Starting tomorrow, the Interstate Box Lacrosse Association (IBLA) will officially be underway when the Cambridge Nor’easters travel down Mass Pike to face the Auburn Aviators in the melted down Horgan Skating Arena. Wait, what? Who is traveling down the what to play to who in a melted something? That’s right, this is no longer the IBLA from last year. There are now a bunch of new regions with new teams playing in new arenas. So let’s take a look at what the second season of the IBLA has in store.
Quick History – RBLL vs IBLA
As a quick refresher, the IBLA is in its second season, while the RBLL is technically in its third. Confused? Let’s break it down, a bit. Originally, the RBLL was founded in Colorado, and our Brian Witmer talked about how fun it was to take part in that initial season. Founder Brandon Scharaga wanted to see where he could take it, so he grew the RBLL by adding some teams in Colorado while adding RBLL Minnesota and RBLL Oregon. All three of these regional leagues played for the national title under the IBLA umbrella. So when you see RBLL followed by something, that’s your region. But all teams in all regions belong in the IBLA. Hopefully that makes sense now.
So last year, the Parker Rangers took the RBLL Colorado crown and marched into Nationals to win the first ever IBLA Championship. It was a good time, people had fun, and there was a title on the line. So how do you improve that? Bring in more talent, and more teams. So as 2018 rolled around, the IBLA looked around to see where it made sense to expand. Two of the most coveted regions are now on board with RBLL New England and RBLL New Jersey. You also now have the RBLL Ohio region, which is featuring quite possibly the best facility in the entire IBLA. Along with those three regions is RBLL Missouri, which round out the Midwest with the aforementioned Ohio region and the Minnesota group from last year. Along with all of these, RBLL Oregon is now RBLL Pacific Northwest, or RBLL PNW.
How it Works
The structure you see with the IBLA is much like the hockey and lacrosse structure in Canada. And that’s on purpose. Most regions support the Senior A model, but Colorado, PNW, and Ohio each have Senior B as well. The reasoning behind that is really the beauty behind the model which the IBLA has.
In these areas, box is relatively new, or lacks established, structured leagues. In New England, you have a handful of smaller leagues and the Boston Box Lacrosse League, while New Jersey has Philly Box, ULAX, and others. What the IBLA does is it enables players from those regions with an established box talent pool to put a team together and try to win a national championship. In the areas that don’t have anything formal, they now do. It provides the structure where there wasn’t one, and provides and outlet for others. It’s the best of both worlds.
Each of these regions is really trying to operate somewhat independently, but there are league standards. The goal is just like in Canada, to have games take place in ice rinks where the ice is melted down for summer. In hockey-crazed New England, that is a small window, which is why they are starting the soonest. The rest of the regions are setup to play a little later in the summer and have a smaller gap prior to Nationals. The game day experience is pretty uniform across regions, as the goal is provide a fun atmosphere for a fan to come and watch. So let’s take a look at who’s up.
The New Guys
RBLL New Jersey
This region is broken down into just two teams, but it covers northern and southern Jersey. Southern Jersey (Vorhees Alphas) will definitely be pulling in a bunch of the Philadelphia talent, while the north (Morristown Mad Hatters) will be getting the city Jersey and NYC crowd. I expect both teams to put some quality squads out there. The talent has seen a lot of time between the boards and we expect a fiery series from the go. Their schedule consists of seven games running from July 21st through September 8th. That assumes they need to go that long since they are ultimately playing a best of seven season to see who will advance to Nationals.
RBLL New England
Full disclosure: I run one of these teams. After hearing from my LaxAllStars crew about the IBLA, I was definitely interested in the possibilities. So when push came to shove, I agreed to become the GM for the team now known as the Cambridge Nor’easters. We’ll be playing against the Auburn Aviators outside of Worcester, MA, and the Mill City Hitmen, just outside of Lowell, MA. The player pools here run primarily from Albany, NY, through every state in New England. Especially on the Cambridge team, you’ll see plenty of familiar names from the Vermont Voyageurs. This is selfishly a very exciting region because it’s one that grew from existing leagues. While Boston has the biggest draw, all three teams have players familiar with each other which will add a fun element to the games. The New England season runs June 16th through August 7th.
Remember that facility I mentioned earlier? Get ready for the Columbus Crows. LAS Extraordinaire Mark Donahue will be the GM in Columbus where they are playing in the OhioHealth Ice Haus at Nationwide Arena. That just happens to be the practice rink for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL, just a superb venue for some box! They’re made up by pulling from Ohio State players and the dozens of other NCAA schools in the state, headlined by Team USA Indoor’s Anthony Kelly and Stefan Schroder. Opposing them are the Cincinnati Flying Pigs, drawing talent from the Tri-State area behind Sean Murphy’s veteran goaltending. The Buckeye State is riding the box wave hard ride now, timing couldn’t be any more perfect. Ohio’s A and B seasons run from late-July through late-August.
Missouri is interesting because it has two teams, the St. Louis Centurions and River City Blue Cats. What makes them different is that they were already existing box club teams, essentially becoming affiliated with the IBLA. They’re already pulling on the best talent in Missouri which is not something the other regions can say. While other teams may rely heavily on other teams or leagues to drive their membership, they already had that. St. Louis, for example, has already broadcast their games on local radio, featured in-game entertainment, and boasted healthy crowds. Seeing who makes it out of the Show Me State will be fun as their schedule lines up exactly with New Jersey’s.
Minnesota, PNW, and Colorado are all returning regions, which gives them a benefit the other regions don’t have: they know what’s coming. The new areas all need to figure out what this whole league is about, what the competition level is like, and these areas are now looking to just improve on how they did a year.
The Parker Rangers in Colorado were dominant last year, and they won the original RBLL Front Range Cup for back-to-back seasons. Will there be a new champ coming out of the Rockies? The Mile High Stars will be hungry for revenge while the Denver Buzz A side, now using the Denver Otters monicker, and the Colorado Springs group, which moved to Fort Collins as the Night Owls in the offseason, should add a new boost to the competition.
Oregon has rebranded as the Pacific Northwest for the sake of adding the Tacoma Express out of Washington. The league’s two teams from last season have come together as the Portland Voodoo to match a best of 7 series with Tacoma.
Big things are happening in Minnesota. Blaine rebranded as the Minneapolis Wheatkings, they added the Lakeville Lumberjacks for three total teams, and they are also the region hosting Nationals. Speaking of Nationals, why are all these teams, including some of the hotbeds traveling to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes in October? According to the IBLA:
“Minnesota was chosen for the 2018 IBLA Nationals because of the central midwest location and a fantastic facility in Lakeville (home to the Lakeville Lumberjacks). Lakeville Hasse Arena holds more than 1,000 seats and has all of the amenities needed for a great box lacrosse event. Nationals will also include a vendor expo this year, featuring anything from lacrosse related vendors to food.”
I’m sold! How awesome would it be to have a 1,000 seat sold out arena in Minnesota watching some box? They’re no strangers to the game as the Swarm did well when they were located up there, but there are some important things to take care of first. Namely: games.
So stay tuned for coverage through the season as we ramp up the new and improved IBLA. Better yet, if you’re in one of these regions, go see them play live in person. For all details for all regions, check out the IBLA online.
Social Media Corner
Cincinnati Flying Pigs
RBLL New England
Mill City Hitmen
Minneapolis Wheat Kings
Mile High Stars
RBLL New Jersey & PNW COMING SOON