Benesch's Toronto homecoming no joke

DARREN FRIESEN, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

Anyone with good buddies knows practical jokes come with the territory.

Which is why Ryan Benesch didn't believe it at first when a friend called to tell him he'd been traded for one of the National Lacrosse League's biggest stars.

Benesch, the first-overall pick in the NLL's entry draft, laughed off the notion he'd been dealt by the San Jose Stealth to the Toronto Rock for former league MVP Colin Doyle. He soon found out it was no joke.

"(Rock backup goalie) Mike Poulin called me in the afternoon and told me I got traded and I didn't believe him, so I called my GM (Johnny Mouradian in San Jose) and he finally told me," said Benesch. "I didn't even find out from the team or GM or anything. I had to get a phone call from one of my teammates now. It was a surprise, yeah, but it was a good one."

In what will likely go down in history as one of the league's biggest blockbusters, Benesch was dealt for Doyle, Darren Halls and the Rock's first-round pick this summer.

Doyle, one of the most dominant left-handed forwards in the game, was the biggest surprise in the deal, which saw Kevin Fines, Chad Thompson and two first-round draft picks go to Hogtown.

For Benesch, who was in Calgary last night at the Rock beat the Roughnecks 12-9, the deal was shocking because not only had he never played a game in the NLL but the deal included a bona fide star.

"I was down there for three weeks for training camp and we all went home for (the Christmas) holidays, so I left all my stuff there because I didn't think I would get traded," said Benesch.

"I thought I'd be down there for at least a season and get one out of the way but they got, in my opinion, the best player in the league out there right now."

You won't find Benesch complaining, though, as he is a native of Kitchener, Ont., so returning home was a welcome opprotunity.

"It's the team that I grew up watching, hoping to play for some day, so it was like a dream come true," he said of the Rock.

Another dream of Benesch's almost came true yesterday during the Rock's pre-game walk-through at the Saddledome.

It's rare in this day and age to meet someone from Ontario who is a Flames fan but such is the case with Benesch.

"I really wanted to meet Jarome Iginla, he's my favourite hockey player," he said.

"I'm a Flames fan ... well, I'm actually just a Flames fan because they've got Iginla. If he was somewhere else, I'd probably cheer for them."

Iginla was at the 'Dome yesterday for an off-ice workout but the two never crossed paths. At this point in his rookie campaign, Benesch has only put up a modest 21 points. The 22-year-old is is still adjusting to the pro game and the pressure that comes with playing in the game's biggest market.

"It's a lot of pressure because people expected a lot out of Colin and now they expect the same from me," he said.


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