You've gotta win

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

Ask the Edmonton Rush players what they think of "Guaranteed Win Night" and the responses are varied.

They range from "Oh, wow!" to "Oh, no."

But after some consideration even the doubters became excited at the prospect of playing in such a contest.

And the consensus is that the promotion - which allows fans to get the cost of tickets taken off the purchase of equivalently priced 2007 season tickets if the Rush don't win tomorrow night's contest with the Portland LumberJax - hardly came as a shock.

"Nothing surprises me about this team," said Rush defender Buck Stobart. "This team has brought in a supermodel (Brooke Burke) and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders so what else should they do? It sounds kind of fun to me."

Stobart and teammate Trent Smalley have never been a part of a similar situation but both recalled two of the most famous guarantees ever uttered in sports.

GAME 6

In 1994, Mark Messier promised New York Rangers' fans a victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against New Jersey and he then backed it up with a hat trick. And in Super Bowl III, Joe Namath proclaimed that his New York Jets would defeat the favoured Baltimore Colts. Namath's performance earned him the game's MVP honour.

"Mark Messier, Joe Namath and (Rush president) Duane Vienneau - that's quite a threesome," laughed Stobart, who was a witness to Smalley's own guarantee.

"The fans have appreciated the way we've played and it shows," said Smalley.

"We're sixth in the league in attendance and we've only got one win. I guarantee we'll win more games next season and we're going to have some sellouts. Hey, we're 1-12 and we're getting 10,000 a game. Imagine if we were 8-4 and in contention. I'm confident that more fans will come out."

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And the Rush are obviously desperate. Their lone victory in 13 games wasn't accomplished on their home floor and with the chance of qualifying for the playoffs lost long ago, they can only leave a good taste in the mouths of their fans one way.

"It doesn't add any pressure because we should have enough pressure on ourselves," said Rush captain Andrew Turner. "It's our fans' last chance to watch us and we want to go out on a high note.

"They've been pretty great. Our last game (against Colorado) we lost by seven goals and they hung around till the end of the game.

"All the fans that I've talked to are very supportive and understand that for an expansion team the first year is tough. But they're seeing that we're competitive."

HUNG IN THERE

The Rush have hung in there on many home-turf nights and come close to winning three of those seven games. San Jose needed overtime to beat the Rush in their inaugural game and the Rush lost 7-6 in a tight affair with Minnesota. The Rush also had a good shot at beating Toronto but the defending NLL champs fired up a comeback to earn a 13-11 decision.

Finding success on "Guaranteed Win Night" is something Turner hopes will lead to a surge in confidence for the future.

"The goal should be to show up and expect to win every night, not just compete," said Turner.

"Hopefully next year we start to find that feeling."

But the LumberJax aren't going to make it easy for them.

"I think we have to be wary and we're going to have to play our best to get the win," said Portland assistant coach Jeff McComb.


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