The New England Black Wolves are on the move to following the sale of the team, immediately rebranding as Albany NLL as part of the relocation to Albany, New York, the league announced Tuesday.
The team will be known as Albany NLL in the short term, with a fan contest to determine the new naming and branding of the franchise. The official name will be revealed in April 2021, and the team will begin play at the Times Union center in Albany later this year when the 2021-22 season begins. It will mark the return of box lacrosse to the Capital Region for the first time since 2002 when the Albany Attack were in swing.
This means the end of the New England Black Wolves and their time at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, where the team had been since the Philadelphia Wings moved there in 2014.
“This is a bittersweet day for the league and our sport,” NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said in a press release. “We want to first thank our colleagues at Mohegan Sun for all the positive work they have done building the franchise in New England. We are also very excited to welcome to the league an amazing ownership group with significant success and experience in both the financial investment industry and lacrosse led by Oliver Marti.
“While we are saddened for the fans at Mohegan Sun, we want to remind them Albany is only about a two-hour drive and the NLL will always support them and that area to provide access and grow the game,” he added. “We are very excited about what the future holds for our new team in Albany.”
Marti, a hedge fund manager who was an All-American at Brown in the 1990s, former NLL player and featured internationally for Team Canada in field lacrosse, spearheads the group, Capital Region NLL, behind the sale. The group also includes PLL investor and board member Brett Jefferson, successful horseracing owner and Chairman of the US Lacrosse Foundation Board Sol Kumin, and Russ Sheppard, whom the lacrosse movie The Grizzlies was based on, among others.
“My partners and I couldn’t be more excited to join the National Lacrosse League,” Marti said in a statement. “Our group, which is comprised of lacrosse enthusiasts, professionals, and influential people in the industry, are determined to help grow the sport of lacrosse. The NLL is blossoming, and we want to be a part of its growth, while also being instrumental in the direction the sport of lacrosse is heading.”
Mike French, Brad Brewster and Ted Goldthorpe, who have been involved with the franchise since its Philadelphia days and were part of six championships the Wings won, are remaining with Albany NLL.
“This transaction is also particularly special in that it not only brings back our league to a growing and engaged market, but also long-time NLL investor and Hall of Fame player Mike French and his group will continue to build the great team that, last season was one of the best and making a run for the NLL Championship,” Sakiewicz added. “The fact is the demand for our teams in our current successful business model outweighs the availability of franchises, and this is an example of a savvy group seizing an opportunity to get into the NLL in a market that is now properly mature to be successful both on and off the floor.”
Fans React to Albany NLL
All relocations are double-edged swords: on one hand, a new market gets to enjoy its own professional lacrosse team, but it comes at the expense of another losing what it had.
This is not the first time this franchise has changed homes – the Black Wolves came to be when the Philadelphia Wings, which had existed in the City of Brotherly Love since 1987, packed up for Connecticut in 2014 – though perhaps this will be its final destination.
Albany is also not a stranger to NLL relocations. The Albany Attack played in the city from 1999 to 2002 before moving to San Jose to become the Stealth. That franchise has since moved twice more, now settled as the Vancouver Warriors.
Some are skeptical of how well this move will go after what happened to the Albany Attack.
Others around the NLL appear excited by what Albany NLL could bring to the league.
The Albany NLL news is refreshing for some fans in New York’s capital.
And some noticed the oddities of the situation.