The champagne was popped. The confetti fell from the rafters and the Calgary Roughnecks celebrated the 2019 National Lacrosse League Championship after a rollercoaster season.
While an offseason of celebration is being shared by players and fans, the front office is already eyeing up next season.
“It sunk in and we enjoyed it for a little bit here,” Roughnecks General Manager Mike Board said. “Now it’s time to get back to work with everything that comes up in the offseason.”
It’s the never-ending cycle of running a professional sports team. The process is long and grueling, and the rewards are short but sweet. Not long after Rhys Duch scored in overtime of Game 2 to clinch Calgary’s first championship in 10 years, Board and his Roughnecks front office were clocking back in at the office, preparing for the 2019-2020 season.
“All those things don’t stop just because you won a championship,” Board said. “That’s just part and parcel of any regular season. You just keep plowing through what you have to do and keep moving forward.”
And Board knows first-hand how difficult the offseason can be. His championship year was anything but smooth sailing as it began with contract disputes with star players Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg. Dickson’s contract was settled, and the veteran scorer rejoined his team after a four-game holdout. Berg, who has scored 99 goals and 133 assists in his first three season, sat out the entire season.
Calgary’s success, going 10-8 with the obstacles and distractions, was a testament to the team’s depth and character.
“It’s part of the business and you have to live with it and you have to be resilient,” Board said. “The team itself has to be resilient when you’re missing guys, and it’s an opportunity for somebody else. We mucked around a little (early in the season) and played through some things and once we got healthy and got people signed up, we played a little bit better.”
The Roughnecks were red-hot entering the 2019 NLL Playoffs, having won their last three regular season games and swept through the playoffs with a perfect 4-0 slate. Calgary will be looking to carry that momentum into next season as defending champs.
The Roughnecks will now hope to win consecutive titles, a feat which has only been accomplished twice in the last 15 years. Rochester pulled off a threepeat from 2012-14 and the Rush followed with back-to-back titles the next two years during their move from Edmonton to Saskatchewan.
“Championships are tough to win, let alone back-to-backs,” Board said. “We know it can be done and it’s going to take a lot of hard work like we put forth this year. Hopefully we can take another shot at it.”
Preparations are being made for the upcoming Expansion and Entry Drafts. Until then, it’s Calgary’s time with the NLL Cup. The Roughnecks have enjoyed the added popularity around Alberta, which is home to several players on the roster.
“The Calgary Stampeders who won the Grey Cup last November, had us over for their home opener, so we took the NLL Cup to the football game and shared it with some football fans and our Roughnecks fans who also attended the game,” Board said. “We’ll probably have some appearances with the cup throughout the summer and go from there.”
With key offensive contributors like Rhys Duch and Riley Loewen unprotected, along with team captain and defenseman Dan MacCrae, the Knighthawks and Riptide will have plenty of impact players on the board during the Expansion Draft. Broadcast live on NLL social channels, the Expansion Draft Selection Show will be held at 12pm ET on July 9th.