Don't quit your day jobs

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

Working stiffs during the week. Professional athletes on the weekend.

Such is life for most players in the National Lacrosse League.

With an average salary this season of $14,000 US in the NLL, not many guys can live by lacrosse alone. Some of the top players in the league -- through added compensation, summer contracts and sponsorships by lacrosse manufacturers -- do nothing but play the game year-round.

The majority, however, work 9-to-5 jobs and fight to strike a balance between their 'real lives' and the ones they lead as weekend warriors in front of thousands of fans.

Sun lacrosse writer Ty Pilson looks at four Roughnecks players and the very different lives they lead between games.

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RYAN McNISH

* 23-year-old rookie defender.

* Occupation: Corporal in the Canadian Forces. Aviation systems technician based at CFB Edmonton.

You think it would be stressful getting tasked with shutting down Colorado Mammoth superstar Gary Gait -- the game's most prolific scorer -- in your first NLL game?

It was a daunting task for rookie defender Ryan McNish back on Jan. 1 when the Roughnecks opened the 2005 season -- but he says it was nothing compared to the stress of his day job as a Canadian Forces helicopter mechanic.

"When you're fixing trucks," said McNish, "the worst thing that's going to happen if something goes wrong is they're going to be stuck on the side of the road.

"Helicopters are much different. You have to take your job very seriously, that's for sure. But you're not working on them by yourself. Every job you do, another person comes to inspect it just to make sure you're doing a good job and everything is safe."

McNish, a corporal, is part of the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at CFB Edmonton. McNish and his co-workers are tasked with the maintenance and repair of 18 Griffin CH146 helicopters.

The Winnipeg native, who joined the Canadian Forces straight out of high school six years ago, is scheduled to work a five-day week, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, McNish, who's single, takes part in basic training for two hours from 7 to 9 a.m. before he goes to the shop.

McNish doesn't get any breaks from his bosses when it comes to taking time off for games and practices.

Still, he said the military has been very supportive of him playing professional lacrosse.

"The only concern they had was they didn't want to give me a special ride," said McNish.

"So it's always guaranteed I put in a 40-hour work week, whether I'm coming in on a Saturday or working overtime."

If he needs a Friday off to travel, for example, he'll put in two 12-hour shifts during the week to make up the hours.

"I'm in the maintenance section," said McNish, "so we tear the helicopters down completely, depending on how many hours on the air frame, and we go looking for problems to ensure they don't run into those problems when they're in the air."

The hulking 6-ft. 2-in., 230-pounder said despite how busy his life has become, he counts his blessings every day.

"The way I look at it, I'm very lucky," said McNish.

"I have two great jobs I love doing. Life doesn't get any better than that."

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KYLE GOUNDREY

* 29-year-old Calgary assistant captain is playing in his fifth NLL season, fourth with the Roughnecks.

* Occupation: Steel fabricator

When Kyle Goundrey tells you he's a steel fabricator, you want to ask him right away if he builds choppers or hot rods.

With the deluge of shows on TV right now such as American Chopper, American Hot Rod and Great Biker Build-off, working with metal is definitely the in-thing at the moment.

Goundrey laughs.

"No, I don't build choppers," he said. "I could, though."

Goundrey lives in Surrey, B.C., but works in nearby Delta at a shop that manufactures saw-mill equipment.

He's been plying his trade there for eight years.

Unfortunately for him, the shop runs on a Tuesday-Saturday schedule, meaning Goundrey -- paid on an hourly basis -- often takes a financial hit to play for the Roughnecks.

"It hurts," admitted Goundrey. "But I've made the choice to do this. It's worth the sacrifice."

The NLL championship ring he wears after winning the title last season will attest to that.

Goundrey said, like many of his teammates, he wouldn't be able to play for the Roughnecks without allowances from his place of employment.

"Luckily, I have an understanding boss, for one," said Goundrey.

"And two, if it is busy and they need me, I can make the time up whether it's coming in early or staying late."

Goundrey also has to balance family commitments with work and play. He has a three-year-old daughter and his wife Theresa is pregnant with the couple's second.

"Mondays I have off so that's my family day," he explained.

"You just make the best you can when you have the time."

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CHRIS GILL

* 32-year-old forward is playing in his ninth NLL season and his first with the Roughnecks.

* Occupation: Firefighter with the City of Vancouver.

Chris Gill becomes an absentee parent and husband when the NLL season begins.

The veteran southpaw said his wife Sandra is very supportive. His young daughters, ages two and four, aren't always so forgiving.

"It's a sacrifice, definitely," said Gill, who joined the Vancouver Fire Department 12 years ago. "When I decided to come play for Calgary, I basically told my her I wouldn't be home for three and a half months. She supports me, though.

"It's tough on the kids. They get a little out of sorts when they don't see Dad for four or five days."

Firefighting is a popular profession among the Roughnecks. John Olson and Craig Gelsvik are also firefighters on the West Coast. Gelsvik works in Vancouver -- at a different fire hall than Gill -- while Olson is based in Coquitlam.

"Vancouver is a lot busier than Coquitlam," said Gill. "So Gelsvik and I ride Olson pretty good."

Gill, who was recently transferred to a fire hall near the UBC campus after being stationed on the city's east side for three years, works a rotating schedule with two- day shifts, 10 hours each, and two night shifts, 14 hours in duration, before four days off.

Life is easy for Gill when games and travel days fall on his days off.

But more often than not, that's not the case.

"I take holidays or I switch shifts with other guys," said Gill. "It can be a bit tough. But's it's something I've been doing for a long time."

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TRACEY KELUSKY

* 29-year-old captain in his third season with the Roughnecks.

* Occupation: Community relations manager with the Roughnecks.

Riggers captain Tracey Kelusky has lived the life of a gypsy the last five years.

But during the NLL season, he settles down with the Roughnecks.

Kelusky also works in the team's office as the its community relations manager. And he says that works out just fine.

"A lot of the guys work and it's tough for them to get away from their jobs," said the 29-year-old Kelusky. "With me being available, it works better. That's one of the main things here, to do that kind of stuff. Talk on the radio, do the news thing, charity stuff -- whatever needs to be done."

That includes calling Roughnecks season-ticket holders personally each year to see if they plan to renew.

"Last year, when teammate Kaleb Toth and I were both doing it, and some people were hesitant to renew because of work commitments or whatever, it was a big thing to have Kaleb or myself call them up," said Kelusky.

"We're just regular guys and we're doing this for the love of the game and we want to promote the game and people see that."

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OTHER BUSY BODIES

KALEB TOTH -- Oilfield sales rep (Calgary)

JESSE PHILLIPS -- Electrician (Langley, B.C.)

JASON WULDER -- City of Vancouver Sewer Department (Vancouver)

ANDY OGILVIE -- Cable television technician (Burnaby, B.C.)

TAYLOR WRAY -- Assistant men's field lacrosse coach at Queen's University of Charlotte in North Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.)

DEVAN WRAY -- Credit officer, Canadian Western Bank (Calgary)

LEWIS RATCLIFF -- Personal trainer, National Sport Development (Calgary)


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