CALGARY, AB -- The Stampede City has been taken over by the Riggers.
As the Calgary Roughnecks have marched towards their third Champion’s Cup final in franchise history, plenty of fans have thrown their support behind the NLL club.
And captain Andrew McBride doesn’t mind one bit.
“It’s unlike anything else,” McBride said. “I’ve literally walked down the street and people say ‘Hey, you’re playing for the Roughnecks!’. We go to the Talisman Center, we go to the gym, I was getting a haircut and people are like ‘Hey, let’s go! Lets win this thing!’ It’s just exciting.
“It’s exciting to see people recognize Calgary lacrosse and it’s exciting for us as part-time athletes to really be able to get that energy in the city. It’s so contagious because once you get aboard a winning team, people really love that. That’s what we want to be, we want to be known as a winning franchise and a winning organization and this is going to be another step to solidify that.”
Admittedly, the Roughnecks haven’t been the most recognizable team in a city that boasts National Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Canadian Football League franchises.
But they are hoping to become the next franchise to claim a league title.
Fans too are hoping.
“The community is rallying behind us right now,” transition player and native Calgarian Geoff Snider said. “It’s a real honour to be in this city and to play and be the only show in town right now.
“People are recognizing us. It’s flattering as an athlete in this city. Normally you’re not as recognizable as other athletes are. It’s flattering. It feels really professional and it’s a lot of fun right now. “
It’s the support at Scotiabank Saddledome that has helped power Calgary’s playoff push, though.
Over 12,000 were on hand to witness the Roughnecks’ thrilling16-15 overtime victory over the Colorado Mammoth in the West Division semifinal. The Saddledome was packed with 13,618 to watch Calgary take Game 1 of the West Divisional final over the Edmonton Rush -- another overtime classic.
Game 1 of Saturday’s Champion’s Cup Final has already sold over 12,000 tickets and is expected to be a sell-out for the first time since the Roughnecks’ title-winning game in 2004.
The Roughnecks are ready for a rambunctious crowd.
“I cannot wait to see the ‘Dome rocking,” McBride said. “It is going to be a playoff party. Let’s get that place packed, lets hype it up over the next two weeks and let’s get it going.”
McBride is already well aware of what a packed house can bring. He was a member of the 2004 championship team.
He’s ready for more.
“All year long they’ve pumped us up, they followed us on Twitter, they followed the radio show,” he said. “They've been such loyal fans and we really love to be able to play for them.”
McBride’s team will get that chance in Game 1.
It’s pivotal to set the tone in the two-game series.
“The way it works (is) we get the first home game, it’s huge,” Curtis Dickson said. “If you get that win then you go up 1-0 and then you’ve got two cracks to win the championship next weekend in Rochester. We have to use the home fans to our advantage so hopefully they will pack the ‘Dome and get nice and loud for us.”
Like they have all playoff long, forward Shawn Evans noted.
“Our fan base in Calgary is awesome,” he said. “They’re unbelievable and we need them to continue their support because next week is what we’ve been fighting for all year and this is what we've been doing. We’re ready to go, we’re ready for next week.
“Bring on the championship.”