Blogs | 3/27/2012 11:07:52 AM | John Gurtler
|Luke Wiles (Photo: Calgary Roughnecks)|
Where do you pick up the pieces from last Saturday’s 17-6 whoopin’ at the hands of the Calgary Roughnecks on the grounds of the world’s largest rodeo? Heck, the tundra is still as frozen and stark as prairies should be.
Scattered about in full view was one of the Bandits’ worst losses ever. Nothing to cover and surely nowhere to hide.
But just like any good Bandit, you pick yourself up from the depths of the powder river, put your hat back on, slip into your gloves and gather your stick because there’s another game ahead.
Use your own scenario for this game.
Covering some 4,500 miles in a period of 48 hours, the Bandits have little to show for all the effort in preparing for a road game like this. As the radio play-by-play broadcaster, I travel with the team and, on occasions like this, watch how hard they work.
It officially started at 10 a.m. on Friday, save the hours and miles logged by the Bandits in reaching their practice facility in Lakemount, Ontario, which is just off the QEW, up the road a bit from St. Catharines.
There, a full two-hour session was employed on the practice floor, including several drills and installation of the Calgary game plan. Rush sequence after rush sequence and defensive alignments to try and stagger the effective flow. “Slides”, “doubles”, set plays, codes and constant yelling by players to check their positioning.
Strategy sessions with the coaching staff surrounded by a field of players dotted the practice facility floor, hosting offensive speak, transition aggressions and defensive schemes to stop the Roughnecks’ pretty well-oiled offense. Lots of running, turning, chirping and shooting the rubber.
Following a quick midfield message by GM and head coach Darris Kilgour, the on-field session ended. A video session awaited, as did a shower and equipment prep for the trip.
Assistant coach Chuck Brown handled the charting and editing of video sequences, a comprehensive scouting tape of the Roughnecks. In this case, Coach Brown had edited two previous Roughnecks games down to important sequences, which included faceoffs, offensive attacks, goaltender moves and their defensive system, which is similar to that of the Bandits.
There, while the video streams in slow motion and real-time, Coach Kilgour goes over the moves and mistakes, commenting on what to look for, where and when to look for it, and a few other choice antidotes.
The entire team sat in a formation so they could all see, facing a large video screen with the opponents’ game action. This session went on for a good 35-45 minutes.
A quick wrap-up on establishing the game plan and then a review of the next stage of the day: Be at the Toronto airport by 2 p.m. to check-in for the flight, receive your boarding pass and pass through security.
The two-hour time frame afforded some of the Bandits a quick lunch on the way to the traffic-heavy Toronto highways.
Once all of the Bandits had gathered at the Calgary-bound departure gate, the wait to board, mixed with light conversation, began.
The Bandits travel by commercial air, which takes some coordination by the Bandits’ staff and players themselves. Players are responsible for their equipment as well.
Most of the time, the airline keeps the entire traveling unit together, placing them in the middle to back of the aircraft, with the exception of a few who request seats in the front section.
As the plane reached cruising altitude en route to Calgary, some Bandits players dozed off for a cat nap. Others read, watched TV or a movie, talked amongst themselves or played a round of cards with a host of players closely intertwined within the seats.
A four-plus hour flight in a rather people-dense environment can be a bit taxing on the body, especially if you went through a vigorous workout a couple hours before. But once free from the cabin upon our arrival in Calgary, the walk down the concourse was a welcome relief.
Scott Loffler, Director of Lacrosse Operations for the Bandits, coordinates all the travel, transportation and hotel accommodations. In addition, he arranges the gameday lunch and occasional team dinner, which is the night before the game. Such was the case on this trip to Calgary.
Once the players claimed their equipment and personal luggage, a coach bus waited close to the door of the baggage carousel.
Because Calgary’s airport is close to downtown, the ride was smooth and quick, with the team’s hotel just minutes away.
Built in 1914, the Fairmont Palliser is one of the finer hotels in the city of Calgary, which makes the stay very nice. It’s the kind of place where you want to be polite and considerate. I think the players appreciated it. I know I did.
After a quick bag drop in the room, the team gathered in the hotel lobby for a brisk walk to a great restaurant that former Roughneck Tracey Kelusky had recommended. The team had a prearranged menu of chicken, steak and salmon. I was honored to be a part of the dinner and the food was just out this world.
Mind you, there is a two-hour time change, with Eastern Time still dominating the body, and it can catch up to you pretty fast, which was the case on Friday following dinner.
A restful night before an early shootaround at the arena made the busy schedule for the players a bit more tolerable.
At 8:45 a.m., the bus took the players to the Scotiabank Saddledome, which is on the edge of the Calgary Stampede grounds. This is a massive spread of land, well over 200 acres, which hosts a 10-day non-stop rodeo funfest in July. The arena was built for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, and is home to the Roughnecks, the NHL’s Flames, and the WHL’s Hitmen.
Once inside, the Bandits have the floor for one hour. After all the players made their entrance onto the field, the team made the most of their 60 minutes.
Following warmups, the team went to work, finalizing the game plan.
But this seemed to be a more serious "shootaround," including more strategy sessions, running set plays and going through formations. It was very serious and command of attention was heeded by each player. From my perspective in the seats, this was a good shootaround, very functional for the players.
Following a quick shower, the players and staff boarded the bus back to the hotel, where a buffet-style team lunch awaited. Chicken, pasta, vegetables and salad was plentiful for the players, and it was just the fuel that they needed.
Finished with lunch by noon, the players had four hours to rest up, as the bus to the arena would leave at 4:15 p.m. for the 7 p.m. game.
I think the two-hour time difference played a little havoc on the body, even just 24 hours in. It had to have been tough on the players.
The "this is how we go to work" walk into the arena is a rather daunting stride for the players as they head down the hallway to their dressing room. There wasn’t much conversation as the official pregame began.
Informal shootarounds, ankle taping, stretching and massages took place. This is generally the time that I get pregame show interviews with a player and Darris. The time before the game goes by like a lightning bolt. I think it’s a combination of nerves and anticipation.
The game itself moves rather fast, halftime included. All of a sudden, all the prep and planning comes to an end as the clock hits zero.
And when you’re on the tail end of a 17-6 loss, time seems to go on forever from that point on.
Sunday morning could not come soon enough to start the painful journey back home. Cold, foggy, dreary and down – It’s a heck of a way to leave town. All that hard work in a short period of time and nothing to show for it.
The best part of sports is getting another game. And the Bandits will start preparing all over again, save the long travel, to attempt to put the pieces back together and give it another go. This time, it will be at home at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night against the Toronto Rock.
“Banditball on three!” Or, as a rodeo rider who gets back into the chute after being bucked off would say: “Powder river, let ’er buck.”
Radio coverage of Saturday’s game starts at 7 p.m. on KB1520 AM, and also via the NLL Network on NLL.com.