CALGARY, AB — When Andrew McBride circled the turf saluting fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome after Saturday’s 4-1 tie-breaker loss to the Edmonton Rush it was a little more emotional than usual.
The Calgary Roughnecks battled hard to beat their provincial foes 12-9 and force the extra game, but fell short, thus ending Calgary’s season and leaving McBride with some questions about his future in professional lacrosse.
“You never know what the future is going to be,” an emotional McBride said following the heartbreaking loss to Edmonton. “I hope to be back and I’m going to do everything in my power to be back but I understand it’s a business. I’ve been really fortunate to have 13 great years here in the city — it means the world to me.
“Great fans, great people. I hope to always be a part of the Calgary Roughnecks organization.”
His words were carefully chosen. His passion for the game, team and city are discernible. McBride wants to keep playing for the Roughnecks but he knows the odds are stacked against him.
It’s a young man’s game to be sure. The physical toll lacrosse takes on a player’s body is unlike any other sport and the shelf life of a professional lacrosse player is greatly curtailed when compared to hockey, baseball or basketball.
The 32-year-old completed his 13th season in the NLL on Saturday — an eternity for a career in the league. Calgary made McBride their second round selection (14th overall) in 2002 and he cracked the squad the following season then captured the first of his two Champion’s Cups a year later. His second came in 2009.
“I think if you would have looked at Andrew McBride playing junior – we played against each other in Burnaby and he was in New Westminster – I would have never said that Andrew McBride would play 13 years in the NLL,” said Geoff Snider, a Calgary native and teammate of McBride’s for the past five seasons. “He is a guy who you want to win for, he’s a guy that you care about. He’s a guy that, as a captain, he’s an umbrella. He’s very right-wing, he’s very left-wing and he’s everything in the middle. As a leader he manages to keep everybody together and identifies with everybody. He’s an easy guy to suit up and go to war for.
“He’s not done and I don’t expect that you’ll see the last of Andrew. As a person and as a leader he’s first class.”
The Ladner, B.C., native has set roots in Calgary calling the city his home for a long time now. He is a pillar in the community, both locally and internationally, as a Special Olympics Ambassador, an Athlete Ambassador with Right To Play and founder of the Classroom Lacrosse program which has given thousands of Calgary and surrounding area students a chance to experience lacrosse and learn about leadership, goal-setting and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
In addition, he serves as the head coach for the Okotoks Jr. ‘A’ Raiders lacrosse team and was named Technical Director of the Alberta Lacrosse Association in January.
“My job is lacrosse, my future is lacrosse and I owe that to the fans here in Calgary,” McBride continued. “That’s something I’ll never take for granted, regardless of how things have ended for this career. I’ll always be able to look at the positive times and the experiences that I’ve gained and I’ll be able to hold my head high.”
The Roughnecks named McBride the captain to start the 2011 season after the departure of Tracey Kelusky and he has guided the team ever since.
Calgary reached the Champion’s Cup Finals in the 2014 season, falling just short in a 3-2 tie-breaking game loss against the Rochester Knighthawks. After starting the 2015 campaign 0-6, McBride and the Roughnecks battled back to squeak into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season then made it to within ten minutes of their second straight appearance in the finals.
“I’ll tell you straight up – I don’t think you get to this point in the season without having leaders like Andrew McBride,” Riggers coach Curt Malawsky said of his captain. “If he’s not guiding the ship with this team being our captain, we don’t even get here. That’s a testament to his character and the type of person that he is. He captained this team, he took this team in when it was tough. You need the support of your leaders and we had the support of them and it was led by [McBride].
“He can be proud of the season and what he did to keep everyone together. It was a special run and it was a special person. He’s hurting right now and we all are too.”
McBride was hoping the ride this season would have lasted a bit longer for him and his teammates.
“It’s definitely been tough this last round knowing the off-season is going to come,” McBride said. “We understand the business and that was our big motivation — to try to keep this group together for another three weeks. I think that’s the toughest pill to swallow. You make friends for life. A lot of these guys I’ve known for a long time and I will continue to know them well after lacrosse is done.”
The uncertainty of what the future holds is something McBride isn’t taking for granted. He holds the relationships he has with his teammates and coaches near and dear to his heart.
“All these guys have been lifelong friends,” McBride said. “We know their families, we know their parents and we hang out with each other a lot. That’s what life’s about – making bonds and continuing that on. That’s what the Calgary Roughnecks have been able to do, have lifelong friends and that’s what stings the most. I don’t want to do this for myself, I want to do this for guys who might not have the opportunity again. I know a lot of guys came up to me and said they wanted to do it for me and that means a lot. That’s what family is all about, trying to build each other up in the tough times and the bad times.
“The cornerstone and the foundation for the Calgary Roughnecks organization has always been set, the bar has always been set high and the tradition will carry on well after a lot of these guys aren’t playing on this team and that’s something that we can be proud of as well.”