The 2021-22 NLL season is in the books! This was certainly an exciting year for professional box lacrosse as it is very apparent that the league is growing every season.
There many lessons to be learned this year, what are the biggest takeaways coming out of this NLL season? What do we have to look forward to next year?
Colorado Proved That Depth Is the Most Valuable Piece to Winning an NLL Cup
Colorado truly shocked the world during their championship run. Their stout defense and all world goalie, Dillon Ward, might steal the headlines, but it was their depth that was the true reason they were able to win the NLL Cup. Losing their 100 point scorer in Ryan Lee seemed to be a devastating blow to the Mammoth, but they were able to overcome the loss and defeat the Seals in the Western Conference Final. Eli Mcloughlin played through injury and even missed game 2 of the finals, and Colorado was still able to prevail in game 2. Every team battles through injuries, but Colorado seemed to respond and step up when everyone else doubted them.
Attendance Was Down Over 40% But Don’t Panic
I’m sure a lot of fans noticed the empty seats in crowds this season. Attendance has always been a huge part of the leagues revenue and success, but I dont see this years numbers affecting the league. We are still transitioning out of the pandemic, and Canadian cities proceeded with caution during the winter months, but with the ESPN deal, the league is still in a great spot. With 16 teams next year and continuing coverage on ESPN, I expect attendance to take a huge leap next season, and possibly surpass 2019 numbers.
The League Was as Competitive as Ever This Season
This season was as competitive as ever. All but two teams were in the playoff hunt most of the season, and there were a lot of playoff ramifications during the final two weeks of the NLL season. The Western Conference had three teams with a 10-8 record at the top of the standings and Philadelphia went from 5-7 to finishing 9-9 and in the playoffs. Other than Buffalo dominating during the regular season, it seemed every team had a chance to win any given week.
Vegas Will Be a Big Part of Future Growth
This might be more of a 2023 prediction than a 2022 takeaway, but the addition of the Desert Dogs is a huge win for the NLL. Not only is the team backed by a star studded ownership group, but being in one of the biggest travel destinations will help attract eyes to the box game. While the NLL may not have the same recognition as the NHL, if the Desert Dogs can have a similar impact to the Vegas landscape (even if it’s on a smaller scale) as the Golden Knights did, it will help expose new fans to the game and increase the leagues overall attendance numbers.
Teams Need to Churn Out More Content
The PLL does a great job of producing YouTube content, and Halifax has definitely adopted that mindset. With programs like “Inside the Nest” and “Thunderbirds 360”, Halifax has given fans content to enjoy outside of their games, but other teams have not adopted that same mindset. Having weekly talk shows or in season documentaries would be a great way for fans to get to know their teams even more. Having that content come out during the offseason, like other leagues do, could help keep interest in the NLL all year long.
Who Will Be Named NLL Commissioner?
With Nick Sakiewicz leaving for the Arizona Coyotes in February and then Interim Commissioner Jessica Berman leaving for the NWSL just weeks later, the NLL is still in search of a league commissioner. With a big offseason ahead, they need to find the next NLL commissioner soon. The new commissioner will have many decisions to make and one would hope that person is able to be hired and make league staffing decisions prior to the Desert Dogs Expansion Draft on July 7th.