Star gazing

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

It's the best way to get the top professional lacrosse players in one building.

Actually, it's the only way.

And next season they'll be in Edmonton as the Rush were awarded the 2008 National Lacrosse League all-star game.

"We're thrilled about it," said Rush president Duane Vienneau following yesterday's announcement at Rexall Place. "It brings the best players in the world to Edmonton for a weekend.

"Fans will have an opportunity to see these guys up close. It'll also give the city another opportunity to see the sport. If they haven't been out yet, this might be something that will bring them out."

SLATED FOR MARCH 16

The game takes place Sunday, March 16, 2008, at Rexall Place. The Rush will have a league game the night before and it is hoped the Calgary Roughnecks can host an opponent on the Friday in order to make it a lacrosse weekend across the province.

"Every time we can do something to expose our product and our sport it's going to help the momentum we're building," Vienneau said. "We're excited about it. The main reason we're doing the game the night before is because we want to make it a Rush weekend. We want to be focused on the weekend, we're going to have a lot of festivities."

Along with the game, the all-star event will feature a skills competition and a fan fest program. The Rush also promise not to skimp out on the live entertainment.

"When you get all those guys in the field at once that have that stick wizardry, it's pretty amazing," said Rush owner Bruce Urban.

"You realize how much talent there actually is out there. Any time you can host an all-star game for any pro sport, it's pretty exciting for the fans to go out there and see the best of the best."

The game was actually promised to the Rush after narrowly losing the bid to this year's event in Portland.

This year's game was held on Saturday and saw the East defeat the West 20-16 in front of 12,856 fans at the Rose Garden in Portland.

Mark Steenhuis of the Buffalo Bandits won MVP honours after scoring six goals.

"Last year we had four bids for this year's game," said NLL commissioner Jim Jennings. "We were really torn between Portland and Edmonton because Edmonton had put in such a strong bid.

"We gave it to Portland and they did a great job with it. One of the reasons is that we've had it in Calgary and Toronto the last couple of years, so we decided that it would be good to put it in the U.S. That's what edged out Edmonton last year."

But now that the game is coming to Edmonton, anticipation is building.

"It's something that the Edmonton Rush and the organization deserve," said Rush star Jimmy Quinlan.

"As a young kid growing up you never thought lacrosse would come to Edmonton and now to have the all-star game awarded here is something beyond your dreams."

BIG SHOWCASE

The game is the league's biggest showcase event of the season.

"It's the game where we're trying to show people who the best players in the game are," Jennings said. "This is probably the event for the league. Some say it's the championship game, but the problem with the championship game is that we don't really know who is hosting until two weeks beforehand, so it's difficult to do a lot of planning."


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