Drillers kickin' and grinnin'

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

The only number that mattered was in the stands.

Even before Antonio Rago scored the Edmonton Drillers' first goal last night at Rexall Place, the team had already earned its first victory.

Dr. Brent Saik was counting on 2,000 fans turning up to watch the latest incarnation of pro soccer in Edmonton. They officially had 3,370.

"It was nerve-racking," Saik said. "I was peeking through the doors before the game to see how many people were out there waiting to come in."

Last night's double-header showcase between the Drillers and Calgary United FC was the first major hurdle for the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League.

ENSUING SHOOTOUT

Calgary won the opening game 4-0, lost the second 3-0 and won the ensuing shootout to claim the day.

Saik who owns the Drillers and bankrolled the event didn't know what to expect heading into his latest venture into professional sports.

In reality nobody did.

"I didn't even go out for St. Paddy's Day I was so nervous," Saik said. "I dabbled a little bit with baseball, but this is completely new. But I'm happy with how things went.

"The Calgary event went well. Winnipeg and Saskatoon sound like they're doing really good. So if we can keep this little model, I think we'll do well."

The brainchild of former Edmonton Trappers GM Mel Kowalchuk, the CMISL is currently a four-team league with plans to get off the ground in November.

The purpose of last night's event was to introduce the league to the public.

FIRST SHOWCASE GAME

Last week the Drillers travelled to Calgary for the first showcase game. There are games also scheduled for Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

"I think the key for this is to take it slow, have a slow buildup," said Calgary United FC owner Chris Baker. "We want to get the fans into the stands, get them enjoying it, get the kids into it."

Interest in the league is already growing. There are six interested teams in Eastern Canada. Vancouver is also keen.

The cost of renting Rexall Place inflated the ticket prices for this event. Regardless, Saik said he still broke even. The Drillers are looking at a more affordable venue.

The AgriCom was their first choice, but it's being renovated. Venues in Sherwood Park or St. Albert are other options.

"I think we should start next year. To me it makes sense," Saik said. "It'll be a small league, nothing crazy, maybe six home dates."

DVANDIEST@EDMSUN.COM

"I DIDN'T EVEN GO OUT FOR ST. PADDY'S DAY I WAS SO NERVOUS."

-- DRILLERS' OWNER BRENT SAIK ON ANTICIPATION OF THE TURNOUT FOR YESTERDAY'S GAME


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