I’ve been to my share of interesting sporting events on my travels. So it felt pretty natural to buy a ticket to a lacrosse match for my first Saturday night in my new hometown of Saskatoon. I had watched parts of a few games on TV, but hadn’t had the chance to take in a game in person. I had no idea what I was in for.
Without a car, I hopped a very convenient express bus out to the SaskTel Centre, the home (field? arena?) of the Saskatchewan Rush, the only professional sports team in Saskatoon. The early bus gave me some time to get familiar with what is now my home rink. Although located in the middle of nowhere, it’s pretty nice all in all.
Warm ups for lacrosse look a lot like hockey, except that there’s a pre-warmup and then what looked to be a more official warmup. Here, the Rush are getting their goalie loose with some shots in close.
One thing that immediately jumped out to me was the size of the goalie equipment. It looked like Calgary’s goalie had two other humans hidden inside his jersey.
The pre-game festivities were first rate. I was terribly excited that as a guest for this night, the Rush had invited Gainer the Gopher, the mascot for the Roughriders. No matter how much I wandered around the concourse, I didn’t get a chance to meet him. That will have to wait until my first football game in Regina in early July.
From my seat, here’s the opening faceoff:
A couple of minutes into the first quarter, the Rush scored their first goal of the night and the place erupted.
A few more minutes into the game, and I was realizing I had never seen a sport quite like this. I had no sense of what a penalty was as stick swinging attacks bordering on common assault went unpenalized. If there was a loose ball in the corner, all sorts of crimes against humanity were being committed until someone came out of it with possession. It was incredible to watch.
Throughout the play, a live DJ was spinning tunes giving the game an interesting beat and atmosphere. My immediately reaction was that this was some sort of experience mashup between the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers, roller derby and a Metallica concert. All of the nearly 15,000 in attendance were loving every minute of it.
There were plenty of goals, great saves and other havoc that made this a completely entertaining evening. One thing that stood out for me was how accurate the players were in shooting on goal. With tiny nets and huge goalies, the two teams still combined to pump 20 goals in (and that might have been a bit lower than average number).
The Rush had a four goal lead going into the 4th quarter, but let it melt away until Calgary had tied the game at 9-9. A late power play goal for the Rush sent the arena into a frenzy and then an empty net goal with less than 30 seconds remaining salted away the match. The fans stood to salute the Rush for the last half minute of play.
It’s pretty clear there was an immediate love affair between this city and its new team. I can say the same for the city’s newest resident. I’ll be back for many more games over the years.