The newly-crowned MVP of the 2023 National Lacrosse League season will be in the Ladner Pioneers’ goal crease this season.
The defending President’s Cup national champions have landed Calgary Roughnecks star and Coquitlam native Christian Del Bianco.
The 25-year-old, who was named NLL MVP on Friday, is expected to make his Pioneers’ debut in weekend games against North Shore and Victoria.
Del Bianco saw his NLL season end in a deciding game semi-final loss to the Colorado Mammoth last weekend. He led the league in save percentage (.810), while recording career highs in wins (13) and assists (19). He was also named First Team All-League.
Del Bianco made his pro debut with the Roughnecks back in 2017 when he was still junior age and led the Adanacs to a pair of Minto Cup titles.
The reigning Western Lacrosse Association MVP opted for Ladner instead of another summer with the Coquitlam Adanacs after leading his hometown team to its first post-season berth since 2013.
Thanks to a sponsorship war chest, the Pioneers’ roster already features Roughnecks standout Tyler Pace, a long-time teammate of Del Bianco. Calgary veterans Jeff Cornwall and Zach Herreweyers are also expected to sign with Ladner in the coming days, joining the likes of Ryan Benesch, Matt Beers and Owen Barker.
“Just having the familiarity of guys like Tyler Pace and it sounds like Jeff will be back too, along with the other NLL guys here. Hearing their experience of going to the President’s Cup last year and just how much of a grind it was. Obviously, we first still have to get there but it would be fun experience for me,” said Del Bianco. “Playing two games in one day. Everyone kind of laughs at that one. It’s like going back to your days playing bantam or pee wee.
“You look around and kind of see what teams are loading up in the WLA. You start to realize where teams are going to be. It’s obviously a good league and you see those top teams that are competing, but it kind of becomes a thing where it’s top teams versus everyone else. Unless you’re on one of the big ticket teams that has some money to spend, you’re not going to have the same chance to compete and I think most of us are playing the game to try to win.
“Ladner kind of had the offer of winning and that’s our goal here.”
Just a 15-game regular season schedule and fewer practices will also give Del Bianco more time to do things away from the game.
“At the end of the day, there is different reasons and different benefits. For a lot of us, it’s the flexibility that you gain. For me, personally, we have a big reno that we are doing in August at home. Having the ability to spend a little time off doing that helps.”
Del Bianco and the Pioneers will host the New West Salmonbellies next Thursday at 8 p.m.