Are we really going to see TWO pro box lacrosse teams in Boston in 2013? From the looks of things right now. and with the announcement that the NALL will have a new team in Beantown next year, it is a definite unlikely maybe. I say it’s a definite unlikely maybe because while the NLL and the Blazers have said Boston will be coming back in 2013, history is not on their side. Still, I’d love to see it happen… but if it did, how would it work?
The Blazers’ biggest problem seemed to be the rent they had to pay at the Garden Fleet Center building in downtown Boston was simply way too high. So if the NLL isn’t going to play there, you can bet the NALL isn’t either. Now there are definitely options in the greater New England area, and I don’t doubt that each team would be able to find a suitable home arena. But how are they going to fill it up?
When I was growing up in Massachusetts I went to MILL games at the Garden but if there had been something closer, I probably would have been fine with that. I wasn’t so enamored with box lacrosse at that point that I cared who was playing, I just wanted to see some lax. And seeing as box lacrosse is still only growing slowly in the Boston area, I don’t think the overall dedication levels have changed that much. Basically, I’d be concerned that a NLL franchise and a NALL team could split the fan base, which clearly isn’t huge, seeing as the Blazers couldn’t fill their arena in Boston over the past 3 years.
The only way that I think it would really work is if the NLL franchise did what the Blazers did last year and brought in some of the biggest names in the game. This could potentially draw fans to the team quickly (relatively speaking at least) and propel the team into the general sports consciousness on some level. To do this in Boston is especially tough because it simply isn’t a HUGE city, and the existing sports teams there all have large, dedicated existing fan bases. Without big names though, the NLL franchise could be in trouble. Drawing in the fans with a bunch of Canadians that no one in Boston knows will not work. The lesser known Canadians might be better players, and I mean no offense to those guys, but to me that’s just the situation in Boston. They’re picky and have high expectations when it comes to sports.
Now the NALL franchise simply won’t be able to bring in “big names”. That’s just not an option. The NLL takes the big name guys, and the other NALL franchises are unlikely to give up their best players to a new franchise. So if they want to bring in the fans, where does this leave the Boston NALL franchise? They’ll have to rely on local talent VERY heavily. It’s that simple.
Make it a REAL Boston team. Every single person on the teams should live in Boston, and most of them should have grown up there, or at least played there in college. This would create a small and dedicated fan base immediately. The Lincoln-Sudbury HS team might go to an NLL game, but probably won’t go to a NALL game just to see some guys play that they don’t know very well. HOWEVER, L-S would go see one of their alumni play for a NALL team, and they’d probably turn out to be pretty dedicated fans because of that instant allegiance. Get a kid who played at BC on the roster, and the current BC team might actually go to a game. See what I’m saying here? Keep it local.
Now the reality of the situation is that NLL teams simply don’t come back from taking a year off. It may have happened once or twice at some point, but I don’t remember it happening regularly. I’m hoping the Boston group is different and comes back better than ever. If they don’t, at least Boston will get a NALL team. However, the question of whether or not they can draw in enough fans persists. We’ll be wishing both franchises the best of luck. If history serves as any predictor, they’ll need it.