Riggers team up with local lacrosse

WES GILBERTSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Forget the Lonestar State. The only team Brad Banister is moving isn't going far.

The Calgary Roughnecks owner strengthened his ties with the local lacrosse community yesterday, announcing a new partnership with the Okotoks-bound Calgary Raiders junior and senior squads.

"This might quash any rumours that I'm moving to Dallas," joked Banister. "Because I can't take all three teams."

Banister envisions the Roughnecks and Raiders building a similar relationship to that shared by the Flames and WHL's Hitmen.

If he gets his wish, Okotoks and Calgary will eventually be mentioned along with the likes of Victoria and Orangeville, Ont. -- both longtime meccas of minor lacrosse.

Banister figures it's time Calgary kids were able to chase their lacrosse dreams without leaving their home province to compete at an elite level.

"We're trying to get basically a ladder from tyke to the pro level," he said. "That's what we want to do. We don't want our athletes leaving Alberta to play."

Dave Fehr, president of the Raiders junior A team, expects the partnership to be a major boon to his club.

Since their inception in 2002, 11 Raiders have heard their names called in the National Lacrosse League draft, while almost two dozen have accepted scholarships to play collegiate lacrosse south of the border.

Fehr thinks that's just the tip of the iceberg, especially if the Raiders can convince some of Alberta's top young guns to stick around. For years, soon-to-be stars have headed elsewhere to hone their lacrosse skills.

"One of the things we've struggled with over the years is trying to find a way to keep our real good Alberta talent in Alberta. We've tried and tried and tried, but every year we end up losing a kid or two to B.C. or Ontario," Fehr said.

"With moving to Okotoks, we think we can create a lacrosse culture there where the kids are immersed in the game and the community will get behind them."

The junior A Raiders will play their first contest at Okotoks' Centennial Arena in early May. The senior B Raiders, whose lineup will include several former and current Riggers, will also call the Okotoks rink home.

Riggers defender Kyle Neufeld will be an assistant coach for the junior Raiders, and the NLL club will also provide some financial support, although Banister wouldn't divulge the specifics.


Videos

Photos