Breaking the bank

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

What's the quickest way to stoke an already brightly-burning rivalry?

Why, throw some gas on the fire, of course.

Calgary Roughnecks majority owner and president Brad Banister pulled out the fuel can yesterday and doused this weekend's National Lacrosse League tilt between his squad and the visiting Colorado Mammoth (7:30 p.m., 'Dome, Ch. 27). It was an early start to the usual game-week hype.

"It's the typical New York Yankees type team coming to town," said Banister. "We hate them and they hate us. It's David vs. Goliath, again."

Despite the fact Calgary is the defending NLL champions, the Mammoth -- like last season -- are seen as the team to beat in the NLL by most pundits.

Colorado went a league-best 13-3 last season before Calgary beat them in the West Division final en route to the Riggers' Champion's Cup victory over the Buffalo Bandits.

That game, in part, has helped Calgary and Colorado develop one of the NLL's most bitter rivalries.

"Well, actually, I think it is the biggest rivalry right now," said Banister. "Even their fans can't stand us."

The Mammoth has been labelled 'the Yankees of the NLL' by some critics due to the team's deep pockets and ability to attract top free agents, many of which the Roughnecks had pursued. The Mammoth are owned by Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which also owns the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, NBA's Denver Nuggets and the Pepsi Center.

After last year's early playoff exit, the Mammoth went out in the off-season and picked up some more big names, signing forwards Chris Prat and Dan Stroup and defenders Mark Miyashita and Pat Coyle.

"They have an open cheque book in Colorado," said Banister. "They're owned by a big machine out there and they take advantage of that.

"There is no rule against it," he conceded. "But I think it hurts every team in the league."

Colorado drew first blood this season, beating the Roughnecks 12-7 Jan. 1 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. It was the first time either team had beat the other at home.

"They got their monkey off their back," said Banister. "Now it's time for us to do the same."

QUICK STICKS: The NLL announced time changes to two of the Calgary Roughnecks remaining six home games yesterday to accomadate TV broadcasts. The Roughnecks home tilt against the Anaheim Storm Feb. 18 will now start at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. and the team's game against the Arizona Sting April 3 will start at 1 p.m. instead of 2 p.m.


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