Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
Wes Berg touched his first lacrosse stick before he could walk. He was around six or seven months old when he picked up a stick and hasn't put a lacrosse stick down since. He was born in Coquitlam, BC where his father Brian and brother Spencer were instrumental and his inspiration in playing the game of lacrosse. Berg said his dad started playing the game at a young age. At around one year old, Wes would go to the rink with his dad and brother, they would give him a stick, and he began throwing the ball against the wall, and immediately fell in love with the game. At that point, he knew this was what he wanted to do and hasn't stopped playing since.
He, like many Canadians grew up playing the sport of hockey as well, but it's a huge commitment in Canada. Berg said, "They make it a'be all, end all' and if you want to make the red team, tryouts start the beginning of August, so it cuts off your summer. The majority of the time you start playing in September and go through March, then they'd start taking the ice out of the rinks and lacrosse would start. There's a lot more training and practices in hockey, and with lacrosse you practice a couple times a week, it's more relaxed and that's what made it more fun for me." That in part played a role in the decision by Berg to make the change.
When he was 16 years old, he got called up a couple years early for juniors and was able to play in the Minto Cup where he was a part of the 2010 championship team. Because of this he missed the training window that went along with the start of the 2010 hockey season. He started to look at college scholarship opportunities and spoke with several universities and that's when he decided lacrosse was his destiny. Berg said it was hard giving up hockey, but was happy he was able to play his final year in a junior league before heading off to play college lacrosse.
Berg had the opportunity to play for several different colleges. What played a huge role in his decision was the distance from his family, which is an important part of his life. The trip from Denver to Coquitlam was three hours versus 14 hours and possible layovers to the other colleges, so the decision came easy. He was one of the first Bill Tierney recruits in 2009 for Denver University. He's always been a strong athlete and in 2015 was named "College Male Athlete of the Year". Wes had an extremely successful career at DU and when he graduated, was the school's career leader in goals and points.
He was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NLL Entry Draft by the Calgary Roughnecks. It was an easy decision for the Roughnecks considering the amazing career that Berg had during his college career at DU with the NCAA DI title going to Denver for the first time in college history in his senior year.
During Berg's first year with Calgary he would chalk up a total of 67 points (27G, 40A); 9 power-play goals; and 142 shots on goal. His abilities only improved in 2017, although the Roughnecks would not make the playoffs, Berg would notch 76 points (33G, 43A); 13 power-play goals and 132 shots on goal. In Berg's rookie season with the Roughnecks, he was fourth in points; and in 2017 he moved up to third surpassing veteran Jeff Shattler (20G, 51A).
Although Berg hasn't been able to play in a championship game in the NLL, his career has certainly had its share with Wes being a part of the 2010 Minto Cup Championship; 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championship; 2015 NCAA DI Championship; and the 2016 MLL Championship.
Wes was fortunate enough to have some great coaches who were professional lacrosse players. His dad started out coaching him when he first started to play the game; then came Dan Perrault who coached professionally and played at a top level while growing up; and as he got older, he had some junior players as well as other college players who helped him hone his skills. He credits his strengths from growing up in Coquitlam and the level of players in the area who were able to help him throughout the start of his lacrosse career.
I asked Wes about how it felt to be on the Roughnecks playing in the National Lacrosse League and what level of disappointment he experienced that Calgary was not heading to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. He said that he was hoping after winning three different championships in a row, first the 2014 FIL World Championship with Team Canada; the second the 2015 NCAA DI National Championship with DU; and the 2016 MLL Championship with the Denver Outlaws that the Roughnecks would advance to the playoffs in 2017. Wes said it was strange not heading to a lacrosse championship for the first time in four years, but it's something that happens in sports and he's had so many great opportunities during his career so he's thankful for that.
Currently, Wes works with ELEV8 lacrosse in Calgary which gives kids a chance who live in Alberta and other surrounding areas the chance to play lacrosse. The program helps these kids get exposure at all levels including club; DI; DII; and even DIII. They help develop both field and box lacrosse players, have classroom programs and guidance for student athletes as well as their families.
The Roughnecks also do work with Children's Hospital in Calgary where they do arts and crafts with the kids; story time; play time; and even serving meals. Wes said "It's always amazing to see the smile on the kid's faces and be able to help out with a cause for kids and people in unfortunate situations even if it's only for a few hours". Although the kids don't know much about lacrosse, they always want to tell the players what they've done that day; what they wish they were doing; and things that they miss. As they say, a smile will make your day, and to see a child's smile, especially one in a hospital is a memory that won't be soon forgotten. After the regular season ends, Wes will be heading to the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary for McCafe' Day for a fundraising event.
When I asked Wes what his most memorable moment as a Roughneck was, he said what came to mind was his overtime goal against the Toronto Rock especially since it was at the Scotiabank Saddledome in front of their home crowd. It was the final game of the 2016 season, April 30, and the teams headed into OT tied at 17 apiece. Berg had already notched five goals on the night in regulation, and was able to score the game winning goal giving the Roughnecks the victory and Wes a sock-trick on the night.
One thing that Wes said made it special playing at home in the Saddledome is the intensity of the fans. Although it gets loud in the stadium during the Calgary Flames games, lacrosse fans just seem to bring more passion and when the fans get loud, it's an amazing feeling and it really pumps up the team.
I asked Wes what he would tell a young boy or girl who was interested in lacrosse, what was the most important thing they needed to know. He said "The team aspect of it; the comradery that you have with it; unlike many sports, you can go and pick up a stick and play wall ball by yourself, or pass around with a friend or have a target shooting competition. All you really need for a fun day of lacrosse is a stick and a ball in your hand. That's what makes a lot of player's great, always having a stick in their hand. It's so great because of all the possibilities you can do with a couple of pieces of equipment."
Wes feels very fortunate that he's had so many great opportunities in his lifetime to be involved with the game of lacrosse. He's always been able to keep a stick in his hand and mastered his stick skills; been coached by some of the best in the game; won three championships; and just has a love of the game.
Diane Miller is the founder of LacrosseIsAwesome.com and has been covering the sport of lacrosse since 2009. Originally a lacrosse photographer, she began writing articles for the Denver Outlaws and Colorado Mammoth in 2013, and also covered all 14 days of the World Lacrosse Championship games in Colorado in 2014, focusing on the Blue Division. She has been photographing lacrosse professionally since 2014 and covered the Denver Outlaws first championship title in 2014. She has worked for Lax.com photographing the University of Denver men's lacrosse team, and currently sponsors one of the expansion teams in the Regional Box Lacrosse League in Colorado, the Denver Buzz.