2017 NLL Season: Who, what & how to watch!

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Toronto Rock Rochester Knighthawks NLL 2016 Photo: Graig Abel
Photo: Graig Abel

Hear, ye! Hear, ye! The NLL has made its way back around and something is telling me this will be the season that takes the game to the next level.

Ever since Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz came to town, things have been kicked into high gear and the league has evolved at a pace we’ve never seen before. For months, the NLL has been hiring a flurry of talented, motivated and experienced individuals, hand picked from various industries to shake things up and bring the game into the digital age. We’ve seen media personalities Mia Gordon and Tyson Geick lead the charge as the faces of the tidal wave of content the NLL has been cranking out.

If your behind, the NLL has been matching feet with all of the major sports when it comes to exposing their players, teams and fans to the masses. Beefing up NLL TV is just the tip of the iceberg, we are about to see box lacrosse like we never have before.

Take my word for it.

NLL Got a Facelift

One thing that might pop out to you right away is the recent rebranding of the NLL, which rocked the same logo and color schemes since rebranding as the National Lacrosse League in 1998. The sharp new symbol representing the league doesn’t scream “THIS IS LACROSSE” but the story behind it makes it the perfect representation.

There’s four elements that make it the real deal; the OG teams, new colors, a nod to the Natives, and the use of a box lacrosse goal.

New NLL logoThe First Four

Baltimore, Washington, New Jersey and Philly were the first four teams to make up the foundation of the NLL, known in 1988 as the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League then the Major Indoor Lacrosse League. Each team is immortalized in the new “NLL Star” as 1 of 4 arrows pointing inward to shape the star.

The star is a modern representation of the direction the NLL is heading, providing a guiding beacon for the teams to follow. You may think the logo looks like a security company emblem, or a fictional superhero-esque wannabe, but that’s probably because your missing the homage to the game’s roots and the people that gave it to us.

Special Tribute

When the new NLL logo emerged, some were quick to criticize it for not paying tribute to the game’s indigenous roots. But how wrong they were. The four arrows come together to form a Native American Morning Star. While paying tribute to the rich history of our unique sport, the Morning Star symbolizes hope and guidance of a prosperous future as the game heads in a new direction through the NLL’s digital media efforts.

Speaking of those, did you notice the lack of color?

Dark and Digital

The new color scheme dropped the red and blue tones for colors on the grayscale. Black, white and silver come together to represent the NLL, strong and durable giving hope that the league will withstand the test of time. The colors also go hand-in-hand with technology’s modern edge.

The lack of color in the crest also leave the door open for each team to plug in their own hues, just like Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball have done in recent years. This gives a sense of unity, while providing alternant identities for each club.

Lacrosse Isn’t Missing!

Everyone started to freak out that the new NLL logo didn’t have an obvious look of a lacrosse company. But why did they need to? The NHL and MLS are doing just fine without it. Since they should be our role models on how to grow fringe sports in North America, I’m glad the NLL followed suit. But here’s the kicker… it does represent lacrosse, specifically an element exclusive to the indoor game; the shape of the goal!

Look at the bottom half of the emblem. It’s the shape of the nets used by the NLL when looking down from above. A flat face with parallel bars at the base leading back, then angling into a point is the shape specific only to box goals (so they can slide out of place but not tip over). To a non-lacrosse aficionado, it’s obviously missed but for the true fans it is a subtle nod that shows love to the game.

Equipment and fashion changes to often to be included in the new look that is poised to last, not become outdated with the trends.

Week 1 – What to Watch!

Toronto Rock (0-0) @ Rochester Knighthawks (0-0)

Toronto Rock Rochester Knighthawks NLL 2016 Photo: Graig Abel
Photo: Graig Abel

Thursday, December 29th – 7:30 ET

Kicking things off this year, we have two of the most deeply rooted teams in the East. After pulling off lacrosse’s first 3-peat, the Knighthawks have been spinning their tires while trying to climb back up the hill.

Their opponent, the Rock, just wrapped up the franchise’s worst season to date, finishing 5-13 and going without a win in their first six games of the season.

Both squads have deep roots and revised lineups, it will be exciting to see them try to scale the ladder in 2017. We’ve got two vets between the pipes, potentially keeping the scoring to a minimum. Who cares? When you have Nick Rose for Toronto and Matt Vinc with the Knighthawks in the creases, we will have enough highlights just from the big men.

Who’s In? 

I am absolutely pumped to watch the Toronto Rock hit the floor this season. The team absolutely tanked in 2016 and they made some big offseason changes that are reshaping how they handle their business. Most notably, three Americans will in the starting lineup on Thursday.

Tom Schreiber, Kieran McArdle and Connor Buczek will all take their first cracks at professional box lacrosse after very successful starts in the MLL. Alongside them will be two more rookies, Latrell Harris and Challen Rogers, also set to make their NLL debuts. One forward, Mikey MacDonald, who saw some time with New England last season, will also dress for opening night.

Rookies Josh Currier and Kyle Jackson showed up big in the preseason, earning their right to a starting gig on Thursday for the Hawks. Brought in to bolster the defensive group, Tyler Ferreira will also get his first start for Rochester, while lesser-known forward Wayne Van Every and transition man Jarrett Davis, 2015 & 2016 NLL Champion, will also try to get comfortable with their new squad in Game 1. 6 of the team’s 10 additions for 2017 will dress this week, bringing a new look to a Knighthawks lineup that has barely flexed in years.

Who’s Out?

Rochester will leave the tunnel without American sniper Joe Walters for the first time in many moons as he has made a full-time commitment to the outdoor game. Andrew Suitor is a new face in town, but will start the season patching up some injuries along with veteran Cory Vitarelli. Out the door goes the Self boys, Brad and Scott, two strong defensive players. Another defeseman, Jon Sullivan, and forward Josh Gillam are also gone for greener pastures, opening the doors for 10 new faces in 2017.

Toronto will go without legendary Josh Sanderson for the first time in 6 years after Shooter decided it was time for retirement. Kevin Ross, Kyle Aquin, Jamie Batson and some other smaller names won’t be with the team to clear room for a fresh start and to find creative ways to find players that will get them back in the win column. The veteran group of Brandon Miller, Rob Hellyer, Brock Sorensen and Patrick Merrill will all start the season healing up various injuries, letting a giant group of rookies and sophomores try their hands at turning Toronto’s ship around.

Watch LIVE!

For the first two weeks (so you can see every team) NLLTV.com will be streaming for free to give fans a taste of the new look and all of the action we’ve become accustom to.

The first face-off is at 7:30 eastern, be live or be….sad?