Editor’s Note: This is the next article in our series of major figures in the professional lacrosse industry. We’ve started with the NLL, and today we are profiling Saskatchewan Rush owner Bruce Urban. Use the hashtag #LeadersInLacrosse on social media. Here are the profiles we have done so far:
- Introduction – Leaders In Lacrosse: Here Are The NLL’s Owners
- Georgia Swarm – John Arlotta, Andy Arlotta: Georgia Swarm Owner Profiles
- Toronto Rock – Jamie Dawick: Owner Of The Toronto Rock
Bruce Urban — owner and operator of the Western RV Group of Companies (the largest RV dealer in western Canada, according to the Rush’s website) — bought the Rush in 2005, and has since overseen the Rush win three NLL championships (2015, 2016, 2018). Urban is actually a native of Saskatchewan — where the Rush moved to in 2015 from Edmonton — hailing from Regina.
Ownership Of The Rush
The Edmonton Years
Bruce Urban bought the now-named Rush franchise in 2005 which came from the NLL franchise the Ottawa Rebel which became inactive in 2003. The team was located in Ottawa from 2001 to 2003, which actually moved to Ottawa from Syracuse, New York, known as the Smash from 1998 to 2000 while in the Empire State.
Before moving to Saskatchewan in 2015, the Rush’s best two seasons came in their final two years in Edmonton as they went 16-2 in 2014 and then went 13-5 in 2015, losing in the Western Finals and winning the NLL championships in those seasons, respectively.
Interestingly, while the Rush’s overall win percentage trended upward during 10 years in Edmonton, the average reported attendance per game for each season trended downward. The season that the Rush franchise won its first championships was also its lowest season in terms of reported average per game at roughly 6,500 fans. That was an approximately 3,500 average number of fans per game less than the Rush’s first two seasons in 2006 and 2007.
At the end of the season, the lease that the Rush had at what is now called the Northlands Coliseum was reportedly supposed to expire.
Bruce Urban had reportedly been looking around for new venues for which to locate the Rush, and had told the Edmonton Journal that “professional lacrosse in Edmonton is almost a thing of the past.”
According to Urban, the lack of attendance for games at games was “certainly (not) for a lack of trying.”
Urban told the journal, “Why is Calgary drawing 5,000 more fans than us? I wish I could answer that,” said Urban. “We’ve worked hard at it. We’re in the public eye, we’re in the community, we have had great corporate sponsors.”
According to the Edmonton Sun, then-NLL commissioner, George Daniel released a statement saying the following:
“The NLL strongly believes in the Edmonton market.”
“The NLL can prosper in Edmonton under the right business conditions. It is our understanding that the current facility lease for the Rush expires at the end of the season.”
“It is our hope that Bruce Urban can secure the necessary arrangements to make that happen and ensure the long-term viability of the NLL in Edmonton.”
George Daniel, then-NLL commissioner
The league had reportedly been aware of interest at the time by the Edmonton Oilers to purchase the Rush to keep the franchise in Edmonton.
Urban felt that “amongst all of the new arena discussion, the Edmonton Rush has never been offered any kind of solution or consideration by (then) Mayor Iveson or the City of Edmonton.
Urban added that “similar to any business under these same circumstances, we need to keep all of our options open.”
The Franchise Moves To Saskatchewan
A poll listed on Global News showed that there was a fairly equal distribution between those disappointed, angry or indifferent about the move.
Regardless of where one stood on the controversy of the team moving to Saskatchewan, average attendance at games dramatically increased after the relocation. The team had a reported average attendance of nearly 15,000 fans during the 2017 season when the Rush lost in the NLL championships and has reportedly averaged over 11,000 fans in attendance every year the team has been in Saskatchewan. The Rush won two NLL championships after the move, one in its first year in its new location in 2016 and again in 2018.
While it’s possible that pro lacrosse could have succeeded in Edmonton, it has apparently thrived while in Saskatchewan.
Bruce Urban owns and operates Western RV Group of Companies, with 12 dealerships across Alberta and British Columbia as listed on the Rush’s website.
Urban has operated his business based on his statement below:
“Our goal is to offer more than just a great RV sales and service center. The RV and camping lifestyle builds stronger families and we remain committed to creating new opportunities for people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.”
Bruce Urban, as quoted on the Saskatchewan Rush’s website
Urban and the companies he owns have been known to be heavily involved in philanthropic efforts. The Rush organization and fans helped raise over $75,000 dollars for Operation Smile Canada, an organization that helps fund cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries.
The group of companies owned by Urban has also been involved in some of the following initiatives:
- $50,000 donation to Saskatoon Interval House
- $10,000 donation between Urban and then-Vancouver Stealth owner Denise Watkins if Langley had a sell-out crowd for the Stealth’s final home game in 2017.
- The Rush offered financial relief to campers whose RVs were a total loss in the summer storm that hit Murray Doell Campground.
Edmonton Rush Win The 2015 NLL Champions Cup – YouTube User: Saskatchewan Rush Lacrosse Club
NLL: Saskatchewan Rush celebrate 2016 Champion’s Cup title – YouTube User: National Lacrosse League
NLL: Ouch & Ouch! Saskatchewan Rush’s Zack Greer takes punch then ball to the face – YouTube User: National Lacrosse League