Why the Sask Rush Experience is Unrivaled...
Updated: May 1, 2019
Remember when I wrote the Saskatchewan Rush converted me into a fan? Well, I’m now a full-blown member of the family. If you don’t follow me on Twitter (@LacrosseLogical), you won’t know how this came about. Originally, I posted the article on Twitter and tagged the Rush Hulk. Little did I know he would retweet it while challenging me to attend a home game. I was now exposed to Rush Nation en masse.
Next thing I knew, a generous season ticket holder offered to give me two tickets if I flew up for a game. I laughed it off at first, but as my thoughts settled, I recognized the opportunity I’d be passing up. How many people can say they were invited to an NLL game from social media strangers? It was crazy to think Rush Nation liked my article so much, they invited me to experience their arena in person. The more I dwelled on it, the more I realized I’d remember this for eternity. After all, some of life’s best moments come from out of the blue. I booked plane tickets and accepted the Hulk’s invitation.
On Friday, I flew into Calgary and stayed in Manitou Beach. A small Saskatchewan town an hour from Saskatoon. I had plans to meet the Hulk at Wendel Clark’s Classic Bar and Grill around 2 PM for lunch on Saturday. I arrived early and sat down at our reserved table. I was concerned for the building structure, since the Hulk has serious anger issues; therefore, I was relieved to see Bruce Banner in his human state at arrival. I asked Bruce about this and he explained that after defeating Thanos in End Game, he decided to retire and change his name to Kelvin Ooms. He clarified that he transformed into the Hulk at games because he gets awfully angry when opposing teams score on Saskatchewan.
Jokes aside, Kelvin is a retired firefighter who dresses up as the Hulk to grow the game. He is not paid for this. He does it because he loves making people happy and promoting the game in a positive manner. There is not a word in the English language that accurately describes how remarkable Kelvin is. He is easily one of the most pleasant people I have ever met. Without him, none of this would have happened!
Anyways, at the bar, Kelvin and I connected on our passion for lacrosse. We discussed how he became the Rush Hulk, which is an amusing story. Kelvin began his journey by dressing as Darth Vader at Rush games. I don’t have pictures, but he made a lightsaber with PVC pipe with red lights inside. It’s basically a lacrosse stick lightsaber without the head. After embracing his inner dark side, Kelvin believed he needed to dress as someone who better fit the Rush culture. Thus, Rush Hulk was born.
Initially, Rush Hulk sat in his seat and watched the game; however, as he became more popular, he grew into the unofficial Rush mascot. Today, Rush Hulk is a local, national, and international lacrosse celebrity. Heck, when the Rush won the 2018 title, ownership provided him with a championship ring. He is now a major part of the organization’s culture.
Among other subjects, Kelvin and I discussed the impact Saskatchewan has had on the community. I loved hearing that years back, the neighborhood kids played street hockey. With the Rush in town, lots of kids have hung up their hockey sticks for lacrosse sticks. Saskatoon is a lacrosse city thanks to the Rush.
After lunch, Kelvin drove me to the Rush team store. This was no ordinary store. The outside looks like a warehouse, but this is deceiving. The inside made me think of the M&M store in Times Square (New York City). The store was loaded with cool trinkets and Rush related objects. For example, there was a Rush boat, Rush motorcycle, Rush Shrek, Rush Gru, and Rush penguin. Can you think of anything that could possibly relate to the Rush? If you can, they have it!
The coolest part occurred when Kelvin took me into the back area. Here the team stores special Rush material. I saw and sat on the Hulk Mobile (my nickname for it), which is the bike the Hulk rides out for pre-game. There was also a Rush monster truck and the original Hulk statue (this inspired Kelvin to become the Hulk). The Hulk statue used to be in SaskTel Centre; however, an intoxicated fan hung on one of the arms and broke it off. This led to the retirement of the static Hulk. In hindsight, this fan should be thanked since it motivated Kelvin to become the Hulk!
At the store, I met with Terry Jenson, who is in charge of photography for the Rush. I would like to personally thank Terry for welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to vent about the Golden Knights choking in the NHL playoffs. I also met Bruiser the Bulldog. Bruiser is the official mascot for the Saskatchewan Rush. I can officially confirm Bruiser is a real dog who was exposed to the same gamma radiation that changed Kelvin into the Incredible Hulk. This is why Bruiser is human sized and able to walk on his hind legs.
The store was exciting, but it is nothing compared to SaskTel Centre. For those not in the know, SaskTel Centre is the only NLL arena in the world. Yes, it hosts the Saskatoon Blades (local high school aged hockey team) and concerts, but the Rush are top dogs. Here I met with Brian Henricks, who is the season ticket holder who gave me his tickets. I cannot thank Brian enough for this! He is an outstanding guy and if you see him at a game, buy him a beer for me (Brian, I’m sorry the Bruins lost game 2 ☹). Brian, Kelvin, and a couple other fans came on an arena tour with me. Mike McGuire, the Rush hype man, led the tour.
I’ll let my pictures speak for themselves, but the highlights of the tour were going in the press box, walking on the field, and seeing the locker room. I have pictures of everything but the locker room since we were not allowed to take pictures in there! Interestingly, the field was a lot bouncier than I expected. There is a lot more give than you would expect. I also learned that they do not place the turf directly on the ice. The arena crew places fiberglass over the ice before laying down the turf. After the tour, I had a couple hours to kill so I went off with some fans to Tim Hortons.
After enjoying some Tim Hortons, it was time for the main event. Here it was, the reason I flew to Saskatoon. Would it live up to the hype? Were these Canadians pulling my leg? Would I realize I made a mistake and begin cheering for the Mammoth? After all, I’ve switched teams mid-game before. To answer: hell yes it lived up to its billing! After seeing a live game, I can confidently say the province of Saskatchewan is the Mecca of box lacrosse! You will not find another lacrosse environment like this. The Mammoth call their Pepsi Center the “Loud House” but it has nothing on SaskTel Centre.
Folks, I’ve been to a lot of sporting events. I’ve seen the Yankees. I’ve been to SEC football games. I’ve been to NHL games. I’ve been to big time college basketball games. Nevertheless, I can say the only event that matches a Rush game is the Penn State Whiteout, which hosts 110,000 people. Max capacity at SaskTel Centre is 15,000 and it was just as crazy. These Rush fans don’t mess around!
In the arena halls, it is impossible to move around without bumping into other people. The only way to have a conversation with the person next to you is to scream in their ear. It was that packed and loud. And boy, the fans love their alcohol. If you do not have these three things at your home games, you do not have a passionate fan base. The Rush had all three.
For pre-game, I watched the Hulk and Bruiser ride onto the field with fireworks sparking down upon them. The team ran out to ear-splitting cheers, which they rewarded by pelting cool, green balls into the crowd.
During the game, the Rush dancers came out and nailed their performances. Evan Kirk “made them work” and I pounded my chest multiple times to The Hum. There was a fan named Travis by the penalty box, who’s job is to drink copious amounts of beer and heckle opposing players. This man had epic roasts, but it’d be inappropriate to write them. The best part was when the Incredible Hulk graced me with his presence and bellowed his mighty roar after the Rush got another shot by Dylan Ward.
For the actual play, Saskatchewan dominated. I learned afterwards the entire Rush team was arrested for 1st degree murder. I was confident they would win, but 11-1 at halftime? Wow! The Rush scored so much, I got tired of jumping up and down by half.
The final score was 13-8. The score Hulk predicted. I was allowed to go onto the field post-game with Hulk. Here I met more people involved with the Rush organization. I met the Rush dancers who were extremely nice. Remarkably, the girls do not have a coach. They do all their routines on their own and work together to keep the team going. They do this because they love what they do, no matter the adversity. Personally, I relate to this.
I became a total fanboy when the players came out for autographs. I was sure to get pictures with Mark Matthews (in my opinion, the best player in the world) and Jeremy Thompson. I got my Rush jersey signed by the entire roster. All the players were eager to sign autographs and laughed with me as I explained the irony of my flying up from Colorado to see them play Colorado.
After the players left, I waited for Kelvin to shower. During the wait, I met with the Rush owner’s wife who hinted there would be more expansion teams coming in the future. I tried, but I couldn’t get her to spoil locations! After this, Kelvin and I went to the team hotel to grab a couple drinks with some players.
While there, we sat near Jeremy Thompson, who was with his family. Jeff Shattler was with his wife at a table across from us. As a fan, it’s easy to forget these players are regular people too. In fact, none of the Rush players live in the area. They fly into Saskatoon the day before a game, practice that night, play the next, and fly out that same night or the next day. A lot of these guys go back to their other jobs the next day. Kelvin and I agreed in hoping the NLL will ultimately pay their players a living wage. If the product is this good with such little practice, imagine how good it would be with players regularly training together.
Touring and spectacles aside, the hospitality of the Saskatchewan people made this visit special. I still cannot believe how welcoming everyone was. Whenever I met someone new, we instantly clicked. It felt as if I’d been friends with these people for years, although we just met.
For example, after the tour, I chatted with three fans. Their names were Tina, Richard, and Brayden. They invited me, a stranger, to come along to Tim Hortons with them so I didn’t have to wait for opening faceoff alone. They wouldn’t even allow me to pay for my own Tim Hortons. It was refreshing to chat with people who shared such a passion for lacrosse. They even texted me “safe travels” afterwards.
I met another amazing group of people during the game. A season ticket holder, Sandra, and her niece, Kristen, were an absolute joy to chat with. We even took a selfie together. Travis, the professional heckler, came up and said hi. He presented me with a game ball once the clock ran out. Post-game I met with David Salisbury who has followed my content for a while now. He is another person who got into lacrosse thanks to the Rush. We’ve both lived in Melfort, Saskatchewan which is hilarious. I never thought I’d meet someone on Twitter who lives there.
Of course, all the members of the Rush organization were extremely friendly and I was impressed with how well they knew their fans. You can tell the organization cares about their fans on a personal level. Rush Nation is one big family.
To sum up my experience with the Saskatchewan Rush, I’ll say this. Before the trip, I could never have imagined an experience this perfect. Rush Nation treated me like a prince. I am still in awe of how welcoming everyone was. The people of Saskatchewan are a hidden gem. They are more passionate about lacrosse than any group of people I’ve ever met. The environment at SaskTel Centre should be considered one of the best in sports. If other NLL teams had fanbases this crazy, the game would grow a lot quicker. All these factors combined make the Saskatchewan Rush experience different. It is why you can’t find another lacrosse community like it. And it is why Rush Nation is unrivaled.
Did you like this article? Do you agree that the Rush Nation experience is unrivaled? Do you think another team has a better fanbase? Whatever your thoughts, let me know by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also subscribe to my website so you never miss out on a new article!
Again, special thank you to Rush Nation for welcoming me with open arms. I would especially like to thank Kelvin Ooms for showing me around and making this all possible. I would also like to personally thank Brian Henricks for giving me his tickets. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Go Rush Go!