something I personally chase every time I’m on the floor.”
Like many goalies, Hill has his game-day superstitions but he made one thing clear: they used to be a lot worse.
“Before the game, I like to shoot around on the floor just to relax a bit. Usually, I’ll throw against the boards from one end to another. Then I’ll get closer to the boards and get some quick shots off to play bounceback with myself off the floor. But if I don’t do it right, I do it twice. If I still don’t get it right, I have to do it until I do,” he explains.
“Does that actually get me prepared for a game? I don’t know, but it’s one of those things I just have to do. “I used to be way worse back in my younger junior days or when I first got my start in the league. Everything I did every game day had to be the exact same. Now that I’m older, I’m not afraid to switch things up a little bit,” he laughed.
Whether you want to call Hill superstitious or not, it certainly seems to work for him. The “King of the Hill,” he’s evolved into one of the top young netminders in the game. With on-the-field goals of winning an NLL Championship with the Thunderbirds, and winning gold at the World Lacrosse Championship with the Haudenosaunee Nationals this summer, Hill also has high hopes for himself off the field.
“I want to leave lacrosse better than I found it,” he said. “I want to help the next generation of young goaltenders coming up. With our sport and the goaltending position, a lot of us never grew up with goalie coaches - it was usually just our parents who told us how to hold onto our stick. But when it comes to those more specific details of the position, I want to pass my knowledge down that I wasn’t taught growing up and wish I knew sooner.”