Archive for October, 2007

Arizona out for ’08 NLL Season

A league source said late Tuesday night that the Arizona Sting will not play the 2008 National Lacrosse League season. Other sources echoed this news Wednesday, but neither the league or the Sting would confirm the news Wednesday. The Sting join the expansion Boston Blazers in going dark for ’08, following a two-week period of uncertainty regarding a new collective bargaining agreement.

Arizona entered the league for the 2004 season, and it has been by an overwhelming success on the floor. After just missing the playoffs in their inaugural season, the Sting made it to the Champion’s Cup final in 2005, losing to host Toronto. In 2006, Arizona made it to the West Final, losing to eventual champion Colorado. Last season, they made yet another Champion’s Cup final, hosting Rochester because the higher-seeded Knighthawks couldn’t host the game because of a scheduling conflict. Rochester beat Arizona at Arena 13-11.

Arizona’s issue, however, has always been fan support in Glendale Ariz., just outside of Phoenix. Their attendance has actually decreased over the last three seasons, going from 6,568 (8th out of 10 teams) in 2005 to 6,477 (10th out of 11) in ’06 to 6,049 last year (11th out of 13).



NLL Has A Lot Of Work To Do


The National Lacrosse League has a ton of work to do over the next week, but finally agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement is ultimately a positive outcome for the players and the owners. If you think those guys are exhausted now — I know I am from covering this thing — their work is only beginning.

It absolutely baffles me how we wound up at this point. Obviously, the owners were willing to negotiate all along. And obviously, the players wanted to play in 2008. So was the league canceling the season Oct. 16 a negotiating ploy? Commissioner Jim Jennings said Thursday that it wasn’t.

If not, then what happened? Did the owners want to cancel the season all along, then get flooded with complaints from sponsors and fans and realize they didn’t properly estimate the impact of their decision? Did the PLPA misread the league’s sincerity on canceling the season in the first place? Did a few emails get lost in cyberspace?

Now that some of the dust has cleared, we have a better picture of just how dramatic the effects are of canceling the season. Some teams lost home games. The season might not start in late December or end in mid-May like it was supposed to. There might be less games and less teams. Some teams might have to play in different venues (I’ve heard the Spectrum in Philly, the new Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and Nassau Coliseum all mentioned as possible temporary homes of NLL games this year).



NLL 2008: So what do we know?


What’s up now? A lot has happened in the last week and some of my thoughts are random – but hey – I’m tired. We have heard that Boston will not be playing in 2008, but is it possible that there might be other teams out as well? I spoke to one owner this afternoon and he wasn’t sure. I don’t think anyone knows for sure right now.

Personally I can’t see any teams “remaining dark” for a year. It’s one thing for a new franchise to start over again, but an established team does not want to lose its players in a dispersal draft and essentially start over as an expansion team. (Please don’t suggest that they loan their players out for a year – that would be ridiculous). Jim Jennings said that this is a time for gathering data and I agree. Some teams gave up arena dates and some of the dates were already scooped up. You might see the Wings playing some games in the Spectrum again – but I love that place. A lot of details have to be flushed out in the next week.

So what do we know for sure?

There will be a season, but throw out your original 2008 schedule. The Canadian teams are happy. The Canadian dollar has skyrocketed in the last year (from 85 cents to 1.03 US). Since players are paid in U.S. dollars, the Canadian teams will have a significant drop in team salaries. Will there be TV deal? Does this mean I have to get back to finishing my NLL previews for Inside Lacrosse Magazine’s NLL preview edition? I’m exhausted from covering this story; I can’t imagine how Jennings, Daniel, Succamore and Schmitz feel right now.

What would Les Bartley do?

Les Bartley
Les Bartley

This NLL thing has been a fascinating and frustrating process for everyone involved. I’ve spoken to a host of players, coaches and owners over the last few weeks and it’s amazing how this thing has twisted and turned from something no one really gave much credence to before Oct. 15 to there being absolutely zero chance of the 2008 season happening early last week to now there being a new proposal on the table and 2008 still being a reality.

However, I didn’t hear former Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock coach Les Bartley’s name mentioned until Tuesday. One of the most well-respected figures in lacrosse history after winning seven MILL/NLL championships, Bartley was also a union negotiator for General Motors. So, couple the fact that players and owners alike trusted and had the utmost respect for him with his career being labor negotiation, Bartley was invaluable during the NLL’s negotiations with the Professional Lacrosse Players Association (PLPA).

The NLL Hall of Famer passed away after a bout with cancer on May 15, 2005, just 18 hours after the Toronto Rock won the Champion’s Cup. Barely a week before his death, Bartley was named the NLL’s Executive of the Year in part for his help in the league reaching a collective bargaining agreement the previous offseason. That CBA was the one that expired July 31.

“Just like you don’t replace Gary Gait on a lacrosse team,” says one NLL coach, “You don’t replace Les Bartley.”

Brodie Merrill Reebok lacrosse ad

So, with the National Lacrosse League apparently cancelling the season (or will they play? I don’t know), the superstars like Brodie Merrill will have more time for extra stuff like commercials. Here’s a Reebok ad starring Brodie as a wing-slinging poker player.

Reebok’s apparent choice of catch phrases?

“You just hit Leon with chicken.”


Too late for ‘08?


It was just a few days ago that I was busy working on my NLL previews for Inside Lacrosse Magazine’s NLL Preview edition. Suddenly my priorities have changed due to Monday’s dramatic news. Can it be true that the season is cancelled?

To be honest, I’m not usually interested in the nuts and bolts of the CBA negotiations for any league. Unfortunately, I think many players might feel the same way. Before this past weekend, I was content to sit back and wait for this thing to get done. Real negotiations aren’t done through the media and I didn’t want to be the mouthpiece for either side.

My original take was this: the owners want to get this deal done soon — fair enough — so they gave the Oct. 15 deadline. I figured that that would not be a firm date as long as negotiations were progressing. Even when I heard that talks had ended, I figured it was just a timeout. Then, when the owners announced the season was over, I figured that that was just to get negotiations rolling again. Yes, I did believe the owners were bluffing.

Now I’m not so sure.