Showcase showdown

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

In the spirit of getting even more Calgarians interested in Saturday's NLL all-star game, Kaleb Toth said he'd volunteer to throw the first punch.

"If I've got to, I've got to," smiled the Roughnecks fan favourite, well aware many attend games to see scraps.

"You never know what could happen -- we almost had a fight at last year's all-star game. It stemmed from league play. I think there are a lot of guys who don't like each other."

As a native Calgarian whose lacrosse passion supplements his oil patch income, Toth is willing to do whatever it takes to grab the attention of those who plan on making a day of it down at the 'Dome.

After all, Toth and Roughnecks all-stars Tracey Kelusky, Lewis Ratcliff, Craig Gelsvik and Jesse Phillips heard through the grapevine there's a sizeable plasma TV for the MVP.

"There are incentives for the winning team but I'm not sure what they are -- a couple hundred bucks or some DVDs or CDs or something," smiled Toth, aware other pro leagues hand out cars and trucks for such honours.

"Those plasmas are worth like $10,000! That'll look nice in my basement."

With NBC and its various affiliates carrying the contest live to a potential 160 million homes all over the world, the incentive to showcase the very best the game has to offer involves much more than Eminem's latest offering.

"We want to make sure it's entertaining so people who've never really watched lacrosse before will step on NBC when they're flipping through to see what it's all about," said Toth. "Every sport needs backing across North America and we know we have a chance to do that."

Roughnecks owner Brad Banister knows that, too, which is why he flipped a lid a few weeks back in an effort to get Calgarians to buy tickets for the event.

"I call it like I see it and I'd do it again," said Banister of his attention-grabbing rant aimed at spurring on lagging ticket sales. "I grew up here and know it's a last-minute city. But I needed to start buying fireworks, booking a band and setting up all the festivities we have planned to make this an all-day celebration."

More than anything else, he wanted to make sure the city showed well on TV, as the afternoon broadcast will rank second only to the 1988 Olympics in terms of potential audiences watching an event out of Cowtown.

Kelusky agreed with Banister's tactics.

"I think it was accurate to call people out," said Kelusky, expecting more than 14,000 vociferous fans to attend the game.

"Look at how big this game is for the NLL and the city and I think he was being a proud Calgarian and saying, 'C'mon, I'm proud and the rest of the city should be, too.' "

Apparently it is, as ticket sales now sit just below 10,000. While the lower bowl is essentially full, plenty of $30 and $40 tickets are still available for an event that includes a pancake breakfast and kids carnival as well as the game, the skills competition, a post-game party and a Canada vs. U.S. under-15 game.

Banister is hoping for a typically healthy walkup crowd.

"I know the next two days are going to be busy at our office and that it's going to be a great day," said Banister. "I'm confident but I'm worried all the way through."

Leaving nothing to chance, Banister has chartered a flight from Toronto, where the Eastern all-stars will fly out after the Rock's game Friday night. He also had Mayor Dave Bronconnier -- who was eyed up by Kelusky -- on board to endorse the game yesterday.

"I bet he'd be mean out there -- he's pretty big," said Kelusky.

Well, maybe Toth will find a dance partner.

"I would like to think there's going to be a fight or two," smiled Banister. "Let's hope."

Kaleb, the floor is yours.


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