2022 Off-season summary, Part I

Man, you take one little summer off from writing about lacrosse and what happens? THINGS. Things happen. Lots of things.

We have new winners for NLL awards, we have a new team that has players now, we have a new commissioner, we have a new CBA, we have trades, we have free agent signings, we have retirements, and we have coaching changes. And we still have over three months until the season actually begins!

There have been enough off-season changes that I’ve broken this article into two parts. Let’s get started.

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Do Faceoffs Matter? Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series investigating whether faceoffs help you win in the NLL and if so, how much. In part I, we discovered that faceoffs do matter to some extent, in that teams that win more than half the faceoffs in a game tend to win that game a little more than half the time. Now we’re onto the “how much” question, and here’s where the math gets a little heavier.

To help us with this question I have called on Cooper Perkins, the Seals play-by-play announcer, stats geek, and the creator of LaxMetrics.com. Cooper is great at breaking down stats in ways I wouldn’t have thought of so I was hoping he could add some interesting insight, and he didn’t disappoint. The rest of this article and the data and graphs were all provided by Cooper. Thanks to him for joining me on this faceoff adventure.

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Do Faceoffs Matter? Part I

It’s an age-old question among lacrosse people: do faceoffs matter? Does it make sense to have a dedicated faceoff specialist, or is it sufficient to just find someone who’s pretty good at it? Logically, it makes sense that they do matter. More faceoff wins means more possessions. More possessions should lead to more goals, and more goals leads to more wins. Right? Maybe.

This article is the first of a two-part series in which we attempt to answer that question. I will start off by looking over some faceoff and win-loss numbers to see what insight they can provide. That will be Part I. Part II will be a special “crossover episode” with a special guest author, and will get a little deeper into the numbers. More on that later.

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Laxmetrics.com

I wrote about lacrosse stats for IL Indoor for almost ten years. Now that I’m not doing that anymore, someone creates a web site with a zillion NLL stats. Figures.

laxmetrics.com is a new site created by San Diego PxP guy Cooper Perkins, and it contains an insane amount of data, way more than I have had access to over the last ten years. I’ve generally been dealing with directly-measurable stats (goals, loose balls, penalties, etc.), and then doing math to combine them, aggregate them, average them, and so on. Some of the data available here is the same – taking the data we get from game sheets and such and “manipulating” it to try and get something meaningful. For example, the “plus” stats (goals+, assists+, and so on) basically compare a player’s production against the league average, and gWAR (goalie wins above replacement) uses goals for and against to attempt to “quantify how many wins a goaltender is directly responsible for creating”.

However most of the stats require more work and you just can’t get them from the boxscore. For example, there are several types of assists listed here:

  • “First order assists” are different from regular assists in that the intention of the passer is taken into account. For example, if a transition player casually tosses the ball to a forward before heading off the floor and the forward scores (with no intervening passes), that transition player gets an assist which is arguably not as “deserved” as other assists. First order assists only counts passes that are directly intended to lead to a shot.
  • A “second order assist” is the equivalent of a first order assist but for second assists. Sometimes second assists are meaningful and necessary for the goal, while others are not.
  • An “unrealized assist” is a pass that results in a scoring opportunity but no goal is actually scored. We’ve all seen outstanding passes that result in a shot that misses the net or that the goalie saves, and of course no assist is credited.
  • A “pick assist” occurs when a player without the ball sets a pick or does something else off-ball that directly contributes to a goal. Because the player never touched the ball, he won’t be given an assist.

Of course, teammates and coaches notice these kinds of plays and sometimes broadcasters will mention them as well, but normally they get no other credit. Now they do.

Photo credit: Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News

Dhane Smith, league leader in Facilitator Score and Weighted Assists

The problem with those sorts of stats is that the league doesn’t keep track of them, so someone (Cooper, presumably) has to sit and watch every second of every game, looking for these things and recording them. He has to hope the feed stays up, the cameraman catches everything, players names or numbers are visible so you can tell who did what, and so on. NLL games are generally around 2h15m long, and there’s probably a lot of going back and forth, watching a single play a dozen times to make sure you got everything. You can skip timeouts and commercials and such, but I imagine it still takes several hours per game to gather all of this information. (Update: I heard Cooper on the Off the Crossebar podcast the other day and he says it takes him about 35-40 minutes per game, so perhaps this isn’t the time commitment I thought it would be but it’s still significant work.)

In addition, most of these stats are very subjective. Was that pass really essential to the goal? There was a great pass followed by a shot from a bad angle that didn’t go in – was that enough of a quality scoring chance to warrant an unrealized assist? But even loose balls and face-off wins can be somewhat subjective, and we rely on someone else to make those decisions, so this is really no different.

Honestly, I don’t love how the data is presented on the site. Most pages look like an Excel spreadsheet embedded in the middle of a blog post. Given that the site is created with WordPress, that’s probably exactly what it is. In some cases, this is just as good as showing an HTML table. But for example, the leaderboard page makes you scroll left-to-right to see the data. Given the amount of unused space on each side of the chart, this is ugly. But who cares, really, it’s the data and the interpretation of the data that really matters. The page has only been up for a week or two so perhaps “make it pretty” is still on the TODO list. I’ve had this blog for ten years and have put pretty close to (read: exactly) zero time into making it pretty, so I really shouldn’t complain.

I appreciate the amount of work all of this is, which is why I don’t do it. But the fact that someone is doing it and publishing the results of the analysis is crazy awesome.

The PLL and the indoor league

I’m a fan of the PLL. They seem like a first-rate operation, they treat their players well, they market themselves well, and they’ve obviously given a lot of thought to the game itself and how to improve it. The end result is a league featuring great players and great teams that’s a lot of fun to watch. But I do have an issue with their social media team.

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NLL team movement: Here we go again?

It was announced on Monday (and the league confirmed it on Tuesday) that the New England Black Wolves will be relocating to Albany for the 2021-2022 season.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

OK, maybe that snarky comment is a little unfair since we haven’t had nearly the team movement over the past ten seasons or so as we did over the previous… all of them.

In the ten years from 2002-2011, the NLL added 11 teams, remove 10, and relocated 5. Not a single season began with the exact same teams as the previous year. In fact, in the nineteen seasons from 1994-2012, there were no consecutive seasons with the same teams. At least one team was added, moved, or folded every single year. “Stability” was not a word the NLL was familiar with at the time.

In contrast, from 2012-2021, there were four teams added (Philly, San Diego, Rochester, New York, plus Panther City coming next year), one removed (Boston), and five relocations (six if you include the Vancouver Stealth becoming the Vancouver Warriors). There were three seasons in that time where the number and location of teams didn’t change from the previous season, and for the first time in the thirty-year history of the league, we had three consecutive seasons (2016-2018) with the same teams.

But back to New England. No reason was given by the Black Wolves ownership group for selling the team, but it’s very likely the same reason as the sale of just about every other team: they were losing money. It’s no secret that attendance in New England wasn’t stellar. Most games in Buffalo or Calgary had double the attendance of your average Black Wolves home game, and most games in Saskatchewan had triple.

Aside: the Mohegan Sun group (owners of the Black Wolves) made no secret of the fact that they bought the team mainly to bring more people into the casino, or at least have them spend more time (and thus money) there. The COVID-19 pandemic likely cut Mohegan Sun’s revenue significantly, and so it likely played a big role in this decision, but we have no way to know. I’m not going to pretend that attendance was the only reason for selling the team, but it’s the only real numbers we have.

Photo credit: Sarah Gordon, TheDay.com

In their six seasons in New England, the Black Wolves averaged 4,871 fans per home game. This is 35th overall in the history of NLL teams, which is not great but it’s ahead of 11 other teams including the New York Riptide, Ontario Raiders, and each of the San Jose, Washington, and Vancouver Stealths.

But if you exclude their first two seasons, their average jumps to 5,420 per game. Still not spectacular, but higher than the Georgia Swarm and last year’s Knighthawks.

So how does Albany compare? Albany’s four-year average was 4,201. Oddly, their lowest season average was 3,508 when they were 14-2 and lost in the Championship game to the Rock. That said, they did get over 5,000 fans out to the semi-final game that year and almost 9,300 to the final.

But the Attack played in the NLL from 2000-2003, so the numbers we’re talking about here were literally decades ago. An awful lot can change in that amount of time. I won’t go over all of the recent changes in Albany since Bob Chavez already has on IL Indoor.

The Black Wolves were bought by an ownership group led by a man named Oliver Marti, who played in the NLL for the New York Saints in 1994-1995. He and others in his investment group are also investors in the PLL. Does this mean that the team will definitely succeed in Albany? Of course not. But in the 2000’s, the NLL was filled with rich team owners who seemed to have watched half a lacrosse game and thought “I can bring this sport to <random city> and make some bucks!”. The entirely of the league’s due diligence was the question “Do you have the $2 million expansion fee?”, after which the rich guy was granted a franchise which they sold or folded a couple of years later.

Marti was a good enough lacrosse player to make the NLL, which means he’s probably played since he was a kid. He’s been around the sport and the league long enough to know how difficult it is to make money as an owner of an NLL team. This is also the first NLL team that’s been purchased and moved since, ironically, the Philadelphia Wings were bought and moved to New England in 2014. I have a lot more trust in the league’s ability to vet potential owners and markets now than 15-20 years ago.

Yes, this kind of thing used to happen all the time in the NLL, and so a lot of long-time fans are probably thinking “here we go again”. But it’s not nearly as common anymore. I’m not saying Albany will be the next Saskatchewan, but they probably won’t need to pull in 15,000 people per game in order to make money. I’m hopeful but since I was around during the crazy 2000’s, I’ll call it “cautious optimism.”

Fort Worth, Panther City

Back in July, the NLL announced that its latest expansion team would begin play in the 2021-2022 season in Fort Worth, Texas. This week, the name, logo, and colors of the team was announced, and lacrosse twitter went nuts over the Panther City Lacrosse Club.

With any announcement like this, you’re going to get people who love it, people who hate it, and those in the middle. The most recent NLL team name announcements (the Wings, Thunderbirds, Seals, and Riptide) were generally well received. I did hear a couple of complaints that the Wings should have chosen a new name but those  people are simply wrong. The new Knighthawks team name and the rebranding of the Stealth into the Warriors weren’t quite as well received, but weren’t universally despised either. But like most internet-based complaining, haters hated for a short while, then whatever they hated became the new norm and they forgot that they hated it.

The Panther City announcement might have been the most polarizing of them all. There were many, myself included, who weren’t really sure what to think at the beginning. I certainly didn’t think “Wow, that’s awesome!” when I heard the name, but I didn’t hate it either. I saw a lot of positive comments, some from fans (or hopefully-soon-to-be fans) in Texas who are excited to have a team near them.

Panther City logo

But there were a fair number of negative comments as well, from fans, journalists, and even former NLL players. There seemed to be two major problems:

  1. With this name, it’s not clear where the team plays, and
  2. The “Lacrosse Club” part of the name is unusual

Have you ever heard of Fort Worth referred to as the Panther City? I hadn’t. Some cities have nicknames that are known far and wide: Chicago is the Windy City, Portland (Oregon) is the Rose City, New York is the Big Apple, etc. but many others have nicknames that are only known locally. Ever heard of Hamilton, Ontario referred to as the Waterfall City? I hadn’t until I moved here, and I suspect nobody outside Hamilton knows that name. This one is likely the same: people from that part of Texas may know what “Panther City” refers to, but others won’t.

I’m curious what people thought when the name “Golden State Warriors” was announced in 1971. I think California having the nickname of “Golden State” is a little more well-known than Panther City, but it’s still not obvious. Most comparisons have been made to European soccer; there is no city or town in Italy called “Juventus” and the team called Rangers that plays in Glasgow is not the “Glasgow Rangers”, it’s just “Rangers Football Club”. North American soccer is similar – a team called “Chivas USA” played in MLS for ten years. They were based in Los Angeles, but I had to look that up.

So “Panther City” doesn’t tell most people where the team is based. But really, so what? The Georgia Swarm, Colorado Mammoth, New York Riptide, and Saskatchewan Rush use the name of their state or province rather than the city they play in. The New England Black Wolves are even less specific, using the collective name of a half-dozen states all gathered together.

As for the Lacrosse Club part of the name, that’s also drawn comparisons to soccer teams as well as to the PLL. All of the PLL teams have “Lacrosse Club” in their name, but nobody says that part of it. It’s just Atlas and Chaos. Now and then you might see Atlas LC or Chaos LC written, but not usually. Hell, the name of the Toronto Maple Leafs is officially “The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club”, and other teams in the NHL and other leagues do the same thing.

Personally, I think the name is growing on me. There are teams in other leagues with a location and no nickname (Toronto FC and a few other MLS teams), and I find those boring and unimaginative. There are teams with a nickname and no location (Juventus, Rangers), and that’s more interesting. This one is different because the nickname is the location but it’s obscure.

“Fort Worth Panthers” would have been fine. Not fantastic, but fine. If it was just “Fort Worth Lacrosse Club”, I wouldn’t have been thrilled with it. But I’m sure they’ll be referred to as “the Panthers” now and again, and the fact that they sort of have a nickname in there makes it unique and interesting, and that might get people talking. If you tell your non-lacrosse friends that your team is playing Panther City next weekend, they may ask what that means. Will some of them say “that’s stupid” and come out with a negative view of the NLL? Probably but you can’t avoid that entirely. Others might just think “Huh, that’s interesting”.

When people outside the NLL are talking about the NLL, and it’s not related to a big-name player getting suspended, that’s a good thing.

White privilege

The year was 2016. Dhane Smith had arguably the best offensive season in NLL history. He set a new record with 72 goals, and only a season after Shawn Evans set an NLL record with 130 points (shattering the old record of 116), Smith broke that record with 137. Smith was named league MVP.

Some months after the award announcement, I realized that Smith was probably the first Black player to be named NLL MVP. I checked and indeed he was. I was a little surprised that I had to go look that up, and that none of the press releases or discussion that I’d seen about the award had mentioned that fact. That made me wonder about how many Indigenous players had been named MVP. At the time, the answer to that was two: Jeff Shattler in 2011 and Cody Jamieson in 2014. In 2017, Lyle Thompson brought that number to three. And in all of those cases, all of the talk about those players and the award just dealt with how great a player they were, how good a season they had, and so on. Nothing about their background.

Dhane SmithI remember thinking at the time how great it was that in the lacrosse world, Indigenous and Black players can be named MVP and it doesn’t make news. If a Black player had won the Hart trophy in the NHL, how many of the MVP stories would mention the player’s skin colour? I decided it would likely be all of them. How great it was that racism wasn’t a problem in lacrosse.

Damn, was I naïve.

It never even occurred to me at the time that I, as a white man, was the last person who should be claiming that lacrosse doesn’t have a racism problem. How the hell would I know? Without talking to the Black and Native players and getting their perspective, I had no way to know. I hadn’t done that, and yet here I was, proud of the lacrosse community.

A couple of weeks ago, Dhane Smith posted a series of tweets (go read them now if you haven’t already) regarding some of the issues with racism he’s faced in his lacrosse career. People assume he plays basketball or football. People are surprised he plays a “white” sport like lacrosse. (Not only is that racist against Black players, but it also ignores the Native people who invented the damn game and have been playing it since before white men existed in North America.) Other players (and likely spectators too) would throw racial slurs at him; it was a big deal if they got caught but it happened many times when they didn’t. That’s something Smith just had to live with and get used to. It’s insane that this is just a fact of every aspect of life for Smith and very likely every other Black athlete. It’s shameful that I didn’t fully realize that until now.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I thought that being Black was probably very difficult in places like the American south, but things were better elsewhere and not so bad in Canada at all. As a Canadian, I was kinda proud of this, even though I really didn’t have any basis for this opinion other than my own white privilege.

The Black Lives Matter movement has opened my eyes to a lot of the systemic racism that still exists, everywhere. Dhane Smith’s message opened my eyes to the fact that racism still exists in the lacrosse world, and that it was naïve of me not only to assume it doesn’t exist (or “isn’t that bad”), but to assume that I, personally, have any way to really know.

The GOAT

The Calgary Roughnecks signed Dane Dobbie to a multi-year contract last week. Considering Dobbie had a career year in 2019 and was deservedly named both season MVP and Championship MVP, it’s hard to argue against this, regardless of the term or money he was asking for. But when the NLL tweeted about it, they used a goat icon and I had to roll my eyes.

GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time and it’s become a term that, in my opinion, is thrown around far too easily in the sports world. By definition, there can be only one GOAT in each sport. There may be controversy as to who it is, but there aren’t lots of them. I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that Dane Dobbie is not the greatest player in NLL history (despite his teammates saying he is). The hot take might be: he’s not even in the top ten. But that’s an article for another time.

Of course you can add your own qualifiers, and a player may be the GOAT of a certain subset of players. As Jake Elliott pointed out, the NLL probably meant that Dobbie is the Roughnecks GOAT, not the GOAT. That’s totally fair and Jake is quite likely right.

But that got me thinking: what about the other teams? Who is their GOAT? Some are obvious – Buffalo comes to mind – while others are more contentious.

One question we have to answer first is what do we mean by this? Is it the best player to ever wear that uniform, or is it the best player to ever have an impact in that uniform? For example, you could argue that the second Dan Dawson takes the floor as a member of the Toronto Rock this coming season, before he’s even touched the ball, he’s among the top three players ever to wear the Rock jersey. But is that meaningful?

For this article, I’m going to say that it’s not good enough to simply have worn a team’s jersey, you have to have played there for a significant amount of time. However I’m not going to define “significant” with specific guidelines (e.g. you have to have played x games or x seasons or have won some sort of major award). Just going with my gut here.

I’m going to skip the expansion Knighthawks 2.0 and Riptide for obvious reasons and also the Wings 2.0 and Seals since they have only played a single season.

Buffalo – Tough one, but I’m going to go with someone who many consider to be the GOAT of the league, if not the entire sport of box lacrosse. Of course it’s John Tavares.

Dane Dobbie (Photo credit: Greg Southam)Calgary – My “tough one” for the Bandits was obviously in jest but this really is a tough one. If you go with the “just wearing the jersey” rule, I’d put Josh Sanderson and Shawn Evans at the top of that list. Sanderson played two full seasons and part of a third and while they were outstanding seasons and included a championship, he’s more associated with the Rock. Evans is a tougher call because he played four seasons including two with 110+ points and one MVP trophy. The guy who started this whole conversation, Dane Dobbie, has played 12 seasons (all with Calgary), won two Championships, and is the incumbent MVP. Jeff Shattler was an MVP and played eleven great seasons in Calgary so he has to be considered. Kaleb Toth was never an MVP but was the quintessential Roughneck for years. What about Tracey Kelusky? Higher point averages than Shattler or Toth, and team captain for their 2009 title.

Given his longevity, I’m going with Dobbie.

Colorado – Is it John Grant or Gary Gait? Gait only played three years with the Mammoth while Grant played seven (well, six plus two games in the seventh). Interestingly, their points-per-game numbers are almost identical: Grant averaged 5.632 points per game over 98 games while Gait averaged 5.625 in 48 games. If Gait had played 98 games with the Mammoth like Grant did, he’d have 551 points. Grant has 552. Both won an MVP award with the Mammoth and neither won a Championship (Gait did as a coach), so basically, they were the same guy. Grant played twice as long in Colorado as Gait did so I’m going with Grant.

Georgia (including Minnesota) – If you just consider the four seasons in Georgia, I think the obvious choice would be Lyle Thompson. But if you include the Minnesota years, Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch jump into the mix. They each had slightly higher points-per-game numbers than Thompson, but even at their peak, I don’t think either of them were as good overall as Thompson is.

Halifax – (as the Rochester Knighthawks) John Grant is the obvious choice because he’s one of the best players in the history of the league. But Matt Vinc has to be considered here. Grant won one Championship and an MVP award in his ten seasons with the Knighthawks. Vinc won three titles and about a hundred Goaltender of the Year awards. Grant’s dominance with the Knighthawks cannot be overlooked (he had an eight-year stretch with seven 90+ point seasons and only played five games in the eighth) but Vinc is probably the best goaltender of the last decade and definitely top three all-time. I honestly cannot decide so I’m taking the easy way out and calling it a tie.

New England* – Again Shawn Evans jumps out. He only played 2½ years in New England but averaged over six points per game in the two full seasons. Another candidate would be Kevin Crowley, who played most of four seasons with the Black Wolves. He wasn’t quite as dominant with the numbers but Crowley is great off-ball and defensively as well so his numbers don’t show how good he is. I’m going to go with Evans here.

Saskatchewan (including Edmonton) – Mark Matthews was my first thought but Kyle Rubisch is probably the better choice. Matthews has been a top-10 offensive player for his entire career (top 5 for most of it) but there was a four year period where Rubisch was hands down the best defensive player in the league, and he remains in the top three now.

Toronto – I’m going with Colin Doyle not only because he was an outstanding player (#4 in career scoring) but a great captain as well. Like Matt Vinc in Rochester, Bob Watson also needs to be considered. Josh Sanderson is right up there too, and Jim Veltman and Brodie Merrill were also great players and great captains.

Vancouver (including the entire franchise history) – I wondered about Lewis Ratcliff, Gary Rosyski, Colin Doyle, and even Josh Sanderson from the Albany Attack days. But in the end, it’s got to be Rhys Duch. Duch averaged about 5.4 points per game over ten seasons with the San Jose, Washington, and Vancouver Stealths. He led the team in goals, assists, and points in four straight seasons and was either first or second in those categories in three more. He was the face of the Stealth for a decade which is why it was so surprising that they unceremoniously released him before last season. Hey, can someone remind me who scored the OT goal that gave Calgary the 2019 Championship? I forget.

* Maybe others don’t have this problem, but I find it hard to think of the Black Wolves as a continuation of the old Philadelphia Wings. As a result, I didn’t consider Wings players for the Black Wolves GOAT, even though I did consider previous teams in the Vancouver and Georgia franchises. But the Wings were around for 28 years, so they shouldn’t be just tossed aside. For the Wings, I’d have to choose between Tom Marechek (12 years, four Championships, 773 points) and Dallas Eliuk (again, top 3 goalie of all time). Gary Gait only played five seasons in Philly but was named MVP in three of them (in a row), so he’s got to be up there too. I’m going to go with Eliuk.

The Raptors and the Rock, part II

Yesterday I talked about the Raptors winning the NBA Championship and how the reaction of the City of Toronto (and much of Canada, actually) made me sad for the state of the NLL. It’s not because the NLL isn’t at the same level of popularity as the NBA, it’s because I’m not confident it’ll ever get there.

I tried to imagine how the NLL can go from what we have now to a league where people who don’t follow lacrosse and don’t know anything about the game are caught up in the hype of a Championship and start watching. Lots of changes are necessary but first and foremost, it would require that many if not all games (and definitely all playoff games) are available on network TV, not through some paid streaming service. I had no problems with BR Live this past season (though I know others did) and I thought 40 bucks to watch every game all season was a pretty good deal. But I’m a die-hard who is willing to pay to watch lacrosse games. The vast majority of people are not. We’re just not going to gain new fans by making them pay to watch.

Of course the league is constantly trying to get on TV but let’s face it: despite the fact that the NLL has been around for thirty years and has been on TV in the past, it’s still unproven and the TV execs don’t have the confidence that televising lacrosse will make them money. Perhaps the league needs to pay them for a year or two to build up the audience. They don’t need to get NBA-type viewing numbers but if the numbers are good enough, then maybe the networks will start paying the league rather than the other way around.

That said, the Toronto Rock did pay for their games to be televised on Sportsnet in Canada for several years. They don’t do that anymore. I don’t know the reasoning behind why they stopped, but I think it’s fair to say that if televising the game drove up attendance (at least enough to cover the cost of TV), they’d still be paying for it. Clearly it didn’t.

Bob Watson hoists the Champions Cup

The PLL made its debut a couple of weeks ago and some of their games are televised on NBC. I haven’t seen any actual numbers but the word is that they’re pretty good. If the PLL can introduce enough people to field lacrosse and get decent numbers, maybe the Rabil boys can help a brother out and start pushing NBC to talk to Nick Sakiewicz about the NLL.

A lot of lacrosse fans have been playing and watching their whole lives so interest in lacrosse has just always been there. Much of the rest of the lacrosse world, myself included, were introduced later and fell in love with the sport. But many people watch and just aren’t interested. The old adage about bringing someone to a lacrosse game and they’ll be a fan for life just isn’t true in general. We dream about getting the NLL on TV and millions of people watching and wondering why nobody told them about this amazing sport and suddenly the players are full-time lacrosse players making big bucks. Yes, that’s the goal but it’s been the goal for a couple of decades and I’m not sure we’re any closer.

The NBA is huge in terms of popularity. Think of the celebrities you routinely see attending NBA games. Drake is always behind the bench in Toronto. Jack Nicholson has been going to Lakers games for many years. During the finals we saw President Obama, Beyonce and Jay-Z, various NFL players, golfers, hockey players, and lots of former NBA players. It’s likely that these people were given free tickets but it’s also not unlikely that many of them went looking for the tickets. They didn’t have the league or hosting team contact them and ask if they wanted tickets, or pay them to attend.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. After originally being sad, I’ve regained my optimism about the NLL. The fact that celebrities are not spotted at NLL games should not be a reason for pessimism. There are many levels of success between where the NLL is now and the NBA. We may not be able to #GrowTheGame to the same level as the NBA, NHL, or NFL, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be more popular than it is, and it’s certainly no reason to stop trying.