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Hot Pot Of Lax: American Box Lacrosse

6 - Published September 14, 2011 by in High School, Hot Pot, International, Pro Lacrosse, Youth

Don’t beware at all, because this week’s Hot Pot is nothing but positive vibes!  We’re talking American box lacrosse, and so much more!

In our last Hot Pot, I talked about the Boston Blazers shutting down operations for the year, the NLL dispersal draft, and the challenges to legitimacy that the NLL faces, especially when teams like Boston can’t seem to get things right, even in a sports mad city that knows its lax.  But all that negative news doesn’t change the fact that box lacrosse, aka “indoor”, is booming in the US, as it has in Canada for years.  And even the failings of the best box league in the world can’t kill the momentum.  The NLL may be struggling, but box lacrosse is thriving.  Let me count the ways…

We can look at a lot of different areas of the game and see that this is true.  There is box lacrosse for grown men (that I KNOW of) in Chicago, NYC, Westchester county, Long Island, Indiana, San Jose, Baltimore, Texas, Florida and Washington state.  Some of the leagues and venues have been around for years while others are relatively new.  The difference is that 10 years ago, most people either played field or box lacrosse, and nowadays, many more people play both.  So box is definitely enjoying a crossover effect, as more field players convert to play both.

ulax box lacrosse league nyc connor wilson

Connor Wilson and Justin Otto of TopSideLacrosse playing outdoor box in NYC.

But it’s not limited strictly to older field converts.  In fact, if you go out to Washington state, Philly, San Jose, or a number of other places, you’ll see little kids playing box lacrosse.  Many of them are between 10 and 14.  And some of them have never even played field lacrosse.  10 years ago, we simply didn’t see this.  So these kids playing today are the first real generation of American box lacrosse players.  I bet the Canadians are shaking in their insulated boots.  The Americans are actually playing box, eh?  Uh-oh.  Better go back to hockey.

There are also youth box lacrosse tournaments in the US now, and some even feature a majority of US teams.  A California-based group called WheelChair Lacrosse has even made the game accessible for people who are without the use of their legs, and they are spreading this version of the sport to Canada and the rest of the US.  The box game is growing big time, at all levels, and the aforementioned youth movement will only help that along as time progresses.

Now you may have a question.  “How can box lacrosse be growing at all levels when you said earlier that the Boston Blazers were folding for the year?  That doesn’t seem like all levels growing”.  Good point!  But let’s look a little closer.

But the NLL is no longer the only pro indoor league out there, so we have to look a little further than JUST the NLL.  Two new pro leagues are taking shape as we speak; with one in Canada, and one in the US.  Canada’s league is called CLAX, and I think it will function as more of a minor league to the NLL, although the two are not affiliated in any way as far as I can tell.  CLAX will take guys who didn’t quite make NLL teams, or on the cusp and give them an opportunity to shine.  I think the NLL could definitely find some diamonds in the rough there as well.

But the American league, called the NALL (North American Lacrosse League) is a little different.  This league will focus on American players, and growing the game stateside.  They’ll have teams up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and it seems like they will be running the league as a very “semi-pro” style venture.  I’m intrigued to see how it all unfolds and will definitely make it up to Westchester to take in a game (as long as the team that is supposed to be there stays there).

You may ask why there are now 3 pro leagues (in addition to the WLA and MSL) instead of just one bigger pro league and it’s a fair question, but one with an ugly answer:  The general perception is that NLL is simply not a well-run league, it is not so secure that it can’t be replaced, and the margins it offers are simply not attractive to new, smart ownership groups.  So why would a new prospective owner want to join the NLL when he could start a new league, run it himself, AND probably spend less money?  It’s simple.  He wouldn’t.  And that’s why we now have CLAX and the NALL.

Now if these two leagues were REALLY smart, they would each player their seasons and then have a Championship game between each league champion.  US vs Canada, Old School vs. New School, and all at the expense of the NLL.  And if you think these two leagues weren’t started because people were frustrated with the operational side of the NLL then you have another thing coming.

The growth of box lacrosse can be seen at all levels.  Two new pro leagues have sprouted up.  Yet the NLL is still holding on to their Monster Truck portrayal of lacrosse, by pumping in music during play, embracing fighting and stone cold thuggery to sell tickets, and insisting on big venues that the struggle to fill.  As the game of boxla grows the big question has to be; will the NLL continue to exist?  And unless they change the way they act, interact with fans (remember the Blazers half time show?) and the media (talk about non-responsive!), they will go the way of the Dodo.

Although I personally hope that the NLL gets its house in order, with other leagues growing, the death of the NLL could actually be good for the sport.  It’s time to leave the fighting and monster truck rally style events to the MMA and well, Monster Trucks.  It’s time to stop building on hype and violence, and to start building on skill and excitement.  The players are there, the fans are there… now we just a pro league to really be there.  We’ve always got the WILC I guess.  But that’s only every 4 years.

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IN OTHER LACROSSE NEWS:

The Man In The Red Bandana continues to inspire! This time at UCF. | Orlando Sentinel

– UVM Lacrosse gets funding for a new home via donor gift | UVM News

– Box Lacrosse coming to South Bay (CA) | Patch.com

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LACROSSE VIDEO OF THE WEEK:

This week’s video is 25 minutes long!  WOW!  It comes from the land down under, and is Australia’s only TV show on lax.  It’s Melbourne based.  That’s in Victoria, by the way.  Want to play lacrosse in Australia?  We got you!  Aussies are notorious for having great mustaches.

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