The recent announcement that the Saskatchewan Rush have been sold by Bruce Urban to the Saskatoon Blades surprised many. But in the long term, this is a move that should be good for everyone involved.
Urban bought the team in 2005 and moved it to his hometown of Edmonton, AB. The franchise was originally the Syracuse Smash, operating in New York from 1998-2000 before moving to Ottawa and being renamed the Rebel. They remained in Ottawa until 2003, then went inactive until Urban brought the team west.
Urban is the owner of Western RV, a company with offices all over Alberta, so continuing to maintain ownership means travel away from his primary focus. Having the team run from Saskatoon therefore should not have a negative impact on how things are managed. More importantly, General Manager/Head Coach Derek Keenan is still very much directing the team and that doesn’t change at all—his ability to choose players that fit into his system has made the Rush into a powerhouse and there’s no sign of that changing.
The Blades also have a vested interest in the continued success of the Rush, from a purely financial standpoint. The Blades typically draw around 3,000-4,000 fans to their WHL games; the Rush have averaged over 13,500 per game since they moved to Saskatoon. Making sure the teams cross-pollinate their advertising to get as many fans in the stands as possible only serves to improve the bottom line for both teams.
And really, there’s no reason to think this team won’t continue to be a championship contender. The Panther City Expansion Draft cost them just one defender from their deep, collection—Matt Hossack was snapped up, providing PCLC with a reliable defenceman, but he was still no better than sixth on the Rush defence/transition depth chart behind Kyle Rubisch, Jeff Thompson, Ryan Dilks, Chris Corbeil, and Mike Messenger (arguably even seventh, also behind Jeff Cornwall).
With former MVP Mark Matthews, former MVP Jeff Shattler, Robert Church, Ben McIntosh, Ryan Keenan, and newly arrived Josh Currier as the foundation of their offence, they should be able to score with any other team in the NLL. And let’s not forget former Goaltender of the Year Evan Kirk.
This is a very good team and the future still looks bright.