It may have caught a lot of fans off guard when Bruce Urban announced that he had sold the Saskatchewan Rush to the Priestner family and the Priestner Sports Corporation. But what does this mean, if anything?
First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way now. The Saskatchewan Rush are NOT moving. They aren’t relocating to Boston or heading back to Edmonton. It simply doesn’t make sense.
If anything it solidifying the Rush’s roots in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. The Priestner family also owns the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades, the other main tenant at the SaskTel Centre. What this does is puts both of those teams now under one umbrella. So instead of having two teams with two different owners playing in one stadium it’s two teams, one owner, one stadium.
That brings us to the next subject. There has been a debate is Saskatoon that last few years about building a new arena downtown. The SaskTel Centre sits on the northern outskirts of the city, making for a not-so-great location.
Now that both tenants to the SaskTel Centre are under one ownership, it could bring Saskatoon one step closer to that new arena.
While Urban has said in the past that he was willing to put up some of his own money for a new arena, it’s still possible the Priestner family will put up money for an arena.
The head of Priestner Sports is Mike Priestner has been in the auto retail business for over 35 years and owns Go Auto, one of the largest auto dealership networks in Western Canada. Needless to say, he has money.
Question marks will remain on how well the team will be run under the Priestners. While the Saskatoon Blades have had success the last couple of years, they’ve been dogged with bad teams in the past and, even with good teams, they’ve struggled with attendance.
If they want continued success, they need to continue to follow the blueprint started by Urban and they shouldn’t be afraid to put up the money to put butts in the seats.
Finally, what does this mean for Bruce Urban?
It’s hard to say at this point. With rumours circulating to an NLL team returning to Edmonton, Urban’s name has been attached to the possible franchise.
That’s seems to bit far fetch. You have to look back to the history of when the Rush moved from Edmonton. They were more-or-less pushed out by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. If a team is going to return it would have to be owned or partially-owned by the Oilers.
And I say partially for a reason. If there is a chance of Urban owning an expansion team in Edmonton it was HAVE to be a partnership with the Oilers. Again, it seemed that Urban and the Oilers didn’t leave on good terms, so working together is highly unlikely. But never say never.
Overall, it is a win-win situation. It gives the Rush deep-pocketed local ownership, while it frees up Urban to pursue other opportunities close to home.
Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years. For the past five years, he’s been the Saskatchewan correspondent for LaxPhilly.