For the past few years of doing the Off the Crossebar podcasts, we’ve been interviewing players and newsmakers from the world of lacrosse in an effort to bring you closer to the story each week. Well, for the next nine weeks, we hope to bring you even closer to what it’s like to be a GM in the National Lacrosse League as we go coast to coast, chatting with all nine NLL general managers. What does it take to create a championship team, what do you look for in a draft pick, how hard is it to fill an arena? These are just some of the questions that we’ll throw at then men behind the teams and much much more.
We’re going to try to get them to open up a bit and avoid the vague answers and go deeper in to the minds of the guys that put your favorite team together. So we’ll start out west with Washington Stealth GM Doug Locker, who’s been with the organization since its San Jose days and has seen the best and worst of running a professional lacrosse team. Each week, we’ll stop into a different NLL city and go behind the scenes to help you understand the masterminds of the top professional lacrosse league in the world. Doug Locker is on the hot-seat for week one. Enjoy lacrosse fans, it’s all this week on the Off the Crossebar Podcast.
For years the Stealth franchise has dealt in futility in terms of attendance. Dating back to their early years in Albany, N.Y., the club has struggled to pull in high numbers. We won’t say inconsistent because that they have been, even though it’s consistently been around the 3,000 mark. However, this is something that Locker isn’t too concerned about. “If we aren’t worried about it then all those people on the forums should find something else to talk about.”
After every game, win or lose, the most heated topic on people’s minds is that of the poor attendance numbers at the Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash., and then it turns to what can be done or “move them to Vancouver.” Well, that’s not happening anytime soon as the Stealth signed a new lease and will be in the Pacific Northwest for the foreseeable future. But what Locker thinks would greatly benefit his club is an I-5 rivalry like we are seeing in the MLS and the WHL. “If we would have been able to keep both Portland and Vancouver, just imagine the crowds and games we would have. It would be an immediate success.”
But for now, Locker has to focus on the on-floor product and nothing else. As any good GM will tell you, he’s constantly on the lookout for the right piece to the puzzle, the next diamond in the rough and of course the next big thing. Unfortunately for he and the Stealth, they haven’t had a first round pick in the past few years so they’ve had to get creative with some of their draft picks. Looking at this year’s roster, all but one of the players they drafted (TJ Cowx) has played at least one game. Mitch Jones, another first round pick is on currently on the Stealth’s hold-out list. When you can get that kind of contribution, you have to say you’ve been pretty successful.
Success in the draft is one thing, success on the floor and putting together a championship-caliber team is the most important thing. Back in 2010, the Stealth had just that. An incredible mix of youth and veterans, offense and defense, scorers, grinders, goaltending and coaching. While much hasn’t changed since then, it just goes to show how quickly a championship team can become a last place team in the NLL. So in order to keep on top of things, Locker is in constant contact with all his coaches and players making sure the team is going in the right direction.
So far this year, the Stealth seem to be on the right path; because anything is better than last year’s result, right?
It’s not an easy job being the team furthest west. They often get forgotten and have to deal with eastern players not wanting to commute or relocate to the west coast. Locker has been at this gig for a few years and he’s no rookie. Building a culture that players want to be a part of has been a huge key to the Stealth’s success.
It’s week 1 of the GM talks. Doug Locker is first to bat and maybe after this you will all stop talking about the Stealth’s attendance and more about their play on the floor.
Enjoy this week’s Off the Crossebar podcast NLL fans- and a friendly reminder, thanks to the fine folks over at Inside Lacrosse- the OTCB Pods are now all available on ITunes.
Also, if you missed this week’s Off the Crossebar radio show on TEAM1410 in Vancouver and www.teamradio.ca (Tuesday night’s at 10pm PST)- here’s a link to the show. Dane Dobbie of the Calgary Roughnecks and Luke Wiles of the Buffalo Bandits were my guests.Teddy Jenner is one the leading sources for lacrosse information. He comes by his love of lax honestly with a lifetime of experience, two Mann Cup championships and six years of play in the NLL. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @OffTheCrosseBar or catch him on Team 1410 radio in Vancouver, B.C., as the host and producer of the Off the Crosse-Bar Radio Show In 2012, he was awarded the BCLA's Norm Wright Merit Award- handed out to a member of the media deemed to have have contributed to the promotion of lacrosse.
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