Sunday, 23 April 2017

The spectacle of the Rush

National Lacrosse League team thrills Saskatchewan fans

Matt Hossack celebrates scoring a goal for the Rush.
    When it comes to providing the ultimate escapism for the sports fan in Saskatchewan, no one beats the Saskatchewan Rush.
    After winning a league championship in 2015 in Edmonton, the National Lacrosse League franchise relocated to Saskatoon for the 2016 season after owner Bruce Urban was unable to secure a long-term lease in the Alberta capital. In June of 2016, the Rush repeated as NLL champions, and local fans from around the province had the opportunity to experience the thrill of championship victory first hand.
    Leading the best-of-three NLL championship series 1-0 against the Buffalo Bandits, the Rush hosted Game 2 at the SaskTel Centre on June 4, 2016. Locked in a 10-10 draw, a crowd of 15,182 gleefully watched Rush defenceman Jeff Cornwall bolt coast-to-coast and tuck home the winning goal with 12 second to play to give the host side an 11-10 victory in the game and a 2-0 sweep of the series. 
A mini-monster truck shoots sparks at the Rush game.
    In the aftermath of that exciting finish, it seemed the Champions Cup found its way to numerous parts of Saskatchewan.
    Now in their second season in Saskatoon, the excitement around the Rush hasn’t diminished. On Saturday, they improved to 11-5 and locked up first place in the NLL’s West Division with a 15-10 victory over the storied Toronto Rock before a raucous crowd of 15,045 at the SaskTel Centre.
    During their nine regular season home dates, the Rush are averaging just under 15,000 per game, and the ticket buyer is enjoying every minute of the action.
    The action isn’t limited to the game itself. It also includes all the entertainment aspects surrounding the contest.
    Last year, I went to games were the Rush locked up the West Division final series and the NLL championship game as a ticket buyer. On Saturday, I ventured to the SaskTel Centre on the media end to get my feet wet with another side of the Rush experience.
Members of the Crush Dance Team entertain the SaskTel Centre crowd.
    I took my camera and expected to shoot photos of the game and likely write some sort of story about the night. The Rush victory allowed head coach Derek Keenan to become the all-time leader in NLL career wins at 122 surpassing the previous mark of 121 held by Darris Kilgour, who coached the Bandits from 2003 to 2013.
    Keenan’s record win provided the perfect bailout story for me. I became so involved with the picture taking aspect of the night I was really oblivious to the blow-by-blow of how the Rush won by a 15-10 final.
    I remember the Rush bolting out to a quick 2-0 lead, when Ben McIntosh scored 47 seconds into the contest and Mark Matthews tallied at the 3:03 mark of the first quarter. From there, half of pictures I took were of the game and half were of things that happened around the game.
Rush fans do the chest beat celebration after one of the team’s goals.
    I took cool shots of the mini-monster truck shooting out huge sparks during the pre-game and was taken in by the skill displayed by the Crush Dance Team during their performances. I found myself in the party zone set up in the one corner of the facility and wandering the concourse checking out the various displays the Rush staff set up through the facility.
    It was also a 1980s promo night on Saturday, and considering I love 80s music, I was grooving pretty good to the tunes Trystan Meyers , who is also known as “D.J. Anchor,” was cranking out. The Nightrain, which is a Guns N’ Roses tribute band, was pretty sweet as well.
    In between, I was able to capture a couple of shots of Bruiser the Rush bulldog mascot.
Rush mascot Bruiser waves a team flag.
    On the floor, I loved the up tempo pace of action the NLL presents. Being at the contest in a media capacity, I really took in and was in awe checking out how much the fans reacted and enjoyed the night. While there are obvious fan favourite players like goalie Aaron Bold, Jeremy Thompson, Matthews and Robert Church, the fans were soaking in the pure fun.
    Even if the Rush had lost, you felt like the fans wouldn’t be over dissecting the game, which commonly happens when the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders come up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
    The announcers do their best to get the crowd revved up into the game like noting the Toronto Rock come from a city that considers itself “the centre of the universe.”
    When the Rush score, everyone get super intense into the chest beat celebration.
    Behind the scenes, the Rush game day staff are first class to deal with. It seem like they are upbeat all the time, which adds to the fun.
    At a Rush game, it feels like all your daily troubles go away for the two to three hours you are there.
    For the ticket buyers that are coming from all over Saskatchewan, that feeling of euphoria is priceless.

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