Around one o’clock today, GM Joe Ferras and the Rapid City Rush announced they’d be joining the Iowa Wild and the Minnesota Wild. After losing their ECHL affiliate to Vegas earlier this June, the Hockey Ops staff for the Wild are adding their 9th ECHL affiliate since their founding in 2000. Rapid City signs on with Iowa and Minnesota after a three year stint with the Arizona Coyotes and the Springfield Falcons/Tuscon Roadrunners, and the hopes of developing Minnesota’s next round of potential NHLers. The team in South Dakota comes as a bit of a project, however, as the Rush are coming off of their worst season since joining the ECHL; their first (and only) under former career-minor leaguer, Mark DeSantis.
This isn’t a say there’s a lack of want when it comes to winning. Their current GM, Joe Ferras, was the head coach during the transition from the CHL to the ECHL and won a league title at the helm in 2009-10. What is important to Ferras is a strong hockey tradition, and he feels that the State of Hockey will help get the Rush on the right track:
"The Wild have a tremendous fan base in Rapid City and in the state of South Dakota, so we know this will be great for our loyal fans and corporate partners as they watch their favorite NHL team’s prospects develop through the Rush organization in the hopes that they achieve their ultimate goal to play in the NHL with the Wild.”
The Wild appear to be pleased with the decision, with Senior VP of Hockey Ops and Iowa Wild GM, Brent Flahr, pointing towards the state of South Dakota’s own hockey pedigree, stating, “Rapid City is a terrific hockey market that includes a lot of Minnesota Wild fans that provides our organization with another great opportunity for developing our players." Flahr and the guys picked South Dakota over potential spots in Kansas City with the Mavericks (who signed with Calgary), the Wichita Thunder who was just off their deal with the Ottawa Senators, and my potential pick, the Ft. Wayne Komets who are still flying the unaffiliated flag.
Some quick notes about the new club: they recently finished last in the Mountain Division with a 26-38-8 (60 pt) record, their worst since joining the ECHL in 2014. They also posted franchise lows in goals against (256) and attendance (3,321 per) at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, which potentially seats over 5,500 South Dakota hockey fans. On the positive side, the team nearly matched the franchise record for goals in a season of 218 (the only year they’ve made the postseason) with 215 in the 2016-17 season.
With the fresh start in the Wild organization, the Rush are also giving an opportunity to a former captain and assistant coach, Dan Tetrault, who was recently named head coach for next season. Competing in the Mountain division, the former fourth round pick of the Canadiens and his boys will be vying for a playoff spots against recent league Champs, the Colorado Eagles (Colorado Avalanche), Allen Americans (San Jose Sharks), Idaho Steelheads (Dallas Stars), Utah Grizzlies (Anaheim Ducks), and the Missouri Mavericks (Calgary Flames).
Rapid City will begin their 2017-18 campaign at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center on October 13th when the Allen Americans (San Jose) come to visit.