Rush! Crush! Slush!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:22 PM ET

Fans were given rides on the back of a monster truck before the game in the parking lot.

An NFL-style sell-the-sex cheer team called the 'Crush' were introduced to the crowd by somebody called D.J. Rush from a booth in the stands surrounded by barbed wire and were down there grinding to the high volume hip-hop.

From the roof, the Seattle Supersonics NBA team mascot 'Squatch' dropped a la the Mighty Duck mascot in Anaheim followed by his long-lost cousin from the North - 'Slush' - who lowered by cable at the other end of the floor to begin work here.

The Edmonton Rush players were introduced from under pyro, complete with video introduction clips.

National Lacrosse League commissioner Jim Jennings told the crowd "We've been trying to get here for four years'' and complimented owned Bruce Urban for "a tremendous job of marketing so far.'' He told the crowd: "You are about to witness the best lacrosse players in the world.''

DIAL UP THE VOLUME

And so it began.

The first game of pro lacrosse in Edmonton - accompanied by non-stop, mind-numbing, ear-splitting dial-up-the-volume sound which accompanies the play and makes drag racing seem almost like golf by comparison. Grandpa isn't going to enjoy going to these games.

Anybody of any age who thinks pro sports should involve professionalism - where the P.A. announcer isn't scripted to make comments about the fact that the visiting team's colours include yellow, or about the visiting players being beat out of their jockstraps - isn't going to like this at all.

On the other hand, the game was great.

The product is terrific.

There's a lot to sell with this sport in this nation. And the Rush started their existence as a competitive and entertaining team.

The fans, even those who sat there abhorring the noise and cringing at the game presentation, had to like what they watched with the actual game.

It took forever for Jamie Bowen to score the first goal of Rush history, but when he did the crowd exploded like they do at an Oiler game.

And there was an NHL-sized crowd to watch it - albeit an NHL crowd that you'd find in Carolina, Atlanta, Washington, Pittsburgh, Florida, Phoenix, Chicago, St. Louis, etc.

With a crowd of 11,385 and the way the fans reacted to the X-X win by the new home-town team against the San Jose Stealth, you'd have to call opening night a success. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a rush, small 'r' or capital 'R.' But it was a happening.

The lower bowl was full. If they can duplicate this every night, maybe owner Bruce Urban won't lose millions on this.

CRUELLA DE VILLE

Certainly, the Rush has done almost everything right so far and instantly moved into third place on the local pro sports scene ahead of the Northern League Edmonton Cracker Cats under the do-everything-wrong loony toon ownership of Dan Orlich and Cruella de Ville.

But are the Rush here for a good time or a long time?

Back in 2002, when rumours first began to surface about a pro lacrosse team here, I warned investors off. Edmonton, I wrote, is Oilers, Eskimos and major national and international sports events.

Last night, I must admit, didn't do anything to make me change my mind on that.

We've had our run of short guy basketball leagues, roller hockey, indoor soccer (twice) outdoor soccer (too many to count), etc.

Despite the success of the Toronto Rock and Calgary Roughnecks (and failure of Vancouver and Ottawa franchises) there was no huge cry to bring the National Lacrosse League to Edmonton.

The league launched here last night with most local sports fans unable to name the teams in the league, any of the players or the defending champions.

I can't see that changing much. The toughest challenge will probably be to put people in the press box beyond opening night.

The bottom line is that you have to care who wins and who loses, not just about the two hours of a one-night entertainment experience.

Urban poured a lot of money into promotion going into this game and season. Remember the Edmonton Roadrunners sold out their first game here last year.

Remember the Edmonton Roadrunners?


Videos

Photos