'Neck on the line

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

The National Lacrosse League has been dubbed 'The War on the Floor.'

It's a great sports marketing hook but seems almost in bad taste when it comes to Calgary Roughnecks defender Ryan McNish, who may soon find himself in the real war zone of Afghanistan.

The Winnipeg native, a corporal by rank, is an aviation technician who works on Griffin CH146 helicopters as part of the 408 Tactical Helicopter squadron based at CFB Edmonton.

Canada's expanding role in the former Taliban stronghold has raised the likelihood the 25-year-old McNish could be shipped there.

"There is a very good potential for me to be going overseas," said McNish, who's in his second season with the Roughnecks. "Half my squadron just left for Afghanistan. I probably won't be going over there until we send helicopters but as soon as we get some choppers over there, there will certainly be a rotation with my name on it to spend some time in Afghanistan."

So, it's more a matter of when than if, said the rugged 6-ft. 2-in., 230-pounder, nicknamed Corporal Punishment for his rank and smash-mouth playing style.

"I think with the way everything is developing over there, it's only a matter of time until

I fulfil my role," said McNish, who missed the end of last season after suffering an MCL injury that required surgery. "Like I've said before, when you sign on the dotted line to be a member of the Canadian Forces, that means having to go overseas in combat missions and peacekeeping. That's all part of the job. That's a responsibility I've accepted. Sooner or later, I'll be taking part in a mission overseas."

McNish said current tours in Afghanistan last between six and nine months but "they are getting longer."

That means there's a good chance McNish could miss part or all of next NLL season. Worst-case scenario, he gets shipped out before this season is over.

McNish has cemented his status on the Roughnecks as one of the team's best defenders. He said in the past he's lucky to have two dream jobs he loves and admits giving up lacrosse -- even short-term -- will be tough.

"Having to miss a season is not something I want to have to do," he said. "Thankfully, up until now, I haven't had to face that crossroads. Of course, I love lacrosse but the military is my full-time job. If it came up, I'd choose to go overseas. Well, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't have much say in the matter.

"The military has been very supportive of me playing lacrosse so I've been very lucky," added McNish, who puts in overtime so he can take off Thursday and Fridays on game weeks.

"So, if I miss some time to go overseas, I guess there is the trade-off."

As for entering a volatile war zone that claimed the life of Canadian soldier Robert Costall this week, McNish said he knows the risks and accepts them.

"I'm housesitting for one of the guys in Afghanistan right now," said McNish.

"He's with the 1 PPCLI side-by-side with that soldier that got killed the other day. So, it definitely hits home.

"Almost all of my buddies -- the guys older than me -- have done tours and been overseas and they all have stories.

"It's part of life in the Canadian Forces."


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