Tyson Roe was more excited about his first National Lacrosse League goal than it probably appeared.
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Duncan product has been a fixture in the Vancouver Stealth lineup since early January, and scored his first NLL goal against the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday, burying the rebound off a shot by teammate Corey Small. His reaction, he admitted later, was rather subdued.
“I’ve gotten a lot of people congratulating me on my first NLL goal,” Roe said. “But all my buddies are giving me a hard time for my lame celebration. I just reacted by throwing a quick fist pump and smacking the glass, but all in all, it was obviously a great moment that I’ll never forget.”
Roe spent more than three seasons on the practice rosters of the Stealth and Calgary Roughnecks between being drafted by Calgary in 2014 and making his NLL debut on Jan. 13.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Roe said. “I’ve wanted to play in the NLL since I was five or six years old, so 19 or 20 years. To play my first NLL game in front of 13,000 people was pretty crazy.”
Members of Vancouver’s practice roster travel to all road games, so Roe had already been with the team to games in Calgary and New England in December. He was alerted by Stealth president and general manager Doug Locker prior to the Stealth’s game against the Buffalo Bandits on Jan. 13 that he might be suiting up.
“I got a text from Doug that said, ‘Make sure you’re prepared. There’s a good chance you’re playing,’” Roe recalled.
The 25-year-old defence/transition player did his best to get ready for that possibility.
“I did exactly what I normally do, although I didn’t work out as hard the day before,” Roe said. “I had a hard time sleeping the night before.”
The debut game was “kinda like a blur,” Roe said, but he won’t forget the result: the Stealth started the game down 3-0 and came back to win 11-10 in overtime — earning their first win of the 2017-18 season.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ll take away from that game,” Roe said.
Since then, Roe has remained in the lineup as the Stealth travelled to Colorado to face the Mammoth, played at home against the Georgia Swarm, and played a home-and-home against the Rush.
Roe, who also plays senior A lacrosse with the Nanaimo Timbermen during the summer, noticed right away that the NLL game is speedier than the Western Lacrosse Association — to a degree he couldn’t foresee despite having watched dozens of games from the stands.
“It’s a lot faster,” he said. “Compared to senior A, where there are seven teams in B.C. and six in Ontario, all the best players are on only nine teams in the NLL. It’s not as watered-down, if I can say that. It’s only the top-notch players. It’s super fast. And anyone can score from pretty much any angle, any place on the floor.”
It took some getting used to, but Roe figured out how to function on the NLL floor.
“Once I got into the flow of the game, it was easier,” he said.
The Vancouver coaches have given Roe plenty of positive feedback based on his play.
“They’ve been happy so far,” he said. “There’s always little adjustments they want you to make, but it’s been nothing but ‘good job’s.”
Locker confirmed that the Stealth brass are happy with what they’ve seen.
“We really liked what Tyson has been accomplishing on the floor and believe he has the tools necessary to be a formidable NLL defenceman. We have been really pleased with his play and have been very pleased with his performance this season.”
Roe’s third NLL game marked his home debut as the Stealth played host to Georgia at the Langley Events Centre.
“Everything was basically the same,” Roe said. “Except my whole family was there, and I wanted to show off for them a bit more.”
Roe had a chance to score his first NLL goal in front of his family in that first game, but couldn’t quite cash in.
“I tried to get a little too fancy and I missed the net,” he recalled. “My coach told me to go overhand. I’ll keep it simple from now on.”