November 15, 2011
Rush show resilience in NLL
By Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency
Success can be measured a couple of different ways in the NLL.
While established franchises like the Toronto Rock and Philadelphia Wings can boast a record six Champions Cups to their credit, just being able to hang onto a team has proven a feat in itself for most cities.
Since joining the NLL in 2006, the Edmonton Rush have witnessed the league go from 13 teams to nine, with the former Boston Blazers being the latest to toss in the towel in the off-season.
And only the strong survive.
The Calgary Roughnecks dodged a bullet after getting picked up by the NHL’s Calgary Flames this year.
“That brings four of our nine franchises that are owned or operated by NHL teams,” NLL comissioner George Daniel said during a two-day visit to Edmonton. “I think it’s the best ownership group that we’ve had in the 26-year history of the league.”
That includes individual owners, such as the Rush’s Bruce Urban.
“We’ve got a great owner in Edmonton here with Bruce,” Daniel said. “He’s very creative and innovative in marketing and all the things he does.
“Bruce is so passionate and all the innovative things he’s done over the years with the UFC and Orange County Choppers, he’s always trying to create mainstream awareness for the sport. It’s great.”
“So the league’s really in great shape.”
And a more slender version than the one Edmonton joined in 2006, that became top-heavy with teams and couldn’t sustain the rapid growth.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to go forward and that’s where we’re at right now,” said Daniel, who looks kindly upon Canadian markets. “I am very gung-ho on any major Canadian city having an NLL franchise. We’d like to be in all of them. The sport is indigenous to Canada. Box lacrosse is very Canadian.”
Average attendance on both sides of the border is 10,000, but the Rush are third-lowest in the league with a draw of around 6,000-7,000 per game.
Just don’t expect the Edmonton Oilers to have to come to the aid like the Rush’s southern counterparts needed.
“Not at this point. There’s nothing that’s in discussion,” Urban said. “We’re in an Oiler-crazy marketplace, an Eskimo-crazy marketplace and we want Edmonton to embrace the Rush as well. So we’re on a real push for season-ticket sales.
“Selling sports is not an easy business.”