Several factors led to Jeff Moleski’s decision to return to where he started his National Lacrosse League career.
Moleski eventually decided to sign a one-year deal to play with the Calgary Roughnecks this season after talking with fellow defenceman Mike Carnegie and other former teammates.
“Mike Carnegie was always in contact with me and a few other guys,” explained Moleski, who began his NLL career in Calgary in 2005 and played six seasons with the Riggers before being traded to the Washington Stealth for a first-round draft pick. “They kind of swayed my mind a bit.
“To be honest it was a tough decision on where to go but it feels good to be back and play for the Roughnecks again. They’re a good organization and hopefully I can do my best to help the team win.”
The 32-year-old veteran of 10 NLL campaigns has fond memories of playing for both the Roughnecks and the Stealth. After winning a Champion’s Cup with the Riggers in 2009, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound defenceman claimed his second NLL title as a member of the Stealth two years later.
“A guy like that brings a physical presence and he makes a seamless transition back to the group,” said Calgary captain Andrew McBride. “He fits right in and he brings what the Roughnecks are all about – hard work and humbleness. It’s great to see him back. He always brings a lot to the table – really big off-season pick up for us.”
After capturing the Champion’s Cup in 2011, the Stealth compiled a woeful 4-12 record the following season. Washington then bounced back to finish 9-7 in 2013 and then beat Calgary 14-13 in the West Division Final before being edged 11-10 by the Rochester Knighthawks in the NLL championship game.
Last season was one to forget for Moleski and the Stealth, which relocated to Vancouver and finished out of the playoff picture with a dismal 4-14 record.
“You know what, just bottom line is, I think (the Roughnecks) are a great team, great organization and they are so close to winning,” Moleski said. “That’s the honest truth on why I came back. It feels good to be back with some of the guys I used to play with and a lot of new faces too.”
Moleski will make his return to the Scotiabank Saddledome this Saturday (7 p.m.) when the Riggers host the Edmonton Rush in a pre-season game as part of the Calgary Roughnecks Showcase Weekend. The ’Necks will then open the 2015 NLL season at home at the ’Dome on Jan. 3 (7 p.m.) when they host Moleski’s former team, the Stealth.
Despite the fact that Vancouver had a tough season last year, Moleski warned that the Riggers shouldn’t underestimate the Stealth, which acquired 21-year-old forward Johnny Powless in an off-season trade with the K-Hawks. Powless will give an added boost to a Vancouver offensive unit which already boasts the likes of Rhys Duch and former Roughneck Lewis Ratcliff.
“In all honesty, it’s a great team that’s such an offensively talented group of players that defensively if we can hold them to 10 or under, I really like our chances,” said Moleski, who will be counted upon to shut down his former teammates.
While Moleski praised Vancouver’s offence, he also noted that he’s happy he’ll be able to dish the ball off to players like Shawn Evans, Dane Dobbie, Jeff Shattler and Curtis Dickson.
“For me the biggest thing is the offence is so gifted here,” Moleski said. “It’s the best offence in the league, bar none. If we can get them the ball, we should be in good shape.”
Another selling point for Moleski to sign in Calgary was that the organization understands that he’s still working a full-time job in his hometown of Prince George, B.C., while raising his two sons – Jackson, 7, and Hunter, 6 – with his wife Cara.
“I’m a real family guy,” Moleski said. “That comes first for me, for sure, like it should. They’re treating the family well – bringing them in for some games, which is very nice of them. They’ll be around the arena a few times, so they’re looking forward to it.”
Calgary coach and assistant general manager Curt Malawsky is looking forward to having his former teammate back wearing a Roughnecks uniform.
“We always say once a Roughneck, always a Roughneck, but I think he’s pretty happy to be back as much as we’re happy to have him,” Malawsky said.
Moleski and Malawsky were teammates with the Roughnecks for two seasons and they celebrated a Champion’s Cup victory together in 2009.
“You see Jeff, he’s in great shape and he’s got two kids and he works that full-time job up in Prince George,” Malawsky said. “That isn’t easy and he comes in optimal shape in his 30s. The guys look at that and they’re just, “Wow.” He’s just a presence. He walks through those doors and I won’t lie to you, we had big smiles on our faces.”