THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS ORGANIZATION ACQUIRED A NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE TEAM IN JUNE. CAN IT TURN THE AILING FRANCHISE AROUND?
Canucks Sports & Entertainment is hoping that its purchase of the Vancouver Stealth lacrosse club will bring more fans to Rogers Arena on days when the hockey team is off. With the rebranded Vancouver Warriors starting play at their new home in December, that remains to be seen.
Although it's Canada's national sport, lacrosse wasn't quite working at the Langley Events Centre. The Stealth posted the worst aver- age attendance among National Lacrosse League teams in 2017-18 en route to a 2–16 record that put it last in the standings. In five years in Langley, the team finished above the bottom in attendance just once. That season, it posted the second-worst mark.
But Canucks chief operating officer Jeff Stipec thinks lacrosse can find an audience at Rogers. “There's five teams in the NHL that have lacrosse teams, and they made it really easy for us to understand the business model,” Stipec says. “We spent a lot of time with Calgary and Colorado, and they were great partners in sharing with us how they've turned it into a success. We like that NHL/NLL model, where you can have that same engine driving two businesses.”
Stipec even sees potential for the company's hockey operations to learn something from the new franchise.
“I think we're going to try some wild things in lacrosse, and we'll see how it works and see if it would work at the hockey games,” he says, noting that lacrosse is a grassroots sport. “But we're going to push the envelope. In Calgary, their line is `Come for the party, stay for the game.' The price point is attractive–in that $25 range, a little cheaper for groups. I think we'll be able to attract a lot of people that'll say, hey, let's head over to Rogers for a game on Friday or Saturday night.” –N.C.