Professional lacrosse has become the hottest ticket in sports in Saskatoon.
It was evident on Saturday night when a capacity crowd of 14,941 packed into Sask Tel Centre to watch the Saskatchewan Rush defeat their rivals the Calgary Roughnecks 11-9, and secure a home playoff game.
For owner Bruce Urban, who relocated the franchise to Saskatoon from Edmonton just months after the team’s championship season, the sellout is proof the community has embraced the team.
“Early on when we announced we were coming to the city everybody asked what kind of crowds do you expect. I said, ‘we want to sell the building out.'”
“I know people were kind of saying, ‘jeez does this guy know how tough a job he’s going to have doing that.'”
Still, the Saskatchewan native said he always had faith the team would be successful in Saskatoon, but admits it wasn’t an easy sell at the beginning.
“Early on it was really tough to knock on the corporate doors. There was a lot of naysayers.”
Urban said they hit some walls early on, but in the last 30 days their phone has been ringing off the hook with “corporate Saskatchewan” wanting to get involved for next year.
The entire Rush brand seems to have taken off. Not only have ticket sales been strong, so have merchandise sales.
Urban says they have sold more Rush garb in the first six months, than in any full season when the team was in Edmonton. In fact, Urban says the Rush have sold twice as much merchandise compared to any other team in the National Lacrosse League this year.
“Again, we didn’t know how many jerseys do we order, how many hoodies do we order. We’ve been trying to reorder, get more sizes and more merchandise,” Urban said, hinting at trendier selections for fans in the near future.
“We’re having success very quickly,which is thrilling.”
The (9-3) Rush are on the road this week to take on the (7-5) New England Black Wolves Friday night.