Langley hosts the NLL Championship

The NLL Championship game in 2013 will, for the first time, be held in a neutral site arena, kind of: the Langley Events Centre in Langley, BC. Langley is about 90 miles north of Everett and is the closest arena that the Stealth could find to host the game. Comcast Arena, the normal home of the Stealth, is booked this Saturday for a Christian music concert. The Key Arena in Seattle, a much closer alternative, is also booked with roller derby, and thanks to the CBS Sports TV contract, changing the date was not an option, so the Stealth were forced to either go to Langley or give up the game and allow the Knighthawks to host.

This would have been more than a little ironic, since a similar thing happened in 2007 when the Knighthawks were unable to host the Championship game because of a circus booked at the Blue Cross Arena. The Knighthawks had to win their first Championship in ten years in front of the fans of their opponents, the Arizona Sting.

The Langley Events Centre

There’s been a lot of talk on twitter and on the IL Indoor forums about this, most of which is negative, and phrases like “unprofessional” and even “bush league” have been thrown around. So I asked on twitter “How would you have solved the problem? Here are some of the responses:

@Amypriddy12: put the game in Rochester where they could sell out the arena…

@bradmacarthur: hold it in Rochester? ’07 games was moved to AZ when BCA wasn’t available.

@tfernaays: The same way the did in 2007: give the other team the game.

@RichCumpston: Just play it in Rochester, like they did in 2007 when Arizona couldn’t host it.

Is it just me, or is there a trend here? Yes, the option to move the game to Rochester was likely the next step if Langley was unavailable. The difference between this case and 2007 is that in Rochester’s case, there was no alternative. Presumably there are other arenas in the Rochester area, but if it’s too small, the league won’t want to hold the game there. If you think moving the final game to another arena is bush league, try televising a national championship on CBS Sports from a dinky little arena that holds 300 people. Any other arenas that might have been even close to the BCA in terms of capacity were booked, and the Board of Governors nixed an idea to hold the game in Buffalo. The only option at that point was to move it to Arizona.

In this case, there is another option available, and that’s Langley. Yes, the fans will have to drive a couple of hours north and cross the Canadian border, but if it’s either that or watch it on TV from Rochester, I imagine most Stealth fans will make the drive – or at least they’ll be happy that they have that decision to make.

I did get one other suggestion:

@GlenMcDole: I believe in the early 90s, highest attendance city held it. Denver would be a good place this year

On the surface, this seems like a decent idea – this way, you’re rewarding the city that has the most fans, and making fans happy is certainly good for the league. But first off, it means that most years, the Championship game is in a neutral site unless the team with the highest attendance also happens to make the finals. This is fine for the Super Bowl, where a city needs to prepare for a year just to host the game, but that’s not the case in the NLL.

Secondly, it would mean that the NLL would have the Championship in Colorado or Buffalo every year. Could this increase attendance in the other cities, with fans trying to get the Championship there? That seems like the goal, but I honestly doubt it would have any impact on attendance. Even if it does, it wouldn’t help the fans in small arenas (ironically, I believe Rochester and Washington are the two smallest). Buffalo’s First Niagara Centre can hold over 19,000, and the Bandits had that many out to their final game. But most of the other arenas just plain can’t hold that many people. Everyone in the entire City of Rochester could be lining up for Knighthawks tickets, but only 11k of them can fit in the arena, and so without building a new 20,000-seat arena, Rochester would have no chance of ever hosting a final. That’s unfair to them.

The league could make provisions, saying no team can host twice in a row, or that they alternate between the top three, or base it on the average percentage of capacity, but quite honestly, these schemes are starting to sound hokey to me.

Personally, I think the highest-seeded team that makes the final has earned the right to host it, and so that’s where it should be held. If that’s not possible, as is the case this year and was in 2007, the home team should be allowed to attempt to find an alternate location for the game, within reason. If the Stealth had said “Yes, the arena we used to use in San Jose is available, we’ll play there”, that’s no good since they’re well over 800 miles apart. Asking fans to travel that far is silly, though I understand the complaints about having to cross the border.

Does this suck for Stealth fans? Of course it does. But could it have been avoided? Check back tomorrow for the answer.

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