When James Rahe stepped onto the floor at the Langley Events Centre for his team’s game on Feb. 12 — the Family Day long weekend — the game held special significance.
Family has always been a crucial component of Rahe’s life and not many elite-level athletes get the privilege to compete professionally in the sport they love for their hometown team.
But that is the dream the Aldergrove man is living these days with the Vancouver Stealth.
“It is amazing; a dream come true,” he described.
Rahe, who turns 23 next month, knew he was likely to get drafted this past September in the National Lacrosse League’s annual draft, but he had no idea which team would select the six-foot-four, 225-pound right-handed forward.
Rahe was coming off a stellar four-year career at Robert Morris University with the Pittsburgh university, where he studied mechanical engineering.
Thankfully, he was still on the board when Vancouver’s turn came in the second round.
“I have always been a pretty family-oriented guy.
Having to move away for college for four years was definitely tough, and being able to continue to play the sport I love at this level, close to home is unbelievable,” Rahe said.
And while some young men in their early 20s are looking to spread their wings and move out on their own — especially after completing university — Rahe wanted to come back.
“I think going away for school does something for a young man’s character and being able to go and learn that, and be able to be self-sufficient to an extent is nice. It makes you realize how much people do for you,” he explained.
“I never would have made it to Robert Morris where it not for my mother and my grandparents and my brothers. They sacrificed a lot so I could live my dream.”
Rahe has always been very close to his mother, Susan.
“She is probably my best friend; we have been through a lot together. It was tough to be without her for those four years,” he said. “She has been my rock.”
Susan Rahe had James when she was 21 and raised him as a single mother.
So when he left for university after high school — he graduated from Abbotsford’s WJ Mouat Secondary in 2012 — it was a dramatic change.
“It was very difficult for me because James has been my best friend. It has been him and I for so long,” Susan explained. “The first year was a transition period — I cried a lot that first year.”
“And for his brothers, the younger one probably exhibited some behavioural issues, missing his brothers.
Ten years ago, Susan Rahe made a huge life-changing decision, become a foster parent to two young brothers, Trevayne and Kanen, who are now 16 and 14 years old, respectively.
Her son had always wanted siblings.
“Being an only child was tough, so when they came, it was nice to have someone around, to be able to hang out with,” Rahe said.
There was an obvious adjustment period but “we turned into a family about as fast as you can think,” he said.
Both brothers also play lacrosse with the Langley Thunder program and Rahe has tried to help out as much as he can over the years.
“I always wish that I could be involved more. It is very nice to be able to stick around and be there, not only for them, but for my mother as well.
“It is obviously not easy raising three boys on your own,” he said.
That’s what made his time away from his family while at university so hard.
“One of the toughest things about being away was post-games, seeing everybody else with their families and having to make a call to be able to talk to mine,” Rahe explained.
“It is amazing that I get to finish a game (now), living out my dream, and then I get to share it them.”
Susan Rahe has been a Stealth season ticket holder since the team came to Langley four years ago.
She was there in the stands when in just his second career NLL game — and first at the LEC — he scored his first professional goal.
“It was a rush of emotions, a very exciting moment,” Susan described.
Rahe is coming off his best game as professional, scoring twice and setting up two others on Saturday night in a 12-8 home loss to the Rochester Knighthawks.
And while the team is struggling — they are at 3-6 with six losses in their last seven games — Rahe said he is amazed to be playing in the world’s best league.
“You step onto the floor and you look around and everyone is as good as you, if not better,” he said.
“It is a surreal feeling and definitely something that puts you in your place and gives you a little bit of perspective of where you are.”
The Stealth are back in action tomorrow (Saturday night) when they host the West Division-leading Saskatchewan Rush (6-2) at the LEC. Game time is 8 p.m.
Family has always been very important to James Rahe (#32). His mom Susan and his brothers Trevayne and Kanen would visit as often as they could while he attended Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. It is much easier for the family to see him play now that he is back home with the Vancouver Stealth.