Rings, banner, a game: At long last, Rush ready for home opener

Ben McIntosh appreciates this home opener, which moved from wobbly to solid in the time it took the National Lacrosse League to find labour peace.

McIntosh’s Saskatchewan Rush, who were supposed to play their Saskatoon opener Dec. 8, had the whole thing pushed back because of a dispute between players and owners that delayed the start of the season. But Saturday night at SaskTel Centre, 7:30 p.m., the show goes on.

“At first, it was ‘Okay, we’ve got some things to figure out,’ McIntosh said Friday following a Rush press conference. “Then as time crept closer and closer, it was ‘Okay, it’s getting to crunch time.’ Everyone’s getting a little uncomfortable. And then it got really uncomfortable for a few days, and we’re like ‘Holy smokes — is this going to happen? Is it not going to happen?’

Saskatchewan Rush forward Ben McIntosh goes to pass the ball during a game against the Vancouver Stealth at SaskTel Centre on April 8, 2017.

“I think we settled on a good deal for both the league and the players. It’s a fair deal. I’m glad we can work together and build this league. We want to expand; there’s a lot of good things going on in lacrosse. It’s good for everyone, it’s good for the sport, that we’re back on.”

The defending NLL-champion Rush formally opened their season last weekend in New England, where they lost 12-11 to the host Black Wolves. Saturday’s opponent, the expansion San Diego Seals, opened with a 17-12 win over the Colorado Mammoth before losing 9-5 to the Calgary Roughnecks.

Saskatchewan announced Friday that they’ve signed veteran defender Nik Bilic to a two-year contract, completing their roster makeup. Bilic was the last returning player left unsigned.

Next on their agenda is trying to turn an 0-1 record into something more palatable — that, and celebrating last season’s title with the banner-raising and distribution of championship rings.

McIntosh has two rings with the Rush — that third will be added Saturday — and another from his junior days. Naturally, he welcomes them all.

Ben McIntosh and his Saskatchewan Rush teammates will play their home opener Saturday.

“I don’t wear them a lot,” said McIntosh, a forward who was third in team scoring last season with 46 goals and 80 points in 18 games. “I’ve got them on display; you’ve got these nice cases with them, so you can display them, and it’s cool. You want to keep growing that trophy case while you can play.”

A handful of players from last year’s Rush team currently play for San Diego. That group includes forward Dan Dawson, defender Adrian Sorichetti, defender Tor Reinholdt, and backup goaltender Tyler Carlson.

The Seals are a new group, notes McIntosh, but their roster is full of familiar faces.

“They’ve all played in the league,” he said. “They don’t have many new guys. They have a really good player, (2018 first overall NLL draft pick) Austin Staats, and he’s a phenomenal player. I’m pretty sure (Rush coach) Derek Keenan will have some film on him; he’s seen him play a lot. We’ll be okay. But these guys don’t play like an expansion team. They’re a really good team.”

And with Saturday’s game on tap, finally, McIntosh is a happy guy.

“When you don’t know if the season’s going to happen, you’re sitting there — ‘Holy smokes, what am I going to do on weekends? Am I going to get to see my teammates and guys you’re really close to?’ We’re really excited,” he said. “Especially here in Saskatchewan — we’re treated so well, and it would be such a shame for the season not to happen. We’re really happy it’s back.”

Rush Notes … the Rush have announced that they’re signing former Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant to be an honorary member of the team for their Jan. 19 game against the Rochester Knighthawks … they’ll again play a fundraising game for the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital on April 27. The hospital is slated to open in the fall of 2019 … Saskatchewan’s next scheduled game is Jan. 12 in Vancouver against the Warriors.

kemitchell@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kmitchsp

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