ILIndoor Roundtable: Is the Champion’s Cup game in Langley a good idea, and can the NLL make the New York market work?
We’re heading into the final weekend of the 2013 National Lacrosse League season and there’s plenty to talk about. The Stealth and Knighthawks are ready to go at it for all the marbles, but the game’s being played at a neutral site because of a scheduling conflict. What’s up with that? Whatever it is, it can’t keep us from breaking down the key elements of Saturday’s matchup. What should we all be looking for? And even after Saturday’s game, there will be elements of the NLL worth keeping an eye on, such as the news that the league might be looking at the New York market for another team. See what we mean? Plenty to talk about, and staffers Bob Chavez, Teddy Jenner, Stephen Stamp, Ty Pilson and Marty O’Neill give it a go in this installment of the ILIndoor Roundtable.
CHAVEZ: Let’s start with the decision to play the Champion’s Cup game in Langley. Good or bad? Can this help the league overall? Is it bad to be playing the title game in such a small arena?
JENNER: I feel it’s a pretty major ball drop by the Stealth. They’ve known the date of championship weekend for months and had to have been able to see there was a scheduling conflict. They did, because there was a Board of Governors vote to have the game in Langley. How they don’t relay that info to fans sooner is beyond me. But it’s in the past and all that can be done is suck it up and support your team. My fear is the Stealth may lose some loyal season-ticket holders because if this and that’s something they can’t afford right now. As for playing it at the LEC, two small-market U.S. teams playing in a city most have never heard of in a province with no NLL team can’t lead to great CBS Sports Network ratings.
STAMP: Moving the game to Langley also managed to open an old wound for Rochester fans, who remember only too well losing a title game they had earned the right to host because their arena was unavailable. The league made a good call in addressing the issue by announcing that the Knighthawks had the opportunity to find an alternate location before the game moved to Arizona but were unable to, but somehow I doubt that is making the fans in western New York feel a whole lot better. The silver lining, I guess, is the chance to get some further evidence into whether Langley could support its own team. No exhibition game excuses if there are any empty seats this time. The fans should be out in droves for what looks like it’ll be a terrific title tilt.
PILSON: Exactly what Teddy said. We were chatting about this Saturday night via text like two 13-year-old girls! Like the old saying goes, you can’t polish a turd. One goal is the difference between 16,000 or more folks at the Saddledome in Calgary and what’s likely to be a much smaller crowd in a town no one in the States has ever heard of. The optics simply aren’t good. However, this will be the perfect measuring stick to see whether an NLL team should ever return to the Lower Mainland. It seems ridiculous not to put a team back in that hotbed. That said, many in that lacrosse community don’t want to pay NLL prices to see players they can watch in summer ball for much less. Makes no sense to me (no such thing as too much lacrosse), but unlike Toronto there doesn’t seem to be as much support for the NLL in the Greater Vancouver area.
O’NEILL: I applaud Washington for trying to make the best of a bad situation. I’m pretty sure they and the rest of the league guided this decision north instead of south to the Key Arena or the ShoWare Center in South Seattle that is a nice new building that houses the Seattle Thunderbirds. Canada should guarantee attendance, especially if the Canucks are out of the playoffs. Seattle may not have been a draw. The question will be how the fans in Washington State respond. I almost feel like they should be rewarded somehow for making the trip north.
CHAVEZ: Yeah, I’m torn on this. On the one hand, it’s great for the league to showcase the event. But is the title game the right time to do that? I get the whole situation behind the decision but something just doesn’t sit right. From what I’ve read, the Stealth had a sort of verbal down payment or reservation, but another party stepped in and wanted the date. The Stealth then had the chance to put down money to reserve the date, but declined. Why? That’s what I’d want to know as a Stealth fan. NLL cash doesn’t grow on trees, but maybe the league itself should have stepped in to help financially. I just think it looks poor on the league’s behalf when a team’s home-floor advantage is swept away like this. It’s the second time this has happened and something needs to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But enough of that; let’s get to the game. Great matchup between 2 of the best goalies in the game. What’s the game-within-the-game we should be paying attention to?
PILSON: These are the two best goalies in the game in my opinion. Tyler Richards made a handful of incredible stops in the first half which proved the difference against Calgary. One thing I’ll be watching for is the play of Athan Iannucci. He flipped the switch against the Roughnecks a couple of times and looked like vintage Nooch. Strong to the net and putting the ball by the goalie with an athletic move. At other points of the game, he was happy to play on the periphery. Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff will get their touches and guys like Brett Bucktooth and Cliff Smith make for a great supporting cast on offence. However, if Nooch can find the dominating form he’s capable of where he’s nearly unstoppable, that could be a difference maker. And when he plays that way, he greats more room for Duch. It’s a win-win.
JENNER: One last thing about the Stealth and their fans, it could really be a very sour note for some these fans who’ve stuck around since Day 1. Many feel slighted and as if they don’t matter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few less STH next year. As for the game I think I’m really going to enjoy the transition game. The Stealth are fantastic out of their own end while the Hawks are excellent defending against the rush. They stifled the Swarm in the East final and if they can do that again, they have an excellent shot at the very rare NLL repeat.
STAMP: I like the story line of the veteran Knighthawks versus the youth infusion the Stealth have undergone this year. It would be easy to overlook, with the core group of veterans the Stealth have on the roster, just how many young players have played key roles on this club. Tyler Garrison tied for fourth in IL Indoor’s Rookie of the Year voting and for good reason, but he’s hardly the only rookie having an impact. Mitch McMichael has garnered some attention with some sensation goals, Kyle Buchanan has had stretches of excellent play and young defenders Tim Henderson, Justin Pychel and Billy Howstrawser have all contributed.
O’NEILL: As for the Hawks, they are a solid group with lots of leadership and heady youth. Dan Dawson, Mike Accursi, Scott Self and Ian Llord are looking to get something going here late in their career with Dawson and Self hungry for their first championship. Washington’s vets are as solid as they come and should be the group being talked about. Rookie Garrison is the real deal but the rest of the Stealth youth is a potential weakness the K-Hawks are sure to explore. Can we say Rhys Duch is under-rated at this point? His speed is never talked about but it is his killer weapon. His ability to create a shot is second only to Curtis Dickson’s and everyone got to see that production at both ends last Saturday, I look for more of it from the dynamic Dutch this week against a slower Hawk defense. The goalie duel should be a classic. Who will turn the screws on who?
CHAVEZ: I definitely agree with Stamper and Marty about the youth vs. the experience. It’ll be a juicy matchup and as valuable as raw athleticism can be, the wily veteran presence can do so much more damage. Angles, anticipation, noticing the finer details of tendencies. Those are the things young guys just don’t have yet, but then again, sometimes that can simply overpower a game. Final topic: Stamper’s story about the possibility of the New York City area having an NLL team — again. It’s been tried there before and it hasn’t worked. Can this situation be any different and can it work this time?
JENNER: Adding N.Y. makes sense for balance as it would give the East a fifth team, but really?! Leave the poor dead horse alone. Has there been any news on Boston getting a new arena deal?! I know the league wants an N.Y. presence but it’s getting to the point of lunacy. But hey, if this new ownership, whomever it may be is committed and wants it, then I guess it’s only a matter of time before we’re back on LI. As I write this all I can hope is they can move to Brooklyn and be the Brooklyn Brawlers
PILSON: Agree with Teddy again. New York should be a non-starter. No way a team can thrive there, especially on the Island. Only way a team is successful is if Jay-Z suddenly decided he loves the NLL, buys a team to play in Brooklyn and makes them instantly cool by doing that. Anything short of that will bomb. Again. There are plenty of other markets to try first. In Canada, give Montreal (that would be an East team to balance things out) another shot and seriously look at Winnipeg. Then, of course, there’s Vancouver. Not sure what Eastern U.S. city would be a good pick? Pittsburgh? Make Sidney Crosby an owner and have him tout the team like Jay-Z? That would surely work.
STAMP: Whatever happened to third time’s the charm, guys? I get what everyone’s saying, though. You have to wonder why things would be any different this time around. On the other hand, perhaps if the new owners view an NLL team as a key component in the development of the new complex — and promote it as part of the overall entertainment experience — it’ll work out this time. And if you’re looking some local star power, how about recruiting the young John Tavares to be part of the ownership group?
O’NEILL: Hey Teddy, didn’t your older brother meet his wife after a game in Long Island? No love? First off, don’t confuse Long Island with New York City or the Titans, or the Mike Gongas era of Saints lacrosse. Until Russ Cline sold the Saints to Gongas in 1999, the Saints were a draw on the Island and their ranks included many locals from the village of Long Island that does support lacrosse. Very similar to Philadelphia in that era. I say if it is a Long Island team with local ownership it has a chance and it is a fantastic lacrosse building for NLL lacrosse. The Tavares idea would work too, John Jr. as part of an ownership group and John Sr. as the head coach or GM. Winnipeg could work with the support of the Jets but won’t without it.
JENNER: FYI Marty, no! Fredi met Linda while he was a Syracuse Smash player as a healthy scratch, sitting in the stands with Doddridge at a Smash vs. Wings game.
CHAVEZ: The things we learn at the Roundtable. I love it. I love the Tavares idea for N.Y. too. That’s not just a celebrity endorsement, it’s a star endorsement from someone who actually played the game of lacrosse. He was at the Mann Cup last year so he obviously still enjoys the game and getting him involved with a potential franchise in New York could have a big impact. I hope it works out because it would be nice to have more than 9 teams in the league, but I also like the cautious and responsible approach the league is taking toward expansion.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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