New pro lacrosse league could im­pact MSL, Lak­ers

Premier Lacrosse League would barn­storm across the U.S. next sum­mer

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - DON BARRIE Don Barrie is a re­tired teacher, for­mer Buf­falo Sabres scout and a mem­ber of the Cana­dian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Peter­bor­ough and Dis­trict Sports Hall of Fame. His col­umn ap­pears each Satur­day in The Ex­am­iner.

There may be a new pro­fes­sional lacrosse league next sum­mer.

The Premier Lacrosse League re­cently an­nounced plans to start a six-team field lacrosse league in June 2019. Spear­headed by Paul Ra­bil, a renowned Amer­i­can field lacrosse player who also played in the in­door Na­tional Lacrosse League, the PLL will play three-game tour­na­ments in 12 dif­fer­ent cities over the sum­mer.

This league will be in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with the Ma­jor Lacrosse League, a nine-team sum­mer pro­fes­sional field league play­ing out of smaller Amer­i­can cities. The new league states it will pay the play­ers $25,000 plus health ben­e­fits. The cur­rent av­er­age MLL salary is $8,000.

Also, a sec­ond sum­mer lacrosse league will def­i­nitely af­fect the teams of the Ma­jor Se­ries Lacrosse league. Lo­cally, com­bined with the un­cer­tainty of the 2018 sea­son be­cause the city is bound and bent on tear­ing out the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre floor, the Lak­ers' sea­son could be se­ri­ously af­fected.

Last sea­son a num­ber of the Lak­ers played in the MLL. They were able to jug­gle the two league com­mit­ment with a min­i­mum of con­flict. If this new league comes af­ter MSL play­ers that played in the MLL, it could have a dras­tic ef­fect on the Cana­dian league.

Ra­bil told Sports Il­lus­trated his new league will con­sist of six teams of 28 play­ers. The league will barn­storm across the U.S., much like pro­fes­sional golf and ten­nis tour­na­ments. Ra­bil claims he has a deal with NBC Sports net­work to tele­vise 17 games.

With the com­mit­ments Ra­bil men­tions, it would be un­likely MSL play­ers who sign up for the PLL could play in both leagues.

Lacrosse is grow­ing in the U.S. Ac­cord­ing to SI the Sports & Fit­ness In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion claims 2.2 mil­lion Amer­i­cans started play­ing lacrosse in 2017, a 35 per cent in­crease over the last five years.

Re­gard­less, Ra­bil has a tough sell. Field lacrosse is a dif­fi­cult game to mar­ket as a spec­ta­tor sport. Also, it does not tele­vise well. When hockey started to make in­roads into the Amer­i­can mar­ket, new fans com­plained it was dif­fi­cult to fol­low the puck. Re­mem­ber when an Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion net­work de­signed a sys­tem to have the puck move­ment on tele­vi­sion en­hanced with a trail­ing red line, like a comet?

Fol­low­ing a lacrosse ball in a field game is much more dif­fi­cult. Also, much of the strat­egy of field lacrosse is de­lay. Play­ers hold onto the ball for long pe­ri­ods of time try­ing to make a play. There have been some at­tempts with a shot-clock with lim­ited suc­cess.

There is a fi­nite num­ber of qual­ity lacrosse play­ers and an even smaller num­ber who can ex­cel at both the in­door box game and the out­door field game. If this new league gets off the ground and in fact pays what it has promised, the MSL will have trou­ble hold­ing onto many of their premier play­ers.

Many of the top Cana­dian junior play­ers are re­ceiv­ing ath­letic schol­ar­ships to play field lacrosse at Amer­i­can univer­si­ties, col­leges and prep schools. If they con­tinue play­ing junior box lacrosse in the sum­mers, when they grad­u­ate from col­lege they are very pro­fi­cient at both games. With both set of skills they are at­trac­tive to pro­fes­sional field teams. Peter­bor­ough’s John Grant Jr. was one of the pi­o­neers at bring­ing box skills to the pro field game.

It is long over­due that all the premier lacrosse or­ga­ni­za­tions in North Amer­ica; the MSL, the West­ern Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion, the now two pro field leagues and the NLL, the in­door pro league, get to­gether. One pos­i­tive note is the sec­ond-tier win­ter Arena Lacrosse League, with the Peter­bor­ough Tim­ber­men that plays all their games on the road, signed an agree­ment with the NLL. Now, more than ever, all these leagues need to work to­gether to sur­vive.

RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

The Toronto Rock take on the Cal­gary Rough­necks in Na­tional Lacrosse League ac­tion at the Air Canada Cen­tre in this file photo. A new pro field lacrosse league could have an im­pact on a crowded pro lacrosse scene.

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