One of the biggest Canadian stereotypes around the world is the country’s obsession with hockey and only hockey. While this isn’t entirely untrue, there’s another sport that has long lingered in the background and is now making a jump to centre stage.
The sport? Lacrosse.
Despite being around since the 18th century, the sport had become something many thought of only being played in high schools and universities. But as Canada’s Official Summer Sport, it’s always been there. In more recent years, lacrosse has transitioned to being a professional sport and continues to grow in popularity.
Brandon Urban, business development and media relations for the Saskatchewan Rush, has watched the National Lacrosse League become hugely popular, and continually expanding alternative to other sports. “The league has expanded to four new markets, including Philadelphia, New York, San Diego, and Halifax. All NLL games are now streamed on Turner Sports Bleacher Report Live, a leader in the sports streaming space.”
One of the NLL’s more recent markets is Saskatoon. The Rush were originally based out of Edmonton, then moved one province east, playing their first season in Saskatoon in 2016. Fans welcomed them with open arms according to Brandon, “Saskatchewan sports fans are the greatest in the world—they epitomize loyalty and passion.” Rush fans come from all over the province to support their team, “Similar to Rider Nation, many of our fans travel from Regina, Prince Albert, North Battleford, Moose Jaw, Estevan, Humboldt, etc. for home games,” says Urban. The Rush have built key business partnerships in a short time, as well. “Companies such as Saskatoon Co-op, TD, and NexGen Energy are incredibly committed to our organization and to being difference makers in the community,” says Urban.
Community matters to the Rush, too. Since arriving in Saskatoon, the organization has made a commitment to the community. For the Rush, it’s a key part of making Saskatchewan their home. “As an organization, we are committed to growing lacrosse at the grassroots level, and giving back to organizations like the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Saskatoon Interval House.”
This involvement, and the overall popularity of the sport, has shown in the numbers for local participation in lacrosse according to Brandon. “There were 1,800 members in the Saskatchewan Lacrosse Association before our arrival. The association now has more than 3,000 members.” On top of that, new local lacrosse associations, teams and leagues have appeared across the province.
The positive impact of the National Lacrosse League on the communities it joins is undeniable, and the future looks bright. Brandon sees nothing but growth on the horizon for the NLL. “Short term, the NLL will be a 16-team league in three years…long term, the goal is for the NLL to become a 30-team league across North America with full-time players, coaches, and definitely more games,” says Urban.
Fans and communities across the continent have proven to be engaged in lacrosse—and what is was old is new again. It’s an exciting and refreshing alternative to existing professional sports options for fans and businesses to get behind.