Championship fever grips Saskatoon as Rush go for 3-peat

June 9, 2017 - 12:00pm
Rush fans will pack SaskTel Centre for game 2 of the National Lacrosse League final on Saturday.
Rush fans will pack SaskTel Centre for game 2 of the National Lacrosse League final on Saturday.

The Saskatchewan Rush are hoping their fans can make the difference in their quest for a third straight National Lacrosse League (NLL) title.

The Rush host the Georgia Swarm in Game 2 of the series on Saturday at SaskTel Centre.

The Swarm are up one game to none in the best of three series, winning the first game 18-14, at home in Atlanta.

Saskatoon fans have embraced the Rush since they relocated to Saskatoon from Edmonton in 2016. Average attendance at SaskTel Centre has been 13,500 people per game.

"My friends and I went to a game last year and like to have fun, so I wore a horse head," said 16-year-old Cody Stranger, who's now known at Rush games as Rush Horse.

"I just wanted to keep it up because it's so much fun."

Stranger is one of the many superfans born from the team's success.

"I just run up and down the aisles, high five people, and I have a few jerseys that make it look like I'm ripping them," said 53-year-old Kelvin Ooms, who's known as Rush Hulk.

Perhaps the the best-known superfan is Grandma Rush, who happens to be celebrating her 86th birthday on Saturday.

"Anything I can do to help my boys win. I love helping out," she said. "I don't do it for the fame, I actually don't like the attention that much."

The Rush haven't been the only ones to benefit from their success.

The Saskatchewan Lacrosse Association has grown by 800 players since the Rush arrived in the province.

"We have a tiger by the tail here because it's really sparked interest in lacrosse," said President Shawn Williams, adding enrollment  has increased by 40 per cent.

"We've been around for 50 years, but the Rush have really kicked the door open to help our success."

In turn, the community has given back to the Rush, driving them to the top merchandise sales in the NLL.

"It's extremely hard to go down the street without somebody in Rush gear," said merchandise manager Jenn Martin. 

"It went from very small and basic out of Edmonton to insane here in Saskatoon, we can never seem to keep it on the shelves."

Doors open at SaskTel Centre for a pre-game rally at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets were still available as of Friday afternoon.