Wray not in party mood

DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 6:16 AM ET

It was a party, all right. The National Lacrosse League champions banner was unfurled and hoisted to the dusty Pengrowth Saddledome rafters, a precious keepsake from last season's triumph, while fireworks rattled the roof.

Cartoonishly huge championship rings were handed out to all Calgary Roughnecks who earned the right to wear one. That is, all who made the hefty downpayment last season with enough blood, sweat and tears to soak a team jersey.

Political luminaries were escorted onto the floor to pay tribute to the title-holders (maybe scoring a vote or two in the process) while local sports heroes, past and present, were on hand to welcome Calgary's pro lacrosse squad to our city's pantheon of champions.

Loyal fans showed their support too, turning out in droves while toasting their Roughnecks with a steady stream of draft beer (although they honour that tradition every game).

Roughnecks defender Taylor Wray, meanwhile, was also present and accounted for, collecting his ring along with his teammates during the impressive pre-game ceremony.

But unlike the rest of the Roughnecks, Wray was in no mood to celebrate and in no shape to play. A broken leg suffered in a training accident in the fall has sidelined the Edmonton product, doubly impressive last season as NLL rookie of the year and co-winner of the league's top defender honours.

The latest prognosis suggests the 23-year-old will be mothballed until at least the end of February.

Last night, he was relegated to watching with friends and family from the stands as the Roughnecks battled the visiting San Jose Stealth.

"It's a fun night to watch the banner go up but the team has more important things on their minds than last year," said Wray, who is walking and hopes to be working out again with his teammates by the end of February.

"It's frustrating (to not play in the home opener) but it's frustrating being on the sidelines any time, especially now that the season's started."

Wray hasn't pencilled in a date to return to action, although a Feb. 18 home game against Anaheim or March 13 in Denver are possibilities, yet he's wary of pressing too hard during his rehabilitation.

"The worst thing that could happen would be to push it too soon and come back and re-injure it, so I'm not going to jump the gun," warned Wray, who underwent surgery less than four weeks ago. "I'll wait until it's 100 percent and the trainers are comfortable with me playing again."

Wray's mixed emotions haven't gone unnoticed by the rest of the Roughnecks franchise. Head coach Chris Hall acknowledged he sympathizes for his star defender, whose loss leaves a gaping hole in the defending champs' roster.

"It's heartbreaking for him because he's such an emotional guy, such a passionate player, so passionate about the game," Hall pointed out before last night's contest. "He's going through so much anguish after the tremendous season he had last year and now, to be sitting and watching as we start down this year's path, is very hard for him.

"But he's a tremendous person, a great leader, mature beyond his years and so he's managing to get himself through it."

Hall was relieved to see his top draft pick from last year back on his feet after surgery and expects Wray to return by the end of next month.

Wray's return will improve the Roughnecks' condition too, while advancing their chances of earning more of those priceless rings.


Videos

Photos