At the end of the 2015 season, I posted a list (Part 1 and Part 2) of my wishes for this past season. As expected, some of my wishes came true while others didn’t. In fact, one of them didn’t (the Edmonton Rush did not stay in Edmonton) but I think things actually turned out better overall than if it had.
So let’s do this again. Some of the wishes that didn’t come true last year will carry over – I’m still hoping for a new hi-def camera setup for Rochester – but I’m not going to list all the wishes again. Again, remember that this is a wish list, not things I think will happen.
Just like last year, it got kinda long so I’m splitting it into two articles.
NLLTV for all games – The league experimented with this new video streaming service in the playoffs this year and I have to say, I was impressed. The feeds were solid, the picture and sound were great, and the games were (mostly) easy to find. The ability to rewind and fast forward the stream, go back 10 seconds with a single button click, play in slow-motion, and then rejoin the game live are invaluable. Best of all, you can watch games after the fact: the next day, a week later, or whatever. This replay ability alone is worth the switch, but given all the other advantages, it’s a no-brainer.
Ideally, this will be available for all games next season for free, but I suspect this will be a pay service. Maybe they’ll give you 3 free games and then you have to start paying, which would help to get new fans interested (or at least it wouldn’t immediately turn them away). Maybe there will be a “season ticket” package for each team, and a “golden ticket” package for those of us who will watch any and all games. I can’t speak for anyone else but as long as it’s not going to cost me $100 for the season and the quality stays high, I’ll pay it.
Expansion – I did mention this last year, but I’m going to list it again. Given the number of NLL-calibre players that did not play in 2016, spent the season on the practice roster, or were cut mid-season, I think the league could definitely support two more teams.
The league has a new commissioner who has been talking about expansion a lot, so I’d be very surprised if we don’t have at least a couple of new teams by 2018, and possibly 2017. Oddly, I haven’t heard any significant rumours of where the league might expand, so Mr. Sakiewicz is playing it pretty close to the vest.
But where to put them…? How about Edmonton and Minnesota, for starters? Both the Rush and Swarm had decent (though not great) crowds but finances were their downfalls. I wrote last year about NHL ownership, and I think an Edmonton team owned by the Oilers and a Minnesota team owned by the Wild would be pretty successful. It might be tough for Edmonton fans to go from the Championship Rush to an expansion team that will probably be terrible for the first couple of years – they’ve already had more than their share of “sucky expansion team” years. Lucky Minnesota fans won’t have to worry about that – the Swarm were never that good anyway. If you want to call that “lucky”.
Other possibilities: the Portland LumberJax failed but not due to low attendance, so with the right ownership, Portland could work. I might consider giving Philadelphia another shot. Boston too, with the right arena deal.
As for new NLL cities, I have no idea. But then again, nobody else does either without having done a ton of market research. Looking solely at population hasn’t worked (right New York? Chicago? Anaheim?), and lacrosse popularity hasn’t worked either (right Baltimore? Albany? Syracuse? Vancouver?). On the other hand, few expected Saskatoon to be successful because it had neither population nor lacrosse popularity. Denver is a big city but I’m not sure the popularity there was expected either. To find the next NLL success story, we need a lot of market research and a little bit of luck.