John P. Hassell, GOAT from 1997 to 2012
by Graham Withers. December 2012
One thing I really wanted to get at in talking about how much time John's dedicated to frisser over the years is that in ultimate you need great teams and great teammates to be great yourself. Alone, any one of the GOATS can step onto any field in the world, at any time and ball. But any player will tell you that all the individual accolades are meaningless without success for your team. Team success only comes with hundreds and thousands of hours running with and throwing to one and other, being on for universe points together, riding the highs of improbable come-backs and playing again together after devastating collapses. For many years, John slept close enough to Andy that they could hold hands (even while living in different apartments) but maybe that's going too far...
If you don't know your teammates, basically learn to read their minds and most importantly earn their trust, you might be a great player but the greatest team successes - sunday wins, championships, even national team selections, will be rare and fleeting.
He's never been someone to ride his talents alone, showing up to an occasional practice and expecting to shine come Sunday. Arriving late on Saturday AND Sunday? Almost certainly, but rarely missing a practice.
John put in a ridiculous commitment to his teams over the years. And while there have been few players who can leave a full field huck sitting out in front of a deep strike like he can, his most memorable plays with GOAT and with Furious came on split second decisions to throw to players he'd spent years building a relationship with. Without that commitment to those teams, the ladies of ultimate might still remember him but the man-crush of Seattle's elite open players might never have existed.
As a leader, John's career began leading by example; more with performance than pontificating. As one former GOAT put it, "for the first few years as captain, he'd just listen to what everyone said and then paraphrase the important stuff." Fortunately, Andy was there to generously fill in the blanks with move-by-move reenactments and existential ponderings.
Later, with plenty of research into "speeching" and some dedicated prep, John would regularly come up with 2 well-phrased, thoughtful and stunningly graphic speech points (ref. Drowned Puppies), along with a third that you could only imagine. Recounting John's excellent leadership and particularly his talent as a motivational force at halftime to one of the long retired, original GOAT - he was shocked, "John Hassell? That guy just chuckled and smiled the entire year." (For those who weren't around for Hass-2001, think Danimal on valium).
All of us who've played with John have become better players for it. His world championships are great and all but his real legacy I think will be his role in tilting the balance of elite ultimate eastward, and specifically to Toronto. The country's and the world's best players have come to play with GOAT often because they'd heard of Hass but I think they keep on coming back because of the culture of performance and camaraderie that he has done so much over the years to foster.
What most of this team doesn't know and what only the oldest guys on the team experienced was that elite Toronto ultimate was 1. not very successful and 2. THE least fun team to play against (think Ring of Fire at it's worst, on acid) prior to the time that Hass took a leadership role in GOAT.
I'm not saying that it's all John's doing but he was the Ahab of this righted ship. Looking ahead, there are amazing changes coming for elite ultimate in Toronto. We have some of the brightest lights both present and future in the sport and collectively you've shown your ability to compete and win at the highest level in the post-Hass, video-game obsessed, uncomfortable jeans wearing era.
To keep this adventure in Toronto successful, fulfilling and fun I'd highly suggest taking a moment and thinking of the role Hass played in your frisser careers and embodying his commitment, humility and ridiculous flick-bomb in your frisser future.
Now back to work...