Rapid City Rush majority owner Scott Mueller said after a news conference Thursday that minor league sports is a tough business. With the 10-year mark of the organization coming up, the Rush announced they will not follow a trend of hockey franchises in the ECHL and have agreed to stay in Rapid City for 10 more years.
The Rush announced Thursday they have agreed to a new 10-year lease with the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
“It’s such a good thing for Rapid City. It does bring the town closer together, it’s something to do in the winter and at this level it’s great hockey,” Mueller said. “We felt very comfortable going for another 10 years. The first 10 years were great, and hopefully we can bring another championship back here in the next 10 years.”
The Rush have fallen on hard times on the ice as of late. The team has missed the playoffs the last two seasons and finished in last place in the Mountain Division this season. Last week, Rapid City fired its head coach, Mark DeSantis, because of the performance of the team.
Mueller said he knows the fans are frustrated, but with a new coach coming in sometime in the future, he said he’s confident the fans will continue to fill the civic center.
“The last two years have been tough, mostly because we haven’t had a winner on the ice. That’s why we made the coaching change; we are very committed to winning here,” he said.
“It makes it more fun when you win, there’s no two ways about it. Everybody loves a winner, so hopefully next year we can get a new coach in here, get some new talent in here and get back to our old winning ways.”
One player who will be trying to make Rapid City a winner is forward Logan Nelson. He said he is excited that the team signed up for 10 more years in Rapid City.
“It’s exciting, we love playing here, especially in the city of Rapid, the fans are really loyal,” he said. “They treat you really well here and it’s exciting to see that they’ve extended for another 10 years. As a player who’s hopefully coming back next year, it just made the summer seem longer because I want to get things going now.”
It's still unknown who will be leading the Rush next season. Mueller and General Manager Joe Ferras said the search for a new coach is still in its beginning stages, but the resumes have been coming in since DeSantis was let go last Friday.
Mueller said the Rush have received 11 to 13 resumes, one of which came from assistant coach Daniel Tetrault. Muller and Ferras didn’t specify what Tetrault’s chances at the head job are, saying the process is just beginning.
“Right now, I’m the assistant coach and that’s all I know,” Tetrault said. “I believe it’s going to take a couple of weeks before we get an answer on (who the next head coach will be). Resumes are flying in and that’s all I know.”
Mueller said the Rush ownership group and Ferras will be involved in picking the next head coach. He said Tetrault’s position as an assistant coach will be determined by the new head coach, if he is not picked for the top coaching job.
“We already have quite a few resumes, a couple stood out pretty well and we just want to make sure we get the right guy in here, so we’ll fly a couple of guys in for an interview on a personal level,” he said. “(Tetrault) has done a great job and he did put his resume in, from what I’ve heard, for the head coach position.”
Ferras said not to expect news on a new head coach anytime in the immediate future.
“The biggest part of the process is making sure you get the pros and cons that fit your market,” he said. “It’s about what kind of team each candidate wants to put together, and hopefully through the ownership group and myself, you come up with the best candidate to take us to the next level.”
Whoever is the next head coach will be leading the Rush into their 10th season. The Rush said during the news conference they will be accepting submissions for a 10th season logo from the fans from May 1-22.
Mueller said whatever logo the Rush go with, they will need their fans for the 10th season. Teams can break leases — like the San Diego Chargers of the NFL did in February with Qualcomm Stadium — but Mueller said the team is in good financial standing, which was not the case for the Alaska Aces and Elmira Jackels of the ECHL, which both folded this year.
“Of course we need the fan support, and that’s the main thing. Hopefully in return, we can put a great product out in the ice,” Mueller said. “The more you get in here, the louder it gets, so we do encourage them, even if they haven’t seen a game in nine years, to come on out and see what it’s all about.”