New look for Rush

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

The Edmonton Rush is now, without a doubt, Bob Hamley's team.

Since taking over the reins of the National Lacrosse League franchise, Hamley has made wholesale changes to the roster.

Heading into the 2009 campaign, which opens tomorrow night in Calgary against the Roughnecks, there are only five players left from the team Hamley inherited last year.

"It's important for this team to get wins early this year," Hamley said yesterday after the Rush unveiled their new look for the upcoming season.

"We have to show the fans that we're serious and that's how we're going to sell more tickets.

"We've stressed that in training camp. We tried to change the culture, we tried to change the dressing room, we've asked guys to give us six months of commitment.

"If we can focus on just lacrosse for those six months, we're going to have good results."

Hamley is familiar with good results.

As a player, he won two NLL championships with the Buffalo Bandits, then made it to three more championship games as a coach.

Hamley was the first person in league history to be named both head coach and general manger of the year in the same season.

Last year, after getting off to an 0-6 start, the Rush brought in Hamley to replace Paul Day. They went on to finish the season with a 4-12 record.

"A lot of the guys that we've brought in here are not aware what's happened here in the past," Hamley said.

"We've had team meetings, we've had individual meetings and we've stressed that this is a new team, there is fresh energy and fresh faces. We've kept harping on that, to the point the players are sick of me harping about it.

"But they understand what we are trying to do."

One of the biggest names brought in this season is forward Andy Secore. The Hamilton, Ont., native had 76 points last year with the Minnesota Swarm and was named a league all-star.

Along with Mike Hominuck, Dan Teat and Jimmy Quinlan, Secore is expected to provide a bulk of the scoring for the Rush this season.

"Our expectations are definitely high this year," Secore said.

"Our goal is to make it to the playoffs and I think we should with the team that we have.

"But we can't look that far ahead, we still have to take it one game at a time."

But as a fourth-year club, this year's edition will not be afforded the luxury of a grace period.

They have to win immediately and must challenge for a playoff spot in order to keep their fans satisfied.

"There is definitely pressure on us, we're going into our fourth season and we haven't made the playoffs," said Rush captain Chris McElroy, one of the original members of the club.

"Playoffs is what we're aiming for this year. It's not just our goal, it's our expectation.

"We had a real competitive training camp. Bob has done a great job of bringing in a lot of talented players and a lot of great people. Our offence is much improved and we have new goaltending. There are a lot of exciting changes and we're looking forward to getting the season started."

The Rush have been optimistic going into a season before.

After struggling through their first two years, they went into the 2008 campaign with high expectations, ready to shed their expansion-team results.

However, the team was never able to put it all together, costing Day and his coaching staff their jobs.

When Hamley took over he quickly went to work on changing the makeup of the club. Those changes continued through the off-season.

"It's very important that the players understand what we're trying to do and where we're trying to get to," Hamley said.

"Our organization wants to succeed and that's why they're here. We've got that message across and now it's up to the players to go out and pass that along."


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