The NLL is a niche league. Get used to it. (Part II)

Yesterday, I talked about how I have given up on the idea that the NLL can be the next major North American sports league. There’s just too much team turnover and financial issues that are unrelated to the product on the floor that I’m no longer convinced this is a problem that can be fixed. But I had an idea…

A possible solution

What if the NLL looked to the NHL for ownership of all new franchises?

The top 3 teams in the NLL in terms of attendance are the Mammoth, Bandits, and Roughnecks – the only NLL teams owned by NHL teams. The advantages are much lower costs – all of the non-lacrosse-specific employees (ticket sales, marketing, HR) could be shared between the two teams – and cross-promotion. Buy Sabres tickets, get a deal on Bandits tickets and vice versa. They could have Bandits ads during more heavily-watched Sabres games on TV. Even NHL stars doing ads – “I played lacrosse growing up and it made me into a better hockey player. You should check these guys out”. With costs fairly low, the NHL teams can pump the NLL teams enough to boost attendance to the point that they’re making money, and in return, the NLL teams get to continue to exist. Win-win.

There has been talk of the Oilers offering to buy the Rush from Bruce Urban but he’s turned them down on a number of occasions, and now their relationship is bad enough that they may not make such an offer again. I don’t know if the Stealth and Canucks have ever had any discussions. I also have no idea what kind of relationship the Flyers and Wings had, but with the talk that the NLL may return to Philadelphia, maybe that’s something that could be explored. The rumours for the Swarm moving to Nashville include the possibility of Predators ownership which might end up being a good thing for the Swarm, even if it sucks hard for the fans in Minnesota.

If they do make a change like this, they’d have to add a grandfather clause since nobody wants to get rid of Styres or Dawick as owners (and I’m not sure I want MLSE running the Rock). The Black Wolves ownership is a little different – there’s no NHL team within 100 miles (Boston is just over 100 miles northeast), but it’s not clear they’re really out to make money directly from the lacrosse team. The Black Wolves owners also own the Mohegan Sun casino where they play, and their goal, first and foremost, is to bring people into the casino. They might be quite happy to lose a bit of money on the team in order to do that.

Mohegan Sun: Come for the game, stay for the GAMBLINGBut let’s face it: nobody is going to consider you a major sports league when you have teams in Langley, Uncasville, Saskatoon, and quite honestly, even Rochester. I know Rochester has been looked at as the Green Bay Packers of the NLL, since both of them fall into the “not even big enough to be a secondary market” category. But if you’re trying to get the president of the New York Rangers to take your call about expanding to the Big Apple (again), mentioning that one of your most successful teams is in Rochester may not help your case.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Knighthawks (as much as a Rock fan can, anyway) and really want the team to stay there, which brings me to my final point.

Silver lining

Despite what might sound like despair above, I am not giving up on the NLL. I will still be tweeting, facebooking, blogging, and podcasting about it. That will not change. What does seem to have changed is my belief that someday lacrosse players will have one job and only one job – that of lacrosse player. As long as the NLL exists, we will still be talking about weekend warriors and how Joe Laxalot is a teacher / firefighter / stockbroker / whatever during the week. There will likely always be teams moving or folding because the owners don’t want to lose money for years before the team gets good or they still can’t get people into the arena despite success on the floor.

Could it be that this is the death knell of the league? I’ve seen lots of comments saying the league only has a couple of years left before it folds entirely. That could be, but given that not all NLL teams are having these attendance and financial troubles, I’m going to remain optimistic. The NHL option would be great for the NLL but how much incentive is there for the NHL owners to get involved? I imagine it would only be marginally interesting for some NHL teams and not interesting at all for most.

The silver lining here is that the NLL is still a great league full of great players and is still a lot of fun to watch and follow. Are they one of the big five leagues? No, but who cares? Other than issues like “Joe Laxalot can’t play this weekend / season because of work commitments”, it’s not a huge deal. With the Rush and Swarm we’re talking about relocating, not folding; as long as the league isn’t contracting, maybe it’s OK if it doesn’t grow. Yes, there will be team movement, but we’ll have to be content with the league in the places it’s in and not turn up our noses at options like Saskatoon. It’s a smaller market but the lacrosse played there will be just as good.

And I really do hope the league can still grow. But that hope is quickly turning into a wish – something I want to happen, but can do nothing about.

The NLL is a niche league. Get used to it. (Part I)

OK, that’s it. It’s over. Everybody out of the pool. With the Swarm announcing that they’re moving and the Rush announcing that they’re probably moving, I think I’m done with the whole idea of the NLL becoming the fifth major team sport in North America.

For years my hope has been that eventually, the NLL would be up there with the NHL and NBA as one of the major sports leagues in North America. Take hockey, mix in some basketball rules, take the ice away and what’s not to love, right? It’s bound to grow until the players are making millions and everybody knows about lacrosse!

But it never happened. The hope has always been there but reality is setting in, and I am now convinced that it’s not going to happen.

The problem

The bottom line: You can’t be a major sports league with this much team movement. But you can’t get rid of the team movement until you become a major sports league. Obviously there’s a problem there. The alternative is to have a bunch of committed owners who know they are likely to lose money but keep going anyway. The more Curt Styres’s and Jamie Dawicks the league has, the better. But even that isn’t enough. Bruce Urban is just as committed to his team, but look at where the Edmonton Rush are: top of the standings but near the bottom of the attendance list, and on the verge of relocating because they can’t draw enough people.

A few different solutions have been tried. You can’t be a big-time league without teams in the biggest cities, right? New York, Los Angeles (Anaheim), Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston – all failed. Maybe we should try the smaller but still big markets: Phoenix, Baltimore, San Jose, Pittsburgh – all failed. Even supposed lacrosse hotbeds like Syracuse, Vancouver, and Albany have tried and failed. Vancouver was given a second chance, but has come in last or second-last in attendance in each of the last two years. And now they’re talking about Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a place that most Americans can’t say, let alone find on a map.

The good ol' daysThere are two categories here. Some of them folded because nobody wanted to see a losing team so attendance was low, and I guess ownership wasn’t willing to give it enough time to get better. Anaheim, New Jersey, Ottawa, and Charlotte (among others) all failed but their teams sucked so it’s at least somewhat understandable. But then there’s the second category, that of teams that failed despite success on the floor. Albany, New York, and Portland each went to the finals. Arizona did it twice. Washington did it three times and won one of them. Boston never got to the finals but were a very good team for three years. It’s frustrating because we can’t say to prospective owners “Yes, you’ll lose money for a couple of years but once your team gets good, you’ll be fine” because there are too many examples of where that hasn’t been true.

Now we have the same thing happening to both Minnesota in the first category (haven’t made the playoffs in 2 years, have only finished above .500 once since 2008) and Edmonton in the second (one of the best teams this year, arguably one of the best in NLL history last year).

The league can’t afford the bigger markets because rent at the big-name arenas is too high. This was a big part of the problems for New York, Philly, and Boston, and also the reason that the Chicago team was based in wherever-the-hell-it-was outside of the city. This is also a big concern for both the Swarm and Rush. Even the Toronto Rock have talked about moving because the rent would be cheaper. But they also know that attendance would plummet, so Jamie Dawick keeps coughing up the big coin to stay at the ACC. The Mammoth, Bandits, and Roughnecks get away with it because they are owned by the same people who own the arena.

Say, that gives me an idea…

Continued tomorrow

Game reports: Rochester 8 @ Toronto 11, Rochester 2 @ Toronto 8

I almost feel like I have to apologize to the Toronto Rock. I did pick them to win this series and head to the Champions Cup final, but not with much confidence, and I actually changed my pick since I originally had Rochester. (Note that the IL Indoor “NLL staff Picks: Division Finals Game 2 and 3” page has my picks listed incorrectly – I picked Toronto to win both game 2 and the mini-game. I also picked Calgary to win game 2 and Edmonton to win the mini-game. 4 for 4, baby.) But the way Toronto played on Saturday, there was almost no doubt from the opening whistle that Toronto was the better team.

The game started with something odd – rather than announcing each player one by one like they always do, they simply said “Here’s the Toronto Rock!” and the whole team ran out at once. Maybe they decided that they wanted to be viewed as a team rather than a collection of individuals and so they dispensed with the introductions.

The Rock came out on fire. They scored on their first two shots (both by Brett Hickey) and then Stephan Leblanc scored to make it 3-0 just over 3 minutes in. The Knighthawks got on the board then and the Rock calmed down a little, but the Rock had possession down in the Knighthawk end for the majority of the first quarter. In the second, Rochester seemed to get frustrated and got into a bit of penalty trouble, leading to two Rock power play goals. Stephen Keogh scored his second of the night with just a couple of seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 8-3, but it was clear the Rock was in control.

As much as I was enjoying the lead and the intensity with which the team was playing, I had to keep my enthusiasm in check. I have seen enough lacrosse to know that being up by 5 at the half is no guarantee of a win. Not to mention that even if they wiped the floor with the Knighthawks in game 2, there was still the mini-game to play. Momentum (and penalties) might carry over, but the score would not.

In the second half, the Rock seemed to let their foot off the gas. They still seemed in control for the most part, but Vinc played a lot better and the Knighthawks started to get back into the game. By a minute into the 4th, they were only down by two. I don’t know about other fans, but I started to get a little nervous. But then the D clamped down again and the Rock got a couple more by Vinc. I thought the Knighthawks were going to pull their top players to rest them up for the mini-game, but they didn’t; they seemed to continue playing for the comeback win, even when it got to the point of needing four goals in 3 minutes or so.

Photo credit: Jack Boland/Toronto SunBrandon Miller was playing very well but I thought the defense in front of him was outstanding. I also thought that Rochester wasn’t making the most of their possessions; they’d frequently shoot when there was more than 10 seconds left on the shot clock. Matt Vinc had an uncharacteristically bad game. He was better in the second half than the first, but he was giving up goals that he normally wouldn’t. It wasn’t that he wasn’t making the “holy crap” saves that he usually does, he wasn’t even making the “normal” saves that most goalies usually do.

Stephen Keogh came to play, scoring 6 of Rochester’s 8 goals and really looking good. He took a penalty right at the end of the game, which carried over into the mini-game, though I don’t think he knew that. He came out of the box after game 2 ended, and was told by the refs to go back. Some folks on twitter suggested the Knighthawks should have scored on their own net before game 2 ended to negate the penalty, but apparently there was a memo from the league before the playoffs saying that this would result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, as it should.

I was a little worried about the mini-game, since (a) Toronto had only scored 3 goals in the second half, and (b) Matt Vinc was looking much more like the Matt Vinc we expected to see. But the mini-game looked more like the first quarter, as the Rock came out on fire once again. I did not vote for John Lovell as Coach of the Year (well, I put him on the ballot but at #3 or 4), but now I think he should have been higher. They scored 7 goals on 8 shots in less than 7 minutes and completely deflated the Knighthawks. Vinc was finally pulled in favour of Angus Goodleaf but the damage was done by then.

So there have been 5 mini-games in the league in the past 2 years, and I’ve seen two of them. Have to say they’re very exciting to watch, but are they a good idea in general? That I’m not so sure of, but I may get to that in a future article. We’re now down to 2 teams and the first best-of-3 series since 1998. The Rush will be visiting the ACC next weekend, and I am looking forward to it.

Other game notes:

  • Only 10,000 fans at the game, but it was certainly the loudest I’ve heard the ACC in a couple of years.
  • There were several busloads of Rochester fans at one end, cheering loudly for the ‘Hawks. Unfortunately for them, “Hawks” and “Rock” rhyme, and so their chants of “Let’s Go Hawks!” quickly turned into chants of “Let’s Go Rock!” by the hometown fans. I thought it was great to see such a large group from Rochester, just like I love seeing tons of Bandits fans when they play in Toronto. It was a little disappointing to see that about half of them had left before the tiebreaker game was even over. Where did they go? Were they afraid the buses were going to leave without them? Also nice to see the Knighthawks salute them before they left the floor.
  • Kevin Crowley is not just a great forward, he plays some pretty great defense too.
  • Just like last week, Rochester’s defense intercepted a whole bunch of passes, but they really only scored one transition goal all night.
  • A number of those intercepted passes came from Colin Doyle. I also noticed that Doyle took more shots through traffic than many others; he seemed to want to shoot even when it may not have been a good idea.
  • Patrick Merrill took a penalty shot in the mini-game because the Knighthawks took a too-many-men penalty with <2 minutes left. In that case, the Rock could have chosen anyone on the floor to take the shot, so I’m curious why they chose him.

Shawn Evans: MVP? Maybe not

Shawn Evans has had an excellent 2015 NLL season. That’s unquestionable. But is he the league’s MVP? Some would argue yes, others may disagree. The Roughnecks are certainly campaigning in that direction. But you can’t just look at the points and assists records, there are other things to take into consideration. Let’s examine the pros and cons:

Pro: Outstanding offensive numbers:

  • Set a new record for points in a season with 130
  • Tied record (set the day before) for assists in a season with 83
  • 6th in league in goals (48), 1st in shorthanded goals (5)

Con: Some numbers not so great:

  • Only 4 power play goals, second-lowest among Calgary forwards
  • Only one forward (Cody Jamieson) spent more time in the penalty box
  • 0 face-off wins
  • 0 saves

Pro: Team player: led his team from 0-6 start into the playoffs

Con: Is he really a team player? He played ZERO games as backup goalie. Corbyn Tao has him beat there.

Pro: Three cute daughters, including twins born last year

Con: That was last year. Nothing this season. Plus, his wife arguably did most of the work

Pro: Already has his name on the trophy so getting the engraving spelled correctly won’t be an issue

Con: Already has his name on the trophy. NLL doesn’t like to give the MVP award to the same player more than once

Pro: First in every category among Shawns in the league.

Con: Middle of the pack among current or former NLL players named “S. Evans”, when listed alphabetically

Pro: If the other team has quick transition, can play pretty good defense

Con: Steals valuable playing minutes from Roughneck defenders

Pro: Proved that you don’t need to be big to be a great offensive player

Con: Josh Sanderson proved that years before

Pro: Good lookin’ dude.

Con: No cool braid like the Thompson boys.

 

Hmmmm… looks like the jury’s still out.

 

How do you say no to that?

(Photo credit: 120 Sports)

Getting in sync

On Saturday night, we saw a goal scored by the Toronto Rock that shouldn’t have counted. Brett Hickey’s buzzer-beater at the end of the second quarter seemed to have gone in a split-second after the buzzer, but the referees who reviewed it couldn’t find definitive proof that the call was wrong, so they had to allow the goal. I don’t fault the refs for this call since they didn’t have sufficient information to call off the goal. But I have a proposed solution to that problem. Quite honestly, this seems like a fairly obvious solution, so there may be a perfectly good explanation for this that I am not aware of, or some huge drawback that I’m missing.

During the last 30 seconds of each quarter of an NLL game, any reset of the shot clock causes it to be disabled. Usually it’s set to 30 but does not run. I have heard countless broadcast announcers mention this: “With fifteen seconds left in the quarter, the shot clock is off.” But this has two significant drawbacks:

  1. Players cannot see the game clock as easily as the shot clock. In some arenas, they may be able to look up at the ribbon board or another display board above the net that’s showing the game clock, but it’s not as close to their field of vision as the shot clock. The “rule” for determining how much time you have left before you must shoot is given by: “Look at the shot clock unless there is less than 30 seconds left in the quarter and the shot clock has been turned off, in which case look at the game clock.” This inconsistency is confusing and unnecessary.
  2. In the case of a goal that’s scored near the end of the quarter and challenged, the referees are much more likely to have the shot clock available in the replay video than the game clock. We saw this with Hickey’s goal on Saturday. This goal was called a goal on the floor and even though it seemed that the ball went in after time ran out, there was no conclusive evidence and so the call on the floor stood. The shot clock was clearly visible in the video but it said 30 and was not moving, so it was of no value.

I propose that when a shot clock reset is signaled by the refs within the last 30 seconds of a quarter, the shot clock should become synchronized with the game clock. For example, if the referee signals that the shot clock should be reset when there are 17.3 seconds left in the quarter, the shot clock would start counting down from 17.3, exactly in time with the game clock. This eliminates both of the problems I described above:

  1. Players could then simply watch the shot clock like they always do and know how much time is left before they must shoot, regardless of how much time is left in the quarter. There’s no “watch this clock unless it’s off in which case watch this other clock that’s harder to see”, it’s always just “watch the shot clock”.
  2. The shot clock is much more likely to be in the frame when the officials are examining the replay to see if the ball went in on time.

This would require no extra work on the parts of the referees or the shot-clock operator. The software could be programmed so that when a shot-clock reset is indicated and less than 30 seconds remain in the quarter, the shot clock would be set to the current remaining time on the game clock.

Alternatively, a light could be installed behind the net, next to the goal lights, that is set to come on as soon as the game clock reaches 0. If in the replay, that light is on before the ball goes in the net, the goal does not count. Oddly, there does appear to be a green light behind the net in Rochester that came on once the time reached 0. This light was either ignored or not seen by the officials, as it clearly came on before the ball entered the net. Note the picture below (tweeted shortly after the game by Brad MacArthur, though I added the red circles) showing the light on and the ball not yet in the net.

Buzzer-beaterFor the record, I am a fan of the Toronto Rock. This is not an angry Knighthawk fan saying Toronto’s goal shouldn’t have counted. (This is actually a Toronto fan saying that Toronto’s goal shouldn’t have counted.) I am making this proposal not as a Rock fan but as a lacrosse fan, in the hopes that we can make it easier to get the calls right as often as possible.

As I said, there may be a perfectly good reason why this is not possible. But as far as I can see, this is a fairly simple solution that solves two problems, makes things easier for players; officials; and fans, and has no drawbacks that I am aware of.

2015 Predictions revisited

As many sports bloggers do, I made predictions at the beginning of the season. But as many sports bloggers don’t do, I’m going to go back and see what they were and how I did. I covered some of these on last week’s Addicted to Lacrosse show. I recently had to submit my votes for the IL Indoor annual awards, so for each of the awards below, I’ve listed my pre-season prediction as well as my post-season votes.

Standings:

East

  1. Rochester
  2. Buffalo
  3. Toronto
  4. Minnesota
  5. New England

West

  1. Calgary
  2. Edmonton
  3. Colorado
  4. Vancouver

Three correct out of nine. I wasn’t nearly as optimistic with the Rock as I should have been. I was also far too optimistic with the Roughnecks, but so was everybody else.

Annual Awards

MVP

Prediction: Dan Dawson, Cody Jamieson, Ryan Benesch
Vote: Shawn Evans, Mark Matthews, Ryan Benesch

Jamieson and Dawson had very good years, but not MVP-worthy. Benesch was great, especially down the stretch. But Evans was outstanding.

Goaltender of the Year

Prediction: Aaron Bold, Matt Vinc, Mike Poulin
Vote: Matt Vinc, Aaron Bold, Frankie Scigliano

No surprises from the first two, and I really struggled to decide who got the top vote. And I got the wrong Calgary goalie.

Defensive Player of the Year

Prediction: Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Brock Sorensen
Vote: Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Sid Smith

I did vote Sorensen fourth.

Transition Player of the Year

Prediction: Jeremy Thompson, Geoff Snider, Karsen Leung, Jordan Hall
Vote: Joey Cupido, Karsen Leung, Jay Thorimbert

Hall didn’t play transition this year, and Thompson had another very good season but Cupido stole the show.

Ben McIntoshRookie of the Year

Prediction: Miles Thompson, Ben McIntosh, Chris Attwood
Vote: Ben McIntosh, Jeremy Noble, Miles Thompson

Attwood didn’t even make the Knighthawks, so that was totally wrong. Miles Thompson had a good rookie season but McIntosh was better. Didn’t have Noble on the list at the beginning since it seemed unlikely he’d play at all.

Les Bartley Award

Prediction: Curt Malawsky, Mike Hasen, Troy Cordingley, John Lovell
Vote: Derek Keenan, Mike Hasen, Curt Malawsky, John Lovell, Troy Cordingley

No idea how I missed Keenan at the beginning of the year.

GM of the Year

Prediction: Terry Sanderson, Curt Styres, Steve Govett, Chris Seinko
Vote: Terry Sanderson, Curt Styres, Steve Govett, Derek Keenan.

Nailed the top three on this one. I even voted Seinko fifth since I thought he did pretty well at the trade deadline. Getting Billings, one of the top two players in the league over the last few seasons, for Crowley was a good deal and grabbing Suitor from the Swarm was good too. It was just too late in the season to turn things around, and the fact that Suitor got hurt again didn’t help.

Team predictions – East

For each team, I made a “Look out for” prediction – a player who I thought would have a great season. Some of them I nailed, others I didn’t quite get right, and in one case, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Dhane Smith (Photo: Larry Palumbo)Buffalo: Dhane Smith. Nailed this one. Smith went from 59 points in 18 games last year to 107 this year.

Minnesota: Miles Thompson. Not a bad choice, though Shayne Jackson might have been a better one.

New England: Kevin Buchanan. Again, not a bad season. Pat Saunders would have been the breakout player for the Black Wolves.

Rochester: Chris Attwood. Didn’t even make the team. We’ll call that a “miss”. I don’t know who I’d pick from the Knighthawks as having had a breakout season since everyone on the team played at or near what I expected. Maybe Craig Point, since he hadn’t played 15 games in a season since 2011.

Toronto: Brock Sorensen. I thought Sorensen had a very solid year with the Rock and even put him on my list for Defender of the Year. But you might be able to make an argument for Brett Hickey here.

Team predictions – West

Calgary: Karsen Leung. I thought Leung had another solid season and I voted for him as Transition player of the year. But for a breakout season, I’d have to go with Frankie Scigliano, who grabbed the starting goalie job from the struggling Mike Poulin a few weeks into the season and never gave it back.

Colorado: Dillon Ward. Ward didn’t have a great season, but good enough to grab second in the west. Breakout player on the Mammoth would be Jeremy Noble, Eli McLaughlin, or Alex Buque.

Edmonton: Corey Small. Mostly right, except for the team. Small only lasted 2 games with the Rush before being traded to the Stealth, where he had his best season ever. For the Rush, a better choice would have been Zack Greer, who beat his career best points/game average by almost a full point.

Vancouver: Joel McCready. Nailed it. I even said the Powless experiment wouldn’t be the huge success the Stealth were hoping for. We’ll call that a 2-for-1, which offsets the Rochester failure.

Six degrees of Kevin Buchanan

A recent conversation about how small the lacrosse world is got me thinking, and I came up with a fun game which I call “Six degrees of Kevin Buchanan”.

The idea is to pick two players A and B, and make a chain of players starting from A and ending with B. Every player in the chain must have played on the same team at the same time as the player before and after him. Unlike the Kevin Bacon game, you don’t actually have to include Kevin Buchanan – if that was the case, I might have picked Mat Giles (12 NLL teams) or Chris Panos (10) rather than Buchanan (5). But their names don’t sound nearly as much like “Kevin Bacon”.

I’ve stretched the rules a touch: if two players played for the same team in the same season, I’m calling that a link. This is only because I don’t have sufficiently accurate data so in some cases (anything before 2005) I don’t know if they actually both played on the same team at the same time – for all I know, one might have been traded for the other in a mid-season deal.

As an example, let’s pick the player with the coolest name in NLL history: Mikko Red Arrow, who played with the New York Saints from 1993 to 1996. We’ll try and match him up with one of the youngest players in the league, Rob Hellyer.

Mikko Red Arrow –> Rob Hellyer

  1. Mikko Red Arrow played with Pat O’Toole on the New York Saints in 1995.
  2. O’Toole played with Josh Sanderson on the Knighthawks in 1999.
  3. Sanderson has played with Rob Hellyer on the Rock from 2012-2015.

So Hellyer is three links away from Red Arrow.

Let’s go back even further, to 1992 and another player with a cool name, Butch Marino. I had never heard of him before this exercise, and picked him at random. He played from 1992-1994 and again in 1996. The target this time is another young player picked at random, Miles Thompson of the Swarm.

Butch Marino –> Miles Thompson

  1. Butch Marino played with Chris Gill on the Baltimore Thunder in 1996.
  2. Gill played with Colin Doyle on the Toronto Rock from 1999-2001.
  3. Doyle played with Ethan O’Connor on the Rock in 2014.
  4. O’Connor plays with Miles Thompson on the Swarm in 2015.

Thompson is four links away from Marino. Note that this is the shortest list I found while just looking over team lists and going by memory. There may be shorter ones.

Here’s one more, starting from Brian Lemon, the current NLL VP of Lacrosse Operations. Let’s try and link him to Edmonton goalie Aaron Bold.

Brian Lemon –> Aaron Bold

  1. Brian Lemon played with Kevin Finneran on the 1992 Detroit Turbos.
  2. Finneran played with Dave Stilley on the 2002 Philadelphia Wings.
  3. Stilley played with Gavin Prout on the 2006 Mammoth.
  4. Prout played with Corey Small on the 2010 Rush.
  5. Small played with Aaron Bold on the 2013 Rush.

So Bold is five links away from Lemon. But there’s a faster way:

  1. Brian Lemon played with Randy Mearns on the 1995 Knighthawks.
  2. Mearns played with John Tavares on the 1993 Bandits.
  3. Tavares played with Jeremy Thompson on the 2012 Bandits.
  4. Thompson has played with Aaron Bold on the Rush since 2013.

Of course, anyone who’s ever played for the Bandits is at most 2 links away from anyone else who’s ever played for the Bandits, since they both played with John Tavares. In addition to JT, there are players like Shawn Williams, Colin Doyle, and Josh Sanderson who have had very long careers with multiple teams and allow you to jump 10-15 years in one step. Thanks to guys like them, I’d be surprised if anyone who’s ever played in the NLL is more than five links away from anyone else. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a player who has never played with a former Bandit and given Mr. Tavares’s longevity, I imagine that finding two players with a count no lower than five is almost impossible.

Hey Kevin, what do you think of this game?

Any other pairs of players you want linked? Do you know of shorter chains than the ones I have above? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter!