Rush's Bruce Almighty

Edmonton Rush owner Bruce Urban works the phones prior to Edmonton’s debut in the National Lacrosse...

Edmonton Rush owner Bruce Urban works the phones prior to Edmonton’s debut in the National Lacrosse League in 2006. Urban, who has lost millions of dollars on the franchise, says he’s not ready to throw in the towel. (Edmonton Sun File)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 PM ET

EDMONTON - In the history of second-tier pro sports, this is usually the point where the owner throws his arms up in the air, says to hell with it and finally folds the franchise.

For a sixth straight season there has been no playoff game at home for the Edmonton Rush.

For five of those years there’s been no playoff game, period.

A 5-11 season crushed huge hopes that a corner had been turned to finally find a favourable financial future for the National Lacrosse League franchise.

But against all odds, the Rush, with an all-time record of 31-65, will return next year.

It was, first, an unsolicited e-mail to the columnist from team owner Bruce Urban: “I apologize for another disappointing year of lacrosse in Edmonton. There is NO excuse for the poor performance on the floor and unfortunately a poor team on the floor leads to a continuous bad gate and fans not getting their money’s worth,” wrote Urban.

“I take full responsibility that after six years the organization has not given the city a home playoff game, let alone a championship.

Committed

“I’m not going to give up. We are already in the deep end of the pool, so we better learn to be Olympic swimmers. I’m committed to this relationship to Edmonton.”

Some would say Urban should simply be committed.

The Calgarian who expected to finally experience a breakout year after a 10-6 regular-season record in 2010, complete with an upset playoff win in Calgary and an overtime loss in the league semi-final, admitted in a follow-up telephone interview on Sunday that he lost money again.

But if you wonder why he’s not folding the franchise, it’s probably in there somewhere, too.

For the first time, it wasn’t big money he lost — at least not compared to the $7.5 million he dropped in his first five years as team owner.

“It was our best financial year ever. It was our best corporate sponsor year ever. I think we’ll only end up losing $300,000 or $400,000. Have a home playoff game with 11,000 to 12,000 (fans) and it’s no problem.”

Urban said it’s time to look in the mirror first.

“Clearly, I need to take responsibility. I can’t be pointing the finger at other people,” he said.

“Clearly, I have been involved hiring the personnel. This sure hasn’t worked out the way I envisioned it to this point. I’ve obviously made some bad decisions. It’s time to look at every area of the organization from top to bottom. Every aspect.”

That includes coach and GM Derek Keenan, who came one overtime goal from taking the team to the league championship game one year ago.

“We underachieved,” added Urban. “I’m not going to rush to make organizational decisions. It’s time to analyze everything.”

That, he said, will include the one thing that seems to drive fans away more than any other: the infuriatingly loud music that’s played during games as league-wide NLL policy.

“We want to survey people to help us be better. If a high percentage of people tell us to turn the music off, we’ve got to take a look at it.”

Philosophy

The biggest refinement might be to decide on a player philosophy that goes beyond talent.

There’s not much Edmonton about the Edmonton Rush.

“The Toronto Rock have all but one or two of their players from and living in the Toronto area,” said Urban.

“The Roughnecks have nine players living in Calgary year round. We need to get to the point where we have 14 or 15 players living in thix market.”

To this point, the team has pretty much only had one identifiable player — Jimmy Quinlan — living here.

“Right now, we have 12 to 14 players flying in for our home games. You have to figure they’re going to be less fresh on occasion than those driving to the arena,” added the owner.

“We need more players spending more time together during the week.”

Urban said there are many more kids playing lacrosse in Edmonton than there were six years ago, and Alberta bantam and midget teams are doing much better in national competitions.

“I believe we’re going to start seeing some of those kids in the next three or four years. I’m told we have some absolute dandies, some lights-out players coming along.”

He swears the Rush will be here when they grow up.

“People in Edmonton are going to grow old with pro lacrosse,” said Urban.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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