CALGARY, AB — The anticipation of the unknown.
Their first NLL training camp.
The Calgary Roughnecks rookies and new acquisitions were excited for their first opportunity to make the team, but it represented a new challenge.
“It was very fast paced. We got everybody moving and we got a lot accomplished,” Tyler Digby said of his first practice with the Roughnecks.
“It’s a lot different than junior,” noted 7th overall pick Reilly O’Connor. “It’s a lot quicker and stronger. That’s something I’ve got to continue to work on, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
“The testing was pretty tough yesterday but I survived. First practice was definitely a lot faster. A lot more strategy involved. I felt like picks were coming from everywhere,” joked rookie defenceman Kellen LeClair. “I’m getting up to speed and I feel like I’m already getting better.”
Entering the first weekend with obvious nerves, the rookies quickly acclimated to the way coach Curt Malawsky ran the show.
It was similar to how many of them had practiced in the past with their senior or even junior teams.
“A little bit of what I expected,” said Mitch de Snoo. “In junior, we played a pro style D with our coaches there, so I’m used to the pressure. Two seasons of senior helped with the competition, so it’s just little changes here and there.”
“The first weekend coming, I thought it would be tough, but once we got past the testing it wasn’t too bad,” noted Tyson Bell. “Once we got into the systems and on the floor, things started falling into place.”
For top pick Wesley Berg, it was a very familiar situation.
Having been coached by Malawsky in junior, the rookie was able to jump into the drills without any hesitation.
“About what I expected coming in,” said Berg. “A lot of fast-paced drills and running out there.”
It didn’t take long for the new recruits to make some noise at camp.
Digby and Berg combined for some nice goals in the two-man game, and flashed a quick chemistry that could be big for the Riggers.
“I think it’s coming pretty quick,” said Digby. “Wesley and I had a few good two man games there, so I think it’ll come quickly.”
For the newcomers, it was not solely about learning the systems and executing on the floor, but learning about their new teammates and having fun.
“I’m really enjoying it,” O’Connor said with a smile. “Getting to know the guys and getting back out on the floor, it’s been fun for sure.”
“It’s a lot of new people. It’s a lot of business no matter what, but everyone is mixing in a good amount of fun too,” said Christian Del Bianco. “It’s not too serious, but it’s not a joke either.”
But it is a business and these rookies came to work.
They gave it their all and are making decisions very hard on the Roughnecks management.