Contrary to popular belief, not everyone plays hockey growing up in Canada, much the way not everyone who grows up in Brazil plays soccer.
Some Canadians play basketball. Many indulge in lacrosse. Some play football (the 12-man variety).
And some ride bulls.
If you grew up on a farm, as Aaron Roy, Ty Pozzobon and Chad Besplug did, you were messing around with steers, not sticks and skates.
"Between chores on the farm and going to school, I didn't have time for hockey," said Roy, 25, who was raised in Asquith, Saskatchewan, and has won more money on the Professional Bull Riders tour ($737,549) than any other Canadian rider. "I was around animals all the time, so I've been comfortable riding. I got over my fear a long time ago."
The Canadians, along with the Americans and the Australians, are trying to break the Brazilians' stranglehold on the PBR World Finals trophy. In the PBR's first 18 years, no Canadian rider has ever won the world championship or the World Finals. Brazilian riders have been on top for three of the last four years.
But Roy, Pozzobon and Besplug are looking to change that. Pozzobon, from Merritt, British Columbia, is ranked No. 18 and is the top Canadian qualifier at the Thomas & Mack Center this week (Roy is No. 25 and Besplug No. 31).
A fourth Canadian - Zane Lambert of Westbourne, Manitoba - was one of the few to successfully ride out his bull in Wednesday's first round of competition. Lambert, an international qualifier, scored an 84.25 on Buck Wild. Besplug, Pozzobon and Roy were all bucked off their bulls and failed to post a score.
Pozzobon said bull riding is in his blood.
"I come from a rodeo family," he said. "My dad rode bulls, and I grew up with the sport. But bull riding's not real big in B.C., so I had to move to Alberta."
He also had to make a decision when he was 17. Unlike Roy and Besplug, Pozzobon did play hockey. He reached juniors, which for some elite players is one step from playing professionally. But Pozzobon's coach told him he couldn't do both, and he figured if he's going to give blood for sport, better to do it on dirt, where it doesn't show as noticeably as on the ice.
"I don't regret it at all," said Pozzobon, 20, who still plays hockey in an adult recreation league. "I thought riding was my best chance to make it as an athlete."
Besplug, a 27-year-old PBR rookie from Claresholm, Alberta, has had a nice season. He won the bull riding event this summer at the Calgary Stampede, one of the world's biggest rodeos. He has earned $156,718 in 2012 and was second to Arkansas' Chase Outlaw in the Rookie of the Year standings, trailing by $8,485. A good week in Las Vegas and Besplug could take home the PBR's top rookie honors.
"It would be nice, but I'm just focusing on riding well here this week," said Besplug, who began riding when he was 8 but also ran track while in high school. "You work hard all year for this opportunity, so you want to make the most of it."
The trio agreed that a good showing by them this week will boost the sport's exposure in Canada. Roy said only 100 Canadian riders have a PBR card, compared with more than 900 American bull riders, so they would like to boost their numbers.
In addition to the regular tour, the PBR has a Canadian tour, which allows up-and-coming riders to develop their skills while letting the big-name riders such as Roy, Pozzobon, Besplug and Lambert to stay home and make a few loonies.
"We try to help each other," Roy said. "If I see something, or Ty or Chad see something that the other's doing, or we've ridden a bull that one of the others will ride, we'll point it out to that guy and try and help him.
"It's huge for us to be representing Canada here in Vegas this week. You have a lot of pride. A lot of people come down to support us, and we don't want to let them down."
Besplug said the Brazilians have set the bar fairly high for everyone, not just the Canadian riders.
"They're really, really good," Besplug said. "They're very skilled, and they work very hard."
Pozzobon said: "We're hoping we can start to close the gap on them a little with a good showing this week."
■ NOTES - Wednesday's high score was a 90.25 by Brazilian Renato Nunes on Yellow Jacket Jr. The bulls got the better of things on opening night. Of the 39 riders competing, only six managed to stay on for the mandatory eight seconds.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.