John Keller is well known to lacrosse fans in the Capital District and beyond as one of the game’s elite players. A native of Castleton, NY, Keller led Columbia High School to a NYSPHSAA Section 2 championship while earning All-America recognition in 1986.
After High School, Keller attended Union College, graduating in 1991 with an engineering degree. He left Union as the program’s all-time leading scorer, a three time collegiate All-American, and a 1991 North-South Senior All-Star Game selection. In 1992, Keller was selected to play in the NLL with the Boston Blazers where he played for three seasons.
He is a member of the Columbia High School, Union College, and Adirondack Chapter of US Lacrosse Halls of Fame, and in 2014 was named a member of the Lake Placid Silver Anniversary Men’s All-Star Team. John recently took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax about his history of participation in the Lake Placid Summit Classic, and the squad he leads – Team Pure Performance.
How many years have you personally played at Lake Placid, and with what teams over the years?
JK: I have played in the tournament every year since it started —so I guess this year would make it my 28th straight year. It started when I was 21 years old and I am now 49. When the tournament started with seven teams I played for the local Mohawk All –Star team and as the years passed and more teams and divisions were added I played for several more. Great teams such as Bedding Barn , New England Knights , Sailin’ Shoe, and Raymour & Flanigan. It wasn’t till seven years ago all my friends and I decided to all get back together and start a team—Pure Performance— in the 38 and over division.
You were named as a member of the Lake Placid 25th Anniversary team a few years ago. What does that recognition mean to you?
JK: Being named to the 25th Anniversary Lake Placid team might be go down as my biggest and proudest lacrosse accomplishment to date. Being named with some of the greatest lacrosse players of all time such as Gary Gait, Casey Powell, and Tim Goldstein really makes you sit back and reflect on where you have been and what you have done. Something about the aura of the tournament and its tradition takes front seat to the All American and Hall of Fame honors I’ve received over the years. I know standing on stage with Tim Schurr and Ryan Powell—both former world team players –our consensus was that this might be the highest lacrosse honor any of us may have ever received. Our Pure Performance Team also had two other players selected to the Anniversary team—-Jason Gifford and Randy Fraser, and the following year two more of our players Cort and Blake Kim were selected as Legends of Lake Placid -another significant recognition of the tournament.
How did the Team Pure Performance get formed and how many years has the team been playing together?
JK: I started Pure Performance—formerly Easton Lacrosse and Monster Energy—seven years ago. A bunch of us were all scattered on different teams and decided—probably over a few beers—that if we all got back together we could probably win the whole tournament. Creating the team was very simple—our offense is loaded with all former NYSPHSAA Section 2 players (barely enough balls to go around with all the scorers we have) and a couple guys I used to play pro lacrosse with, and the defense is made up of everyone I didn’t want to go against from other teams defenses.
Tell us a little about the team’s roster composition?
JK: The team is comprised of roughly 75% former Section 2 players and the remaining 25% are players I played with over the years in College , pro box or in USCLA (club ball). The roster has stayed mainly the same over the past seven years with the except of an addition of a few young guns like Mike Regan and JD Jones who are now over 38.
How has the team done in Lake Placid over the years?
JK: Going into this year’s tournament we are 23-1 with five championships in six years. We lost in last year’s championship by one goal. Obviously this year’s goal is to avenge that loss and get our belt back!!!
Other than Lake Placid, do you play in other events together?
JK: Yes we play in several indoor and outdoor tournaments throughout the year. Most of our roster sticks together and plays in the open division in the Mohawk Summer League as well. Playing together as long as all of us have definitely helps us out in tight games in tournaments like Lake Placid.
Will the team be able to get any practices in before Lake Placid?
JK: We don’t hold any practices as several players on our roster now live on the West Coast , down South, or over in Boston. With that said 50% of our roster plays together all summer so we are much further ahead than most teams that head up to Lake Placid.
Any plans for the team to spend time together off the field in Lake Placid?
JK: Yes –we’re always together up there. It used to be just us but now we all have families that come up and enjoy the lacrosse camaraderie with us. Most of us get houses together with our families. Every year on the Friday night of the tournament our sponsor —Pure Performance—puts on a big dinner for the team and families at Lisa G’s. Feel free to stop in—the more the merrier!!!
What memories stand out to you the most from your years of playing at Lake Placid?
JK: Boy there are so many—some of which I can’t tell you about!!! But of the ones I can, I would say playing attack with my two of my best friends Cort and Blake Kim (we usually only get one tournament a year together), or playing attack with a young Kevin and Mike Leveille (two kids I watched grow up and become two of the best lacrosse players anyone has ever seen) or scoring five goals in a game against a then current world team defenseman John Glatzel. But for every great moment I have had on the field I could give you two fond memories I have had off the field in Placid. The fact that my parents , sister and now my wife and three kids have never missed coming up to watch us play in Lake Placid certainly makes the tournament more fulfilling. Perhaps that’s what makes this the greatest tournament and one that I will go to until I can’t go anymore!!
Team Pure Performance’s begins 2017 Lake Placid tourney play against Legends Lacrosse on Thursday August 3rd at 11:00 AM on Field 2. For complete Team Pure Performance schedule info visit: SCHEDULE
For info on the team’s sponsor visit: PURE PERFORMANCE
Team Pure Performance 2016 pics courtesy of Blake Kim: