A Man for all Sporting Seasons Because Tom Mayenknecht love sports, it's no surprise that he's dipped his hand into a number of arenas. His newest venture is the National Lacrosse League's Vancouver Ravens Cleve Dheensaw Victoria Times Colonist Tom Mayenknecht is a moveable sports feast. In happier hoops times in this province, he played a key role with Orca Bay in helping launch the Vancouver Grizzlies in the NBA. As second-in-command to Roger Skillings during his four-year stint with Victoria PacificSport, Mayenknecht was instrumental in the major role the national training centre played in helping produce the staggering total of 40 Island-based athletes for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. But it's another year, which means another challenge for the 42-year-old sporting man for all seasons. The latest phone booth transformation has taken him from Simon Whitfield to Darren Reisig. Mayenknecht is now governor and managing general partner of the National Lacrosse League expansion Vancouver Ravens, who meet the Washington Power in an NLL exhibition game Sunday at 5 p.m. at Memorial Arena. Sportworks Entertainment, with principals Mayenknecht and Bob Smart, share ownership of the Ravens with businessman and former NHL all-star defenceman Paul Reinhart. Growing up on the West Island of Montreal, Mayenknecht wasn't a lacrosse fan. In fact, it's one of the few sports he didn't follow avidly. He recalls the Saturday night family ritual of dad Hans (who has retired to Victoria with Mayenknecht's mother Gretel) making pancakes for the whole family as they settled in to watch Hockey Night in Canada during the Canadiens dynasty era. "The Expos arrived when I was nine years old and then came the Summer Olympics in 1976 -- as a sports-mad kid, I was in heaven," said Mayenknecht, who played baseball, hockey and football. He turned to coaching minor football in the North Shore League (of Montreal) and mentored such young players Alonzo Highsmith, who went to the University of Miami and became the No. 2 pick overall in the 1987 NFL draft, and former Saskatchewan Roughriders' Schenley Award winner Jeff Fairholm. Although immersed in the basic North American sports, it was his job as a youthful sportswriter for the North Shore News of suburban Montreal that got Mayenknecht into the Athletes Village at the 1976 Summer Olympics and began his love of some of the more obscure amateur sports. "It made me understand from an early age what it took to be an Olympic athlete and that has stayed with me all these years and it's why I believe so much in what PacificSport does and why I've stayed on as a strategic consultant with PacificSport," said Mayenknecht. He added the massive Montreal debt has overshadowed "how great an artistic success the actual sporting events were at those 1976 Summer Olympics." A job as communications director for Tennis Canada first brought Mayenknecht to B.C., for the 1987 Federation Cup hosted at Hollyburn. That led to the job as the Grizzlies' chief of communications, which lasted until the new Orca Bay ownership group purged many of the people left over from the Arthur Griffith era. Mayenknecht was among the casualties. PacificSport president Ken Shields got hold of Mayenknecht, who was in Atlanta attending the 1996 Summer Olympics, immediately and offered him the PacificSport vice-president position in Victoria. Stung by his grizzly Grizzlies departure, and sensing a chance to make an impact in amateur sport, Mayenknecht took the job at PacificSport, a training centre which began as a $15-million sports development legacy of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games. Mayenknecht was instrumental in rebranding it from the unwieldy Commonwealth Centre for Sport Development to the hipper and more media-friendly PacificSport. He proudly points out that he used to live on "Athletes Row" in Fairfield next to Olympic-medallist mountain biker Alison Sydor and Ironman Hawaii world champions Peter Reid and Lori Bowden. Now come the Ravens in a tricky Canadian sports market. Two of the pro teams that played such big roles in shaping Mayenknecht, the Expos and Grizzlies, are either gone to Graceland or soon will be contracted into oblivion. But he believes niche marketing is where it's at and is encouraged by the healthy crowds that attended the minor-pro soccer games of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Breakers, two clubs Mayenknecht helped launch last spring with former partner David Stadnyk. (Mayenknecht has since divested himself of his Whitecaps/Breakers interests to concentrate his resources on the Ravens). He might also look with encouragement to the success of the Vancouver Canadians AA baseball club and Vancouver Giants of the major-junior Western Hockey League, both of which regularly attract or attracted crowds of more than 5,000 this year. "The Ravens can't pretend to be the Canucks but that's OK because we can offer something different -- accessibility," said Mayenknecht, noting the Ravens are on target to have more than 5,000 season tickets sold by Dec. 1 for their inaugural season at GM Place. "The more accessible sport is, the more powerful it is to young people and fans. The greater access to teams like the Ravens -- from reasonable ticket pricing to a chance to meet the athletes -- makes the community feel these people are happy to be a part of the community." After the Grizzlies and Expos, that's a nice niche.