New pro lacrosse league could impact MSL, Lakers
Premier Lacrosse League would barnstorm across the U.S. next summer
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.
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.