Wondering where fans are

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:04 AM ET

Calgary Roughnecks majority owner and president Brad Banister had a clear message for the community yesterday: Step up.

Banister's club, the defending National Lacrosse League champions, will host the league's annual all-star tilt Feb. 26 at the Saddledome and, so far, ticket sales and corporate sponsorship have been sluggish.

"I think the Stampede Board should be behind us. I think the City of Calgary is behind us. I think they should be behind us more, the province of Alberta -- even Canada," said Banister. "This is a big project and I'm scared to death that we're not going to be able to pull this off in a good fashion."

The all-star game will be beamed into 160 million homes, courtesy of NBC, CNBC Europe, CNBC Asia, The Score and Sportsnet, making it the biggest game in NLL history -- and possibly one of the most widely broadcast events in Calgary sports history.

"I don't know," said Banister. "But I think that's probably as big as anything that's ever happened to this city since the Olympics, for that many homes to be broadcast live."

The 3,300 people who bought Roughnecks season tickets were given a ducat for the all-star tilt but, so far, only another 800 tickets have been sold.

Ticket sales are sure to pick up as the game draws closer. The Roughnecks put 19,289 in the Saddledome last May for the championship final on only two weeks notice after winning the West Division final.

Still, Banister would like to see more interest sooner rather than later.

"The bottom line is I do not want to embarrass myself on Feb. 26," said Banister. "And I don't think the city of Calgary should be embarrassed, either."

Although the all-star game is Banister's priority right now, he said he would like to see more support for his team, period.

The recent news the ABA's Calgary Drillers may fold should be a wake-up call to the city, he added.

"I do not want to see this turn into a Calgary Drillers or a Calgary Cannons or whatever," said Banister. "And I don't think it will be, and nobody is saying it's going to be but we need everybody behind us. That's my plea today."

Banister said he's not looking to get rich off his team, just break even.

"We've never made money on this thing. We don't intend to make money and I don't care if we make money, I've always said that," said Banister. "I just want to break even and let this thing support itself. When I heard about the Drillers today, it scares me."

Banister said there's enough money and people in Calgary that local teams should be able to not only survive but thrive.

"It's time for this city to act like a big city and support the teams," said Banister.

"And I'm not whining or anything. I'm just saying, look, I don't want to be on the same road as the Calgary Drillers in two years."

TAKING HIS TIME: T-Wray isn't in the same situation as T.O. so he won't be coming back early.

Despite rumours to the contrary, National Lacrosse League co-defender of the year and rookie of the year Taylor Wray, out since December after breaking his ankle in training, won't be returning to the Roughnecks lineup tomorrow night when they host the Colorado Mammoth (7:30 p.m., 'Dome).

Wray, who hasn't been cleared to play by team doctor Ian Auld, said he'd rush his return if the team was in the playoffs.

"But it's Game 6 and the team's 3-2," Wray said. "The second half of the season is going to be what sets us up for the playoffs. That's more important."

Wray, who had eight screws and a plate permanently put in his ankle, is aiming to return for either Game 8 at home against Anaheim Feb. 18 or Game 9 in Colorado March 13.


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