TORONTO - Steve Dietrich paid a steep price to be one of the best goaltenders in box lacrosse history.
"I had at least five concussions and tore both my knees up," he revealed when asked to divulge injuries he suffered. "I had massive concussion problems late in my career."
As he glanced at his National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame plaque after being inducted Tuesday night, he was satisfied it was a price worth paying.
"If I could start all over again, knowing the stuff I'd be going through, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat," he said. "I wish I could do it right now."
Dietrich, from Kitchener, Ont., is the 20th inductee since the pro loop started up its hall in 2006 to recognize its greats.
"It's incredibly humbling," said the 42-year-old, crediting goalies he played against for pushing him through their excellence to be the best he could be.
Dietrich was named GM of the Buffalo Bandits on July 19 and the NLL announced on July 30 his selection as the lone 2012 inductee.
Teammates in his youth nicknamed him Chugger because he was a big kid and chugged and chugged and chugged when he ran out of his crease to get a loose ball or to check an opponent.
He went on to play 18 NLL seasons: Baltimore (1992), Detroit (1994), Rochester (1995-2001), Buffalo (2002-2007), Calgary (2008), Edmonton (2009) and Toronto (2009-2010) and retired with a 60-47 career win-loss record.
Dietrich was title game MVP when he lifted Rochester to the 1997 championship and teammate Chris Driscoll remembers that night well.
"He was the difference in that game," said Driscoll. "The year before we lost in overtime against Philadelphia and I know he took it upon himself to make up for that. As competitive as he is, he took a lot on his shoulders into the next year. He really stepped up in that final in '97 and played a great game."
Pat McCready was a teammate that year, too.
"What I remember most from that year is the semifinal game," he recalled. "We were in Philadelphia and we were getting a lot of penalties that game and Chugger made save after save.
"They were on us for minutes on end with guys like Gary Gait shooting on him. Chugger was incredible. He got us to the final in Buffalo. They were heavily favoured but Chugger, Paul Gait and Dewey Jacobs, being the great players they were, gave us a chance to win.
"Chugger was that goalie who could always steal you a game or win you a game. That's what makes him a Hall of Famer."
Dietrich says the '97 final was the best game he ever played, which is amazing considering he was sick.
"I had a flu," he recalled. "Forget about what I did. For us to be able to win was incredible. We finished fourth during the regular season and nobody gave us a chance to win the championship but we did."
Dietrich was goalie of the year in 2005 and 2006, when he was also league MVP as a Bandit — the only goalie to win the award in NLL history.
"He was always mentally prepared for every game," said Darris Kilgour, who coached Dietrich in Buffalo and now helps plan the Bandits' future with him.
He was Toronto's goaltending coach the last two years, and Rock GM Terry Sanderson has worked close enough with him to know why he got the GM's job in Buffalo.
"Two key words to describe Chugger are honesty and knowledge," said Sanderson. "I don't think there are many people who know the game as well as Chug. Guys who play for him will know he's a guy they can trust and I think that's going to help him draw players to the Bandits."
Managing the Bandits is just the latest chapter in Dietrich's lifelong devotion to lacrosse.
"It's challenging but it's an incredible honour," he said. "It's a team I bled orange for for so many years. I'm excited about the challenge but when you've got the greatest player who ever played the game (in John Tavares) on your team you've always got a chance. We've got a great goalie (in Anthony Cosmo) and some great players so we've just got to build around them and we'll be OK."
Dietrich played with, against and for current Rock head coach Troy Cordingley and it was Cordingley who presented Dietrich for induction. He described his one-time roomie as a salt-of-the-earth guy and a great competitor.
"We all know how great a goaltender Chugs was but the thing that impressed me most was how he carried himself off the floor," said Cordingley. "Wherever we were and whatever we were doing, he never considered himself bigger than the game."
Goaltenders previously inducted were Sal LoCascio, Dallas Eliuk and Bob Watson. Dietrich played against them all and credited the constant competition to be the best as a big reason why he attained championship heights.
"Everybody was so good, you couldn't take a night off," said Dietrich. "You didn't want to let anything cheap in so you had to be focused. I tried to focus because I knew how good the other guy was down at the other end. We pushed each other. The level got even higher because we pushed each other every night."
In his youth, Dietrich looked up to and considered his mentor the late lacrosse goalie Bob (Buff) McCready of St. Catharines, Ont., father of Pat McCready and a coach in Buffalo early in Dietrich's career.
Dietrich also manages the amateur Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks of Major Series Lacrosse during summers.
The pro indoor league was called the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League when it was established in 1987, became the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1988 and adopted its current name in 1997.