Vetere debuts for ‘Necks in time of need
by Bryce Forbes
The timing for Joe Vetere could not have been worse.
After wallowing on the Calgary Roughnecks’ practice squad for three years, only seeing action in one exhibition game, he finally got the call he had been waiting for — he was activated to the game roster.
“It was a surreal moment,” said Vetere, who is also a defenceman for the Mount Royal Cougars hockey team.
It had been a dream of his since he was the Roughnecks’ ball boy back in their inaugural year in 2001.
His first regular season game was against the Edmonton Rush back on Feb. 20, replacing the cold-handed Daryl Veltman for the Riggers.
That’s when the timing issue came up.
On Saturday, after the team practiced, Roughnecks owner and general manager Brad Banister came in to address his squad.
It was not good news.
For the first time in his 10 years of ownership, Banister did not have money to make payroll for his top-ranked team. The game cheques for the battle against the Toronto Rock the week before and the upcoming game versus the Rush were going to be late.
Banister described himself as looking like a “beaten dog” in the locker room.
But the players, including Vetere, went out and fought their hearts out the next day, some of them knowing their rent money was going to be late.
“I’m not worried about the game cheque at all, I’m more worried about the organization,” said Vetere. “I would have (played the game) for free.”
Before the game, a pair of veterans gave the rookie some important advice; Roughnecks forward Kaleb Toth and goalie Curtis Palidwor told him to go out there, and don’t screw up.
Vetere knew it was all in fun — Toth had been like an older brother to him for more than 10 years.
“I’m like his protége, he says,” said Vetere. “As I’ve grown up playing lacrosse, he taught me a lot and I owe him from a lacrosse standpoint.”
During the game in front of family and friends, his main contribution was serving six penalty minutes, albeit none of them his. He was the team’s in-home, meaning he served the Roughnecks bench penalties.
Despite not recording his first NLL goal (he’ll grab the game ball once that happens) he said the game was a moment he will never forget.
The Roughnecks managed to pull out a victory as visitors when Jeff Shattler scored with four minutes remaining in the game, to maintain top spot in the West Division.
Unfortunately for the locals, the Roughnecks now face their toughest opponent yet.
The news has hit how much financial trouble the team was in, despite ranking third in attendance in the NLL.
Banister sent out a personally penned letter begging for any support to keep the team afloat. He broke down all the activities the Roughnecks have partaken in, including charity events, lacrosse camps and Right To Play. And he said he wasn’t ready to give up.
The next day, he faced the media in the biggest turnout for a Roughnecks press conference this year.
“We are hinging on the verge of disaster,” said Banister at the weekly press conference. “This team is valuable to the city and we need to keep teams like this here.”
For the first time, an NLL team faces the possibility of folding mid-season.
He decried the stiff lease he has with the Flames and Saddledome, where he only receives money from ticket sales and advertising.
Banister said he needed $500,000 to finish the season.
Luckily for the Cougars hockey team, Vetere won’t have to worry too much about the Roughnecks. Vetere said he’s decided to stick with the Cougars for the rest of the year, possibly returning to the Roughnecks once his hockey season is over.
“The hockey playoffs mean a lot to me and I’m looking forward to the challenges we have ahead for the hockey team,” said Vetere. “(The Roughnecks) understand that.”
The Cougars are currently battling Augustana in the ACAC semi-finals.