CALGARY, AB — The Calgary Roughnecks returned home for the 2016 season in an exhibition game on Dec. 20, and for six rookies on the roster, playing at Scotiabank Saddledome was a surprise.

A big one.

Not realizing just how expansive the arena seems from the floor, their first glimpse at the ‘Dome was met with some amazement, excitement, and nerves from the first-timers.

“It’s a lot bigger than I was thinking it was going to be,” goaltender Christian Del Bianco said with a laugh. “Obviously I should have clued in with it being an NHL rink, but I walked in and was like, wow that’s big.”

He wasn’t the only one.

“It was pretty awesome coming out,” defenceman Kellen LeClair said. “Right away in warm-ups, I didn’t realize how big it would look from the floor.”

Awesome again, added forward Reilly O’Connor.

“It was awesome. I was in awe,” O’Connor said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was super excited to play in a building like this and it was awesome.”

For most of the rookies, it’s the biggest venue in which they had ever played.

It’s also the largest attended.

For the group, the exhibition game against the Vancouver Stealth served as the most fans they’d ever seen at one of their games. Over 9,000 spectators entered the Rough House for the pre-season tilt against Vancouver.

“It’s awesome,” forward Wesley Berg said. “The way we come out with the big oil rig and the flames and everything. For an exhibition game too with 9,000 fans and how loud they were at the end of the game, it’s pretty special to play in front of.”

Even having only seen the fans once, they recognize how great Roughnecks fans are.

“I’ve never played in a place like this with fans as awesome as that,” O’Connor said.

“It was super exciting, all the fans were into it, I had an awesome time,” LeClair added.

“You got into the game a lot more,” Del Bianco said. “It was a great atmosphere and we have great fans.”

The next time the rookies step onto the floor at the Saddledome, they’ll officially be making their NLL debuts.

And they anticipate an even bigger crowd at the home opener against the Saskatchewan Rush on Jan. 2.

“I can’t wait,” LeClair said. “I can’t wait.”

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