The Edmonton Rush, at least one Edmonton team that has seen the playoffs this season, unfortunately didn’t make it to the final round. They fell to the Washington Stealth in the semifinal by a single point in overtime, with a score of 12-11.
Earlier this season, OilersNation commenter, gaddabout, and resident drunk, creepy uncle Ender the Dragon attended a Rush game… I don’t want to give anything away but… there was the lacrosse equivalent of ice girls there. READ HIS TALE.
(All images in this story from NLL.com)
So your old pal Ender the Dragon had finally decided to see what all the fuss was about and go check out the one team that was reputed to be actually winning in our fair city. April 16th found us braving the traffic-madness that is Rexall Place in order to witness this rare spectacle. For the most part we were pretty darn happy with the evening’s entertainment.
For the less astute, I’ll let you in early on the fact that this isn’t about hockey. Nonetheless, you may find it interesting to learn a bit more about the Nation’s secret fling, the Edmonton Rush. They aren’t the Oilers and if you must remain faithful, feel free to skip to the poll question (apparently we can comment on polls now; who knew?) and avoid this whole tawdry affair. For the more adventurous, read on.
Lacrosse seems to be an amalgamation of several other major sports. It resembles hockey in structure, but since transition is much less prone to turnovers it allows line-changes of specialized units similar to football.
You may have your defensive squad on the floor to kill a penalty but the second you gain possession your whole line charges to the bench to allow your attack unit to take over.
Killing penalties is in some ways far easier since you can effectively play keep-away with little fear of turning the ball over. To counter this, lacrosse utilizes a shot-clock similar to basketball.
The resulting game is very fast-paced and highly skilled. It’s also straight-up brutal with a capital B.
The penalties in lacrosse take a little bit of figuring out. Things that might seem like obvious infractions in hockey such as impromptu dentistry or assault with intent seem to be not only legal in lacrosse but integral to success in the game.
I guess when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Imagine your buddy is walking across the lawn. In his hand he has a butterfly net and in the net is a rubber ball. Your job is to make sure he doesn’t have the ball by the time he gets to the other side of the lawn. The catch; you can’t grab the net.
I figure the officials who designed this game finally reasoned that the only way this was going to work was if they let you beat the tar out of your buddy over the entire distance across the lawn. They also decided that in case your buddy was the athletic type, they’d arm you with a stick and say, "Do what you need to."
This translates into a rough but decidedly entertaining game and if you’re expecting it to be played like hockey you’re in for a surprise.
Hockey players on the attack hit the blue line and attempt to either finesse the puck past the defenseman at speed or else simply shoot the puck into the corner and hope that one of their own teammates can get to the puck before the opposition does. Lacrosse players find this tedious — much simpler to just charge the blueline and if a defender is silly enough to stand in your way you can gain the zone and reduce the rival roster count all at the same time.
Cross-checking is legal and completely requisite. If you stand with the ball for more than 3 seconds, you can expect to find yourself face-down on the turf. Slashing is likewise mandatory and a lacrosse player’s wrist guards take more abuse than Jeanshorts’ liver.
This isn’t to say there aren’t any penalties. Through the course of the game, I learned that wrapping your stick around someone’s neck and yanking him over backwards onto his head is good for two minutes in the box.
They will penalize you for fighting, though there aren’t a lot of fights; I think the players have learned that it is much easier to hurt someone through actual play than by mere punching. There was also one stoppage in play where a Calgary player swung his stick at a Rush defender’s head hard enough to get the stick lodged in the facemask. The referees decided that a "holding-the-stick" call was a bit unfair and helped the Rush player untangle his face before resuming the play with no infraction.
The most memorable penalty call on the night came from a pick-play. A Rush attacker was taking some serious damage from a Calgary defender and was about to lose possession of the ball. At the last second, he turned and ran straight toward his point-man. As he passed center, the point-man stepped in and absolutely leveled the Calgary defender.
The Roughneck hit the ground so hard, the indent will be visible in the Rexall ice next fall.
Play continued for a few seconds, and then the whistle blew and the referee’s arm went up. "I guess so," I thought to myself. The actual call? I have no idea but it was the Calgary player that had to stumble into the sin bin. Presumably two minutes for being gullible. Whatever else it is, lacrosse is not a sport for sissies.
These gentlemen are an interesting species. While a hockey netminder can flop onto the ice with impunity and slide back and forth with little to no discomfort, the same maneuvers become understandably more difficult once the playing surface is changed to astroturf.
Lacrosse goalies are not only expected to make the same sorts of saves but now they have to do it against players who can run straight at the net and shoot on any corner with pinpoint accuracy. Plus, they use a rubber ball so bouncy a missed shot often ends up in the 8th row at the red line. Strictly in a sports context, getting scored on 15 times in an hour must surely be depressing.
Breakaways are pretty much an automatic goal. When a defender manages to gain possession and run straight back up the court untouched on a bad line-change, you can see the goalie get unhappy long before the ball goes into the net.
As if that weren’t depressing enough, goalies have other things to worry about. When the net is knocked out of position, it is the goalie’s responsibility to reset it back in place. This might be a lot easier if the referee would help out by stopping the play, but easy isn’t the name of the game. Thus a stopper often has to make the save, fix the net, and then look for the attacking rebound coming right back at him. And you think your hot sister has a lot to keep her occupied (if Wanye counts as a lot… which I’m now told he doesn’t).
The equipment in lacrosse looks somewhere between hockey and tennis gear. From the waist up, you have solid-looking helmets, full facemasks, rugged shoulder pads, and armored forearms. From the waist down, you’re wearing shorts and sneakers. Dressed like that, I think I would be more scared of the astroturf than the opposing team.
The sticks look a bit like a jockstrap attached to a broom handle. Giving credit where credit is due — the players have incredible control with these ridiculous contraptions. When a player needs to transfer the ball, their passes are laser perfect at a hundred miles per hour. If a player doesn’t want to relinquish control, though, you can’t jar the ball loose with a bomb.
The goalie’s stick is a little different. As if he didn’t take enough abuse, they decided to make him play with something that looks more suited to scooping salmon out of a river. Amazingly enough, even with that handicap a netminder can hit a teammate on the fly at 40 yards.
The face-off is easily one of the most entertaining aspects of the game. The referee sets the ball on the ground where the two centermen are allowed to look at but not touch it. Then they both drop down to their knees and the referee blows his whistle. From there, all structure vanishes as the face-off degenerates into an old-fashioned wrestling match.
Eventually, one of the centers manages to get his stick over the ball and pry it out from under the other guy, at which point the ball goes bouncing off in a seemingly random direction and one of the teams takes over possession. Since forwards and defensemen from both teams are on all sides of the face-off circle, skill seems to play a diminished role in determining the outcome.
There’s no doubt it’s amusing to watch, but I bet the centermen are thinking, "Can we just throw the dang thing up in the air next time? This is ridiculous."
It’s hard to imagine an evening spent listening to 30-second sound bites of Darude’s "Sandstorm" followed by AC/DC’s "Thunderstruck," especially during the play, but somehow it works. For the fans, anyway; the player that gets really charged up listening to Johnny Cash is in for a long night.
It’s a bit distracting at first watching a powerplay where the passes are synchronized to Eminem but by the 3rd quarter you start to wonder if perhaps by shooting on the off-beat, sharpshooters could catch a goalie flat-footed. After all, white boys gotta dance, game on the line or no.
I took my 10-year old son to the game. I was hoping that a little father-son bonding would assist in the effort to produce a chip off the old block. I wasn’t disappointed. After the game, I asked him what his favorite part was. Without hesitation, he replied ‘The Crush Dance Girls’.
I’m just so darn proud. And the kid is 100% correct about the product. If the Oilers ever get Ice Girls to match these ladies, I’m sure they could add $20 to every ticket and no one would even notice. That distracting? Oh yes, that distracting. I asked my son what he thought of the final score and his comment was, "Who won again?" Atta boy!
I haven’t been to my last Rush game. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of them. They’re affordable, the atmosphere is electric, and the ladies are hotter than a five-dollar car stereo. While I know that my main focus will be continuing to pray that Tambellini doesn’t select anyone from Finland with the first pick, I don’t mind sparing a thought here and there for the entertainment in town that has both a regular and a post-season. Go see the Edmonton Rush, Citizens. You’ll be glad you did.
Ender the Dragon is the guy who thinks handouts enable dependence, country music is underrated, and that there should be a qualifying test for both parenting and bikini purchases. Somewhere in the back of his mind, there’s a little voice that encourages him to concentrate on building his own successes instead of trying to have them vicariously through the Oilers. Whenever that little voice gets too loud, Ender smacks the back of his mind against something hard until everything is quiet again. So far, so good.