Riggers owner pleas for team

WES GILBERTSON , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:38 PM ET

The Calgary Roughnecks will hit the floor in Philadelphia next week.

At least, that’s the plan.

“It’ll happen,” insisted Roughnecks owner Brad Banister. “We’re in discussion with the league and we’re working on something right now to make that happen, for sure. “Obviously, It’s going to come out of somebody else’s pockets. It’ll be debt that we have to repay one day when we get everything together in Calgary.”

If they get everything together in Calgary.

After that March 5 road clash against the Philadelphia Wings, the future of Banister’s National Lacrosse League franchise isn’t so certain.

The day after admitting in an open letter that the Riggers missed their latest player payroll and might not have the funds to finish this season, Banister stood before a throng of reporters and pleaded for help.

From lacrosse fans.

From the local media.

From the corporate community.

“I am asking for your support. Everybody’s support,” Banister said. “I will not fold this team if I can help it. I will not fold this team, but if it gets yanked away from me, I have no choice but to walk away from it. And I do not want to walk away from it — it’s too important and it’s valuable, and I think everybody in this city understands that ...

“I don’t care if I make a dollar off this team in 100 years, but this team should be here for another 50 years. It’s set up for the future. The draft is strong for next year. We’re sitting in first place right now in the West. Everything looks promising. The only bad problem is we can’t afford to pay our players. And that’s a big problem.”

The Roughnecks owner told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he doesn’t owe any money to his coaches or front-office staff, but the players haven’t been paid for Sunday’s 12-11 victory over the Edmonton Rush or for a 9-8 overtime loss to the Toronto Rock the week before.

The National Lacrosse League’s average player salary is about $15,000 for a 16-game regular season. These guys are students, construction workers and nine-to-fivers. Three of them are soon-to-be fathers.

Despite the missed cheques, three Roughnecks players — Jeff Shattler, Geoff Snider and Kaleb Toth — were at the team office Wednesday to show support for their embattled owner.

“He’s a strong and proud man and he works hard for this team to keep us afloat,” Shattler said of Banister. “He’s willing to go down with the ship. A lot of guys would just turn their backs on the team, but he’s willing to battle for this team and put himslef on the line and say, Listen, I need some help.’

“It takes a proud man to do something like that.”

The future of the Roughnecks hinges on it.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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