I caught up with steer wrestler Straws Milan as he was heading home after day four of the Calgary Stampede. The jovial hockey player turned cowboy is enjoying his fourth consecutive trip to the Stampede.
“This is my hometown rodeo,” Milan said. “It’s awesome to be here… and it’s a place where you can make a lot of money!”
Straws knows all about the money at Calgary -- he won the steer wrestling event in 2011 and the $100,000 prize that went along with it.
Straws is one of three professional steer wrestling brothers. His brothers Tanner and Baillee have all competed at the Canadian Finals Rodeo, and Straws earned a trip to the National Finals last December.
At one time, Straws was as skilled at hockey as he is now in the rodeo arena. His success as a junior hockey player when he was in his teens earned him a tryout with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers.
“I had a choice back then,” the stocky athlete explains. “I tried high school rodeo for my Grade 12 year and finished second at the National High School Finals in Fallon, Nevada. Then I won the Mark Roy steer wrestling event. I was 17 at that point and decided to switch from hockey to rodeo.
Despite the success he’s enjoyed in professional rodeo, when asked if he ever second-guesses that decision, there’s no hesitation.
“I regret it everyday," he says. "Looking back, I wish I’d tried hockey first. You can rodeo for a long time. It’s not the same with hockey.”
Having made that choice, Straws works hard at his chosen sport and does so with a constant smile on his face. He credits his family with helping him find success.
“Mom and Dad do everything for us… dad owns all our doggin’ horses. And he’s involved in pro rodeo as the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association President.”
In addition to his life as a rodeo cowboy, Straws works in the family construction business, fencing and mowing oil leases. He’s also involved in the family ranch northwest of Calgary.
As for this Stampede, Straws has faced some adversity this year, with only a split of second place in round one to his credit.
He’ll return for Wildcard Saturday on July 11 to try to secure a berth in Championship Sunday.