He got a rousing cheer from Vancouver Canucks fans when introduced on-ice at the Canucks’ annual skills competition at Rogers Arena.
Owen Barker hopes to hear more of those cheers from even more fans as professional lacrosse returns to downtown Vancouver this month.
The former Armstrong Junior Shamrocks sniper survived training camp and is now a member of the National Lacrosse League’s Vancouver Warriors, the former Vancouver Stealth who played out of the Langley Events Centre last season and were sold to Canucks Sports and Entertainment in June.
The Warriors visit the Calgary Roughneck in their season opener Saturday, then host the return match of the home-and-home Friday, Dec. 21.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Barker on a lunch break between classes at the UA Piping Industry College of B.C. on Annacis Island in Delta, where he’s in year three of plumber school. “This is the highest level of professional box lacrosse one can play at. It’s going to be a new experience.”
Barker, 24, is coached by Chris Gill, Barker’s former coach in the Western Lacrosse Association with the Maple Ridge Burrards. The pair won a league championship in 2016 but lost the Mann Cup Canadian championship in six games to Ontario’s Six Nations Chiefs.
Barker and the Burrards won the 2018 WLA title but were swept in the Mann Cup by the Peterborough Lakers.
Barker will be a defender/transition player with the Warriors, who just completed a shortened training camp following a league-wide labour dispute, settled when a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.
“It’s faster. Definitely faster than the WLA,” said Barker. “Every player here has such great knowledge of the game. They know what they’re doing out on the floor.”
The Warriors promoted their franchise at the Canucks’ skills competition, which saw Barker and four other teammates introduced on-ice. Barker had been asked to take part in a hardest shot competition but deferred to teammate Dan Lomas.
“Being on the ice and on the bench for the competition was a lot of fun,” he said.
The Warriors are making an impact in the city.
“There’s definitely a buzz about the team,” said Barker. “There are a lot of new faces, big, big turnover from last year. Everyone wants to win and do well.”
The Stealth finished 2-16 in 2018.
* As Barker begins his pro career, another North Okanagan product has hung up his pads.
Towering goalie Brodie MacDonald of Vernon spent seven seasons in the league with four franchises. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound MacDonald began his career in 2012 with the Edmonton Rush. He spent three seasons with Edmonton before joining the Minnesota Swarm, where he spent one year. The team moved to Georgia the following season and, in 2017, MacDonald celebrated a Champions Cup playoff title with the Swarm.
He signed with the Stealth for 2018 and went 0-5 with a 13.51 goals-against average and .748 save percentage.
For his career, MacDonald, 29, played in 112 regular-season NLL games, compiling a won-loss record of 10-19. His best season was 2016, when he played 823 minutes and 49 seconds and went 6-7 with the Swarm with a GAA of 12.82, and a .749 save percentage.
His career GAA was 12.72, and career save percentage was .732.
MacDonald appeared in 12 post-season games.
He also had a stellar career in the WLA, most notably with the Langley Thunder, leading the club to back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012, but lost the Mann Cup both years.
MacDonald was WLA Rookie of the Year and playoff MVP in 2011.