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Jax man has firepower

When he's not playing lacrosse,
by: KATIE HARTLEY, Pat Jones carries a stick for his job as a defenseman and faceoff specialist with the Portland LumberJax.
Left: In his other job, with a police force in Canada, Jones carries heavier equipment.

He never had any fascination with a superhero, and he hardly saw himself as a do-gooder. Pat Jones, a defenseman with the Portland LumberJax lacrosse team, just wanted to be in on the action as part of Canada's version of a SWAT team.

'I want to be there when things are taking place, and not after the fact,' says Jones, a constable with the Durham Regional Police Service near his native Oshawa, Ontario. 'I thought it'd be an exciting job, and I wanted to give back to the community. I didn't see myself sitting behind a desk.'

Jones, Portland's faceoff man, works for the Durham police force during the week, guarding one of Ontario's nuclear plants near Oshawa. He went to the University of Western Ontario and then Ontario Police College to be a police officer, and worked a street beat for about four years before getting a job with Durham's tactical unit. He has been guarding a nuclear plant for about three years.

Being an armored responder and patrolling a nuclear plant is a steppingstone. Eventually, he wants to be part of the tactical unit that responds to crises every day in and around Toronto.

Conflict's always possible

For now, Jones packs an M-4 rifle, a Glock pistol, a Taser and a few other weapons and sometimes rides around the plant in an armored truck with five other police officers. The Ontario plants haven't been breached since Sept. 11, 2001, when the Canadian government started beefing up security and fencing to prevent potential terrorist attacks.

But Jones, 29 and single, trains and prepares every day for the possibility of conflict.

'You're training for something, and who knows if it's going to happen,' he says. 'I try to take the mind-set that it could be any day. We're professionals, and we want to do the job right.'

The situation is fairly intense, even though there hasn't been trouble at the plant.

'We're carrying automatic weapons, and there are thousands of people who work there,' Jones says. 'The province depends on the power, there's huge money involved. It's taken very seriously.'

In the next five to 10 years, Jones wants to make the jump to become a member of a full-fledged tactical unit - basically a SWAT team, which stands for Special Weapons and Tactics.

'It's a competitive unit,' he says.

Two jobs 'can be taxing'

A six-year veteran of the National Lacrosse League, Jones commutes to all practices, camps and games in Portland or when the Jax are on the road. He and Brodie Merrill and three coaches are the only LumberJax personnel to commute from the Eastern time zone. Jones uses his holiday pay to travel and play with the Jax - after working 50 to 60 hours during the week.

'I'm used to working and sleeping odd hours,' he says. 'It can be a little taxing, but it doesn't bother me.'

Jax General Manager-coach Derek Keenan says Jones keeps himself in great shape, and Jones loves lacrosse, so it's an easy commitment for him to make.

The Jax captain, Jones takes all faceoffs, engaging in the rugbylike scrum for the ball with the opposing player. He's good at faceoffs but admittedly not among the NLL's best, a level that includes Philadelphia's Geoff Snider. Jones also plays regular shifts on defense, including penalty kill.

Jones had to give up lacrosse for about four years in his early 20s after two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries on his left knee. That helps him appreciate being in the NLL, and he wants to play as long as possible, even though the knee still bothers him sometimes.

'He values playing the game a lot more than other guys do,' Keenan says.

'I enjoy my job, but lacrosse is my true passion,' Jones says. 'I'm living a dream, and I'll do anything to play.'

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Lumberjax

Next: The LumberJax (5-8) play Philadelphia (8-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Rose Garden.

• The Jax split two games with San Jose last weekend, losing at the Rose Garden 12-9 on Saturday after leading early, and winning at San Jose 12-10 on Sunday. The Jax had a four-goal third-quarter burst and then held on at the end. … New goalie Matt Disher played well in both games. The difference was the power play unit, which was 1 of 4 Saturday and 4 of 8 Sunday. 'We played really well (Sunday),' GM and coach Derek Keenan says. 'There wasn't a great flow to the game, but we gutted it out.' … In the two games, Ryan Powell had four goals and four assists, Derek Malawsky three and five, and Dan Dawson three and nine.

• The Jax have a 3-4 home record. The Philly game is their last at home before road games at San Jose and Buffalo. 'If we're going to make the playoffs, we're going to earn it,' Keenan says. The coach believes that seven wins will get the Jax into the National Lacrosse League playoffs. 'If we win out, we'd definitely be in,' he says.

- Jason Vondersmith