After the debacle that was year one, the Calgary Roughnecks needed all the help they could for the second year.
It started with a trade involving the Vancouver Ravens that netted Calgary Jesse Phillips, Kyle Goundrey and John Olson in the middle of the first season.
Then there was the trade with New York for defender Rob Kirkby and with the Columbus Landsharks for goalie Curtis Palidwor.
And despite dealing what turned out to be the first overall draft pick (Patrick Merrill) in the Kaleb Toth deal , the Roughnecks struck gold at the NLL Entry Draft in the second round with future captain and defensive stalwart Andrew McBride. Lewis Ratcliff also joined the roster after being drafted the year before.
The most important addition though, came in from the Montreal Express dispersal draft.
With the first overall selection in the draft, they selected Tracey Kelusky.
Coming off a season where he scored 44 goals and 94 points for the Express, he became the new captain of the Roughnecks.
Toth and Kelusky had experience with each other, even fighting one another at one point in their careers.
“I don’t think we liked each other very much to be honest with you,” Kelusky said about his first opinion of Toth. “It’s a testament to who he is as a player, who he is as a person. He’s a guy you want on your team. I was playing against him and obviously didn’t like him very much.
“As I got to know him and I moved to Calgary, you could see right away that Kaleb was a phenomenal person. He was somebody who took me in when I came to Calgary.”
Combined, they became the faces of the lacrosse in Calgary. At every school events, press conferences, publicity events, Kelusky and Toth were side by side.
“It made us like a tag team,” Toth said. “There has been other guys like Lewis Ratcliff and other key players who have done stuff, but for the first six years, it was Tracey and I. That’s all people got to see. We had no problem doing it, we wanted to grow the sport.”
On the floor, the team saw a vast improvement, jumping from a 4-12 record to 9-7 and a berth in the playoffs.
They were knocked out in the first round by Buffalo 16-9, but it didn’t matter.
“It was a big step, especially being year two,” Toth said.
Kelusky led the team in scoring with 63 points, while Toth was right on his heels at 61 points.
“Besides being one of the best players in the league, he added that little extra leadership that we needed,” Toth said about his new best teammate. “Tracey was a natural born leader. The guy knows how to motivate. He’s not the biggest guy in the world but he plays like he’s 6’4.”
The two became roommates on the road, a tradition that lasted until Kelusky was dealt a few years down the road.
“Anytime we went on the road, it was like we were an old married couple,” Kelusky said. “I would hand him my passport, my wallet, my keys, everything and just say you’ve got this for the weekend. We just had a lot of fun. Some of the best memories I’ve ever had in this league and in this life were because of Kaleb.”
The Roughnecks were still a few key players away from being a championship contender, and they came in during the off-season.