What a rush: Rapid City hockey team visits ranch, learns about ag
The Rapid City Rush hockey team went on a field trip on Jan. 9.
They headed to Mt. Rushmore Angus Ranch near Rapid City, to find out how beef is grown.
And they had a blast.
It’s all due to a partnership that began three years ago between the Western Legacy Foundation (WLF) and the Rapid City Rush, a hockey team that is the minor affiliate of the Calgary Flames NHL franchise.
When Lynn Husman, president of the foundation, and Tif Robertson, vice president, approached Jared Reid, manager of the Rush, three years ago about partnering on events, Reid was all in.
Since then, they’ve held a Rodeo and Ag Night, this year on Jan. 21, at a Rush hockey game, with proceeds from the auction of Rush jerseys going to the WLF. And the Rush have reciprocated, attending the WLF’s golf tournament and other events.
But this year, Reid came up with a crazy idea: take the players and office staff to a ranch, to see how cattle were raised.
So the group went to the Mt. Rushmore Angus ranch and visited with ranch manager David Uhrig, where they learned about calving, feed, vaccinations and more.
The highlight of the trip was the baby calves. When two day-old baby calves were brought out, the players “just about smothered them,” Husman laughed, “they wanted to touch them so bad.”
Cell phone cameras came out with the calves, Reid said. “They flocked to it, and everybody got their phones out. It was all over social media.”
The players, who range from 21 to 33 years of age, are not from agricultural backgrounds, Reid said. Most of them are from Canada; the others hail from Russia, Sweden, Minnesota, Indiana, New York, Washington, and other states.
Reid himself is a “city boy from Detroit,” who got his first taste of rodeo and ag through former bareback rider Scott Montague, a season ticket holder with the Rush.
He thought it important for players and office staff to see where their food comes from.
Players and staff “got to see everything that goes into running a ranch and how (ranchers) make their livelihood, and what (ag) means to the state of South Dakota,” he said.
The visitors got a real education, touring the ranch in their Nike Jordan tennis shoes, Reid said, with wide eyes when Uhrig explained the difference between a bull and a steer.
“They had no idea what they were getting themselves into,” Reid said. “We spent a couple hours there. They were asking questions and wanting to know more.”
Before the visit ended, the players were hoping to attend branding and even asked about working on the ranch for the summer.
It was a good way to emphasize how important agriculture is, Husman said.
“A lot of them had never touched a cow before,” he said. He asked them if, before the ranch tour, they thought their meat came from the grocery store, and “a lot of them shook their head, yes.”
The WLF strives to organize trips like this one, Robertson said. “This is why we advocate, to educate them in ag, how important it is, that it’s the number one industry in South Dakota, why the Black Hills Stock Show is important, why beef is important, and the overall aspect of ag. They don’t know. They’re in a hockey world.”
The Rush players and staff will attend the Back When They Bucked saddle bronc riding in Deadwood on May 28.
Activities like this are good recruitment tools for the Rush, Reid said. “You think Rapid City and you think of long harsh winters. But no, this is the place to be (for hockey players). It’s a good culture and the team takes care of you and does good things for you.”
The trip was “a very eye-opening experience for these guys,” Reid said. “They were super appreciative of it.
Said Reid: “They still don’t shut up about it.”