History of the Raiders
The Raiders came from humble beginnings… or at least humbling beginnings.
In 2003 the newly formed Raiders team consisted of young players who served as pioneers for Junior A lacrosse in the City of Calgary. Playing a mixed schedule against older and bigger Senior squads, and established Junior A and B clubs, the Raiders roster of fresh talent was forced to step up by toughening up.
The team was coached by Ontario native and former Roughneck Brad McArthur. The Raiders spent their first few seasons relentlessly grinding, trusting their Founder’s Cup Champion coach that hard work and toughness would see them through until their raw talent started to develop.
Although they had fewer wins, the Raiders took their share of bumps and bruises in the early years. The process created a solidarity and brotherhood amongst teammates, ultimately forming the identity for which the Raiders are known to this day.
What it means to be a Raider
Kyle Hanson, one of the original members who slugged through the Raiders’ underdog period, emphasized the importance of those grueling but formative years.
“It made us. From the beginning we had that overall team toughness and almost a swagger. Not an overconfidence, but that ‘We’re the Raiders. We know we’re tougher than you. We’ll score 10 goals on you but we’ll also beat the crap out of you,’” Hanson said. “That attitude, what it means to play for the Raiders—the toughness, the tenacity– players coming up can see that. If it’s truly engrained, then you can trace that throughout our history, and I think that’s really the case.”
Raider coach and former player, Jesse Fehr, echoed Hanson’s assessment of the Raider mystique, with one significant addition.
The result of years battling in corners together and always having each other’s backs doesn’t just mold you into the Raiders tough guy template, said Fehr. It makes you family.
“The loyalty and the camaraderie we were able to develop through playing lacrosse together is amazing.” Fehr said. “When we talk about being a family, it’s not just a metaphor. We were there for each other. We still are there for each other. The guys I played Junior A with are some of the most important people in my life, and that is the most important thing to me.”
Raiders: A Tradition of Success
Built on the foundation of hard work, toughness, and trust, the Raiders have been able to create a tradition of success during their first sixteen seasons.
In the last four years, the Raiders have won the RMJALL Championship three times. The Raiders are the most winning team in league history. The only undefeated saeson was 2010, although the Raiders have won the league Championship seven times, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018. In 2011 and 2018 the Raiders were Alberta Champions again and were recognized for hosting two successful Minto Cups in first in Okotoks and last year in Calgary.
But the Raiders’ tradition of success goes beyond stats or standings. With player development as a centrepiece of the Raider organization, the team takes great pride that it has had over 30 players drafted or on contract in the National Lacrosse League and eight coaches who have played or coached in the NLL. Six Raiders have played lacrosse representing their country on National Teams. Over fifty Raiders have chosen to play field lacrosse in NCAA and more than ten have pursued lacrosse at Canadian post secondary institutions. At least three Raiders have been successful coaching NCAA teams. Many more have successfully pursued their studies at post secondary. Raiders have players and coaches who have their tickets in a trade, some at the same timing they were with the Raiders.
In 2019, the Raiders entire coaching staff consists of members of Raiders’ player alumni with player experiences in NCAA, NLL and at the National team level and coaching experiences at NCAA, Jr. A and with Alberta’s Canadian National Midget Championship team.
The Raiders focus
Winning is not the central focus of the Raiders organization; it is, however, a desired by-product.
Since its inception, the Raiders focus has been squarely on the development of its players and the lacrosse community. Owner David Fehr said he believes that it is about putting the kids first and success will follow in multiple ways rather than just a single, self-serving one.
The Raiders biggest investment in its players’ development can be seen by its hiring history with the coaching staff.
“Coaching at the developmental levels is the key,” Scherman said. “In Alberta, a lot of people play lacrosse just as athletes. In Ontario or B.C. people play lacrosse and that’s what they do. They have people teaching them that actually know lacrosse and they learn; it’s a thing you can’t just pick up unless you’ve played it. We need the coaching to even start to be competitive with those places.”
The Raiders are dedicated to bringing in top talent, and are the first team in the league that attracted professional lacrosse players from across Canada to ensure Raiders players are supplied with the best coaching available so they can become the best players possible.
The Raiders were the first team in the area to take players from across the province down to camps in the US, opening their eyes to the opportunities most hadn’t even known existed.
“I had no clue that you could go to the States, get to play lacrosse, and have your education paid for,” former coach John Millar said. “I was 21 before I was even approached with the idea and by then I was almost done with school. The guys I coached definitely came to realize more and more that there are opportunities down there.” John coached the Raiders while obtaining his PhD.
The Raiders have helped players gain insight and exposure to the recruiting process and how they can use the sport they love to earn a free education. From California to Cambridge, Raiders are the most represented Alberta team in the American college scene, which hasn’t only served to open doors for themselves but also the eyes of generations that followed.
The Raiders family has also offered career support and guidance to players who are seeking a new direction. Christina Fehr admits “Sometimes when we have a BBQ I open with ‘Maybe we can sit down and talk about how we can get you started.’ If they are interested, I try to help them sort things out, school or career-wise.”
Although the Alberta lacrosse community is in its infancy compared to its western and eastern counterparts, the Raiders are doing their best to create and foster a lax-savvy environment that will permeate the prairie culture.
The family dynamic of the organization has created a “giving-back” cycle, with many players returning to help coach the Raiders, while others have started teams and programs to develop the younger generations.
Interestingly enough, even before the Raiders began to focus on investing back into community, they had already started the process.
Angus Somerville grew up in BC with the Salmonbellies, where lacrosse was a way of life. When he came to Calgary for work, he wasn’t ready to give up the lacrosse culture he held so dear.
In 2003 Angus brought his 5-year-old son to his first lax game, immediately he was hooked—particularly on one player. “He wanted to go see Scherman at all of his games, so we went,” Angus said. “We were at every game, and he’d get to meet the Raiders. Every player was so great. They really treated us like family.”
Dave Fehr soon took notice of Angus’ sterling attendance at games and approached him, offering him a place with the Raiders since “he’s always here anyway.” Angus volunteered fifteen years with the Raiders.
Where we stand
Built by committed volunteers, experienced coaches and dedicated players, with its strength in its diversity, in 2012 the Raiders were faced with the possibility of expulsion from the league. The Raiders defended their right to play and thank those who supported them with letters and support at the Board table.
Since that time the Saskatchewan SWAT joined the league in 2016. In 2018 the two Edmonton teams consolidated, as a temporary measure, to improve the competitiveness of their play.
Raiders stand proudly on the strong foundation built by those that went before them. With the current players, coaches, families and supporters the Raiders future looks very promising with new challenges and Championships to pursue.