Gary Roberts has put the kibosh on any chance of picking up his lacrosse stick and suiting up for the Calgary Roughnecks this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs left-winger and former Calgary Flame was selected by the Riggers with the second-last pick in the National Lacrosse League entry draft late Tuesday night.
Understandably, the news came as a big surprise to Roberts yesterday morning.
"At 8 a.m. this morning, some guy comes up to me and asks me for a picture and then says: 'Hey, I hear you're going to play lacrosse," Roberts told the Globe and Mail's website yesterday. "And I said: "What? He said: 'Didn't you hear, this morning, you were drafted to the Calgary Roughnecks? And I said, Not a chance."
Roberts, who played junior A lacrosse with the Whitby Warriors, won a national Minto Cup championship along with Leafs teammate and former Flame Joe Nieuwendyk in 1985 before being drafted into the NHL.
"There's not a chance (of playing for the Roughnecks)," said Roberts, who was selected by the defending NLL champions with the 65th pick in the sixth round. "I just got off the ice after playing three-on-three pond hockey at the rink here in Richmond Hill (near Toronto) and I'm having a tough time just playing hockey right now, let alone worrying about picking up lacrosse again."
Roberts' comments didn't come as a big shock to Roughnecks majority owner and president Brad Banister, who took it in stride.
"Maybe he's just negotiating a better contract," joked Banister.
Banister added he felt given how late the pick was, it was still worth selecting Roberts.
"Sometimes you have to take a chance," said Banister. "Maybe we can still talk him into coming out. Even just for a practice to throw the ball around. Maybe we can get Nieuwendyk, too. You never know."
It's highly unlikely Roberts, who was a very talented player in junior lacrosse, would even be able to play at the professional level.
"He's in great shape," said Banister. "But I don't even know if he can play still. We're taking a flyer on it. He was a good player."
Roberts, however, didn't rule out playing lacrosse again.
He deadpanned on the website: "Unless I'm locked out for two years, then maybe I'd think about it two years from now. But I'm closing in on 40 and I can't even find a job playing hockey in Europe. I guess I'm going to have to change sports."
Many NHLers played lacrosse growing up, including current Colorado Avalanche stars Joe Sakic and Adam Foote. Both regularly attend Colorado Mammoth NLL games and have supported the team since it moved to the Mile High City two years ago.
Mammoth president and GM Steve Govett laughed when asked about rumours those guys have expressed an interest to play with the Mammoth at some point, adding the idea has only been brought up in jest.
"I mean, let's be realistic here," said Govett. "These guys haven't played (lacrosse) in years. They're hockey players.
"That's what Sakic laughs about. He's laughing about the fact he hasn't played since he was 12, so obviously he couldn't do it. He keeps bugging me about coming to practice and throwing the ball around but that would be it.
"It doesn't go much beyond us laughing about it, although I think it would be fun to watch."