Expanded 2014 National Lacrosse League (NLL) schedule leads to more questions

You're scheduled get more NLL action in 2014, but the league and PLPA still need to settle on a new CBA. (Photo: Mammoth)
You're scheduled get more NLL action in 2014, but the league and PLPA still need to settle on a new CBA. (Photo: Mammoth)

The National Lacrosse League (NLL) recently announced that it will expand to an 18-game regular season schedule in 2014, adding two games to its current 16-game regular season format. Questions then immediately arose for our ‘business time’ feature. How will the games be fit in – will the season run longer or will we just get more games packed between January and April? Will the playoff structure be altered to give the regular season more importance? And how will the extra games impact the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)?

We went to league sources to try and find answers.

IT’S BUSINESS

The move to add two extra games – or one extra home date per franchise – is a restructure the NLL hopes will improve its overall business model by increasing revenues and lowering operating costs.

“The league’s current business model has failed in too many markets and we clearly need to make some modifications to it,” says George Daniel, NLL commissioner.

“As part of an independent strategic analysis of our current business model, the league determined that additional games were needed to generate more revenue to offset certain expenses.”

The extra home date gives each franchise an opportunity to pull in one more gate and earn related revenue, will help in selling sponsorships and provides additional opportunity for media exposure.

Nearly three quarters of respondents in our recent poll also voted in favor of an expanded schedule and more NLL action.

SCHEDULING

“We intend to broaden the scheduling window to December but have not made any final decisions with respect to the start or end date for next season,” states Daniel, adding no decision to change the playoff format has been made at this point, either.

This year, the NLL played exhibition games in December but its regular season started January 5 and ends April 20. Playoffs begin the following weekend of April 26 and the 2013 NLL Champion’s Cup game is tentatively set for May 11.

That schedule will again overlap with Major League Lacrosse (MLL), the professional outdoor lax league which starts up in late April.

January to April has been the NLL’s regular season window for the last five years. But the league has opened in December before, and actually started mid-November for the 2002 season.

During the 2003 and 2004 seasons, the league started late December and in 2005 the NLL kicked off January 1. For the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons, the league used Colorado’s big crowds as the only December games (with Portland also hosting a December game during the ’07 season).

In 2009 – the last year the league averaged over 10,000 fans per home game – the league returned to its current January start date.

“Some more weeknight games like the Thursday game Toronto played this year is a possibility,” replies Daniel on the new 18-game format.

Two home games in the same week? It may be a challenge to sell but it would save significantly on travel costs and the big boys do it in the NHL, NBA and MLB. No word yet on whether you’ll see multiple home dates in any given week.

The league has been playing a 16-game regular season schedule since 2002, when the league featured a record 13 NLL franchises. Of the nine franchises today, eight currently make the post-season.

No expansion franchises are planned next year.

The 2014 schedule is scheduled to be released in September.

CBA

As for the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the NLL and Professional Lacrosse Players Association (PLPA) may be at it yet again in an on-going saga.

Will the CBA minimum and maximums based on categories of rookie, second-year, veterans and franchise-tagged players remain – say, as a ‘monthly wage’ – or will player salaries increase proportionally on a ‘per game’ basis?

“We will be engaging in good faith bargaining on player compensation with the PLPA as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement,” says Daniel. “Until that process is complete, we cannot answer questions related to player compensation.”

The PLPA declined comment. However, this issue is of critical importance and hopefully will be addressed sooner rather than later.

In June of 2012, the league’s Board of Governors unanimously elected to opt of an expired five-year CBA that saw player salaries rise five to six percent each year, with franchise players making nearly $40,000 in salary last season.

The NLL and PLPA are currently in a one-year CBA covering just this 2013 season.

Stay tuned for more ‘business time’ posts as we follow an ever-changing NLL.

An All-America at Simon Fraser and a decorated Jr. A player for Coquitlam, Kojima began covering lacrosse in 2003 and started working for Inside Lacrosse in 2007. Email him at steve.kojima@nllinsider.com or go to www.laxfuj.com.

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