Different lacrosse leagues: Why can’t we all just get along?

Dan Richardson, the GM of the WLA’s New Westminster Salmonbellies, posted some thoughts on the NLL, NALL, and CLax the other day on Twitter. His comments:

Anyone else checked out the NALL single ticket prices I mean lowest I think was $18.00 top $49.00 for Sr. C players ,refs and Uni,s LMFAO (link)

Nice to see the NALL has hired school aged children to design their Uniform’s that’s a nice touch. #bushleague (link)

The Major Series,WLA and the NLL are great lacrosse the other two leagues wont last with that product and those prices (link)

At Least CLAX have coaches that have played the indoor game, the NALL has 2 maybe 3 indoor guys , the rest are field. It wont work. #BUSH (link)

I agree the NLL has missed the boat on the majority of their new look jerseys from Reebok…some are just pathetic. (link)

I must apologize , I thought the NALL Logo’s, jerseys were horrendous, I just spent 5 min on the CLAX site, yikes i just barfed in my mouth (link)

Six teams playing out of three arena’s what a concept.#bushleague Reggie..Who owns the Chiefs? (link)

If it aint broke dont fix it. My only question is , which one folds, disbands, suspends operations, chapter 11, bankrupts first? #whocares (link)

Not too tough to see where he stands. I posted a sarcastic reply saying “Nice to see the lacrosse community working together for the good of the sport”, and then got into a short conversation with someone who agreed with Mr. Richardson. But quite honestly, what he said was not what I was arguing about, it was (a) how he said it, and (b) the fact that he said it at all.

Are the NALL or CLax good for the sport of lacrosse in North America? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not my issue. Mr. Richardson is certainly entitled to his opinion. He is not required to support all other lacrosse leagues just because they play lacrosse. But when your twitter handle is “BelliesGM”, you are speaking on behalf of the team and to some extent the WLA. In my opinion, if you’re speaking with that kind of authority, you need to be careful what opinions you post. I’m going to guess that Mr. Richardson has been around the sport of lacrosse for a long time, so I’m sure he has all kinds of constructive criticism he could give the NALL and CLax, but openly and publicly mocking them with comments like “your logos make me barf” is hardly constructive. If you don’t like what they’re doing, you don’t have to post anything.

This paragraph is going to piss some people off, but there’s also the irony of someone working for a team called the Salmonbellies calling some other league “bush”. I know about and respect the history of the team, which has been around for well over 100 years and has won more Mann Cups than any other team. But if you ask any sports fan who doesn’t follow lacrosse, Salmonbellies would rank right up there with the Banana Slugs in the list of “bush league” team names.

Something that has always confused me as a lacrosse outsider is that there are a number of different lacrosse leagues, but they don’t work together. When the MLL came to Toronto in the form of the Toronto Nationals, there were Nationals ads at Rock games. But when I went to my first Nationals game, there was no mention of the NLL at all. I knew that in the past these leagues basically ignored each other, but it never made sense to me and I thought that maybe this was the beginning of a new era in both leagues. But since that first Nationals season, there has been no mention of the MLL or the Nationals (now based down the road in Hamilton) at Rock games at all. Why doesn’t the MLL look at each NLL game as “10,000 lacrosse fans trapped in an arena and forced to look at whatever advertising we want to show them”? They could have ads in every NLL arena with an MLL team nearby near the end of the season saying “NLL season is almost over – if you love lacrosse and want to see more, come on out to games in the summer and see your favourite NLL players!” The NLL could do the same at MLL games. Give season ticket holders of one team discounts on the tickets for the other, and everyone’s happy.

Instead, it seems that the MLL views the NLL as “that cute li’l indoor league where players go in the winter to keep their skills sharp for the next MLL season”, and vice versa for the NLL. It’s the same with the WLA / MSL and the NLL. The NLL seems to view themselves as the “major league” and both the WLA and MSL as the “minor leagues” though if you ask any Canadian lacrosse player, many of them will tell you that given the choice, they’d rather win a Mann Cup than an NLL championship. These leagues seem to want nothing to do with each other. Why is it so difficult for these leagues to work together for mutual benefit? If they don’t want to work together, fine but why can’t they each at least acknowledge the other’s existence? The NLL and WLA/MSL don’t compete, and the NLL and the MLL don’t compete – their seasons don’t overlap at all and there are many NLL players who play in one of the other leagues in the summer. I can see the WLA/MSL and the MLL not having any kind of relationship with each other because their seasons do overlap so there is some competition for players. But other than the Hamilton Nationals, there’s no geographic overlap between them anyway so there’s no competition for fans.

There’s no geographic overlap between the WLA and CLax or between the WLA and the NALL, so it’s unlikely that these leagues will form partnerships anyway. But with Mr. Richardson’s comments, it looks like the WLA is openly hostile towards these other leagues. The lacrosse community is already broken in two – field people and box people. Now we seem to be fragmenting the box lacrosse community itself into disparate groups that want nothing to do with one another, and I don’t see how that can be good for lacrosse in general.


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