Urban's wizardry alone can't save winless Rush

JOHN SHORT, SPECIAL TO THE EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

Like it or not, the Edmonton Rush is headed quickly toward a crossroads.

The impressive beginning of the new lacrosse franchise - big crowds, rapt media attention - was created largely because owner Bruce Urban is a marketing whiz who hired bright people as part of his commitment.

But here's the question: how long will the bells and whistles stay in place if the expansion franchise fails to win?

Advance sales for the meeting with the Toronto Rock next weekend are good, but the large drop in attendance for Friday's game against Minnesota may have been an ominous sign.

Five losses in a row? Also ominous.

It's fair to compare Edmonton's early days in the NLL with the bright start Peter Pocklington's Drillers had in the long-ago North American Soccer League.

That team, too, drew positive response in the early days.

The Drillers, in fact, had one big advantage. Every visiting team at Commonwealth Stadium featured a high-profile international star.

Many were has-beens, but the names were real.

Familiar names in the NLL - there aren't any.

But the lacrosse project has at least one big advantage over outdoor soccer.

You didn't have to grow up with this game in order to enjoy it.

SAY NO TO THOSE HEAD HITS: Mark this down in capital letters.

The NHL must introduce - and soon - a penalty against deliberate blows to the head.

Anybody who doubts the wisdom of such a move is invited to watch the violent "highlights" of Scott Stevens' career, shown as part of the ceremony when his jersey was raised to the rafters by the New Jersey Devils the other night.

The collisions were legal in the old NHL, but should be illegal in this new, high-speed regime.

In both hockey and football, too many athletes go to the injury list as a result of helmet-rattlers, whether intentional or otherwise. Football bosses were smart enough to count the concussions and move to stop them.

Hockey's deep thinkers can't afford to be far behind.

GOING, GOING ... In a separate but related area, here's further proof that the designated enforcer is almost gone from the NHL.

Heading into last night's game against Vancouver, seldom-used Georges Laraque of the Oilers had only two penalty minutes more than Ales Hemsky and a few points less (!) than offensive powerhouse Igor Ulanov.

Lack of playing time is the reason, for sure.

How could Craig MacTavish or any other coach find time for a fighter who won't fight - especially in a politically correct league that wants fighting out of the game, but doesn't have enough fortitude to simply issue suspensions for everybody who drops the gloves?

LOOKING BETTER EVERY DAY: Every day, Kevin Lowe's move to add Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom looks wiser. Most teams are looking for blue-line help, and the Oilers have a couple to spare. Add Colorado to the list of those in need. Mainstay Ossi Vanaanen is out for a long time with a broken ankle.

THANKS, TIGER: Goodbye, Tiger Goldstick. As others have already said, you were one of a kind. Thanks for the stories and the years of friendship.


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