Yesterday, we talked about the 2013 NLL Championship game being held in Langley, BC because of scheduling issues at Comcast Arena. But could this have been avoided? Yes. How?
It would have been relatively easy to avoid, actually, though pricey. When the regular season schedule was being made, the NLL would have figured out when the final week of the season was going to be. Each team would then book the Saturday night of the next weekend for the Division Semi-Finals, the Saturday night of the following weekend for the Division Finals, and the Saturday night of the next weekend for the Finals. If they wanted to be really thorough, they would have booked Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday of all three weekends. Then there’s no chance that the arena would be booked for the playoffs, and everything’s good. Right?
Well, yes, except that for most teams, booking their arena for three entire weekends in a row during the NHL playoffs is completely impossible. Every NLL team except Washington and Rochester has an NHL team playing in the same arena. In every one of those cases (even the ones where the NHL team doesn’t own the building), I’ll give you one guess which team would get priority during those weekends. Hint: the answer rhymes with NOT LACROSSE.
So let’s say we decide that some playoff games are going to be Friday night, some Saturday night, and some Sunday afternoon, and the building owners all agree with the dates. Now the team owners have to pay for those dates, and I don’t imagine that paying to rent the ACC or Rexall Place is overly cheap. In fact, since there are only 8 home games (for now) and you just added three more, you’ve increased your arena costs by 37.5%. Sure, most teams will be able to cancel one or all of those dates eventually and presumably get some of their money back, but (a) you might not be able to cancel the dates until a week before, and b) there will very likely be a steep financial penalty (even more so because of the late notice). The non-hockey-team NLL owners (Toronto, Washington, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Rochester) are used to putting down their own money knowing they’re unlikely to get it all back, but they’re only so altruistic, and frankly I think it’s unfair to expect the owners to pay that out of their own pockets. The franchises or the league would have to foot the bill, and I’m pretty sure there just isn’t that much money floating around the NLL’s bank accounts.
Is every ticket-buying fan in the league interested in bumping ticket prices across the board to avoid the exceptionally slim possibility of both (a) their team making it to the finals and (b) the arena not being available? Some might, others won’t. It wasn’t the case this year with the parity we currently have, but some years it’s obvious from the start that one or more teams are just not good enough to make the finals. Would fans of those teams want an increase in ticket prices so they could book their arena for a Championship game that they have almost no chance of hosting?
I would think that if such a decision had to be made, pissing off a few fans in one city by moving the Championship game is the lesser of two evils when compared with pissing off more fans in all the NLL cities.
So yes, it could have been avoided. But the only real way to do it is by spending money that the league doesn’t have. Maybe when negotiating the TV deal for next season, the league could try and squeeze a few more bucks out of it, and then use that extra to book the arenas. But with all due respect to Stealth fans, in my opinion it really isn’t a big enough or frequent enough problem to warrant spending bucketloads of money on solving.