NLL season – back from the dead


So there will be pro indoor lacrosse this winter. As I mentioned before, the CBA expired during the off-season, and the league set a deadline date of October 15, by which time a new CBA would have to be reached in order to avoid complete cancellation of the season. The players called the owners’ bluff, and it turned out that it was no bluff, and the season was officially cancelled. That’s when the players union collectively said “oh shit, they weren’t kidding”, and the real negotiations started. A week later, the league announced that they had reached agreement with the PLPA on a new seven-year contract, and that the season was saved. Good thing too — I’m not sure the league could have survived a complete year-long shutdown.

After the original cancellation, the press asked NLL commissioner Jim Jennings if the season could be salvaged if an agreement was reached, and he said no. He said that the arena dates had been released, and he actually used the word “impossibility”. Apparently the Boston Blazers’ management took him seriously, because shortly before the agreement was reached, they told the league that they would not be playing in 2008 even if a deal was reached. There’s been no official announcement on this yet, but it’s been mentioned in a couple of interviews with people in the know. I’m not entirely sure what Boston could have done in the week between the cancellation and the agreement that couldn’t be undone — the season doesn’t start for another two months — but in so doing, the Blazers will lose all the players they drafted in the dispersal and expansion drafts, and will have to start again from scratch next year, if the team doesn’t fold completely.

When the season was reinstated, my first thoughts were words to the effect of “Woo hoo!”. Right after that, I started to wonder how we can ever trust Mr. Jennings again, after he said it was impossible to restart the season, and yet he did a week later. Jennings is known for missing his own deadlines for announcements; the league will say that there will be an announcement on league expansion (usually a team moving or an expansion franchise being awarded) on whatever date, and a few days or even weeks will go by before the announcement is made, with no explanation for the delay. Given that history, plus the season cancellation / reinstatement thing, my respect for Jennings started to drop. But then Jennings did something very few people in leadership positions generally do — he said he was wrong. He said the cancellation of the season wasn’t a negotiation ploy, he really believed the season was done, and that he’s happy to have been wrong. Perhaps it was a ploy and perhaps it wasn’t (though if it was a ploy, he probably should have notified the Blazers of that), but it took stones for him to admit he was wrong. Jennings has done great things for the NLL, and this admission increased my respect for him.

My respect for the PLPA, however, didn’t fare so well. It’s not because the players were asking for outrageous salaries — I don’t know the details of the CBA well enough to have an opinion on that. I know they don’t make a ton of money compared to the other pro sports — the highest salaries in the league are about $25k/year — and that they weren’t asking for huge increases. But after years of telling people “lacrosse players aren’t in it for the money, they truly play for the love of the game”, having the season cancelled because of a labour dispute (the third such dispute in the last four years) made me feel like a liar. If they were truly playing for the love of the game, there would be no need for the PLPA at all. I don’t like unions at the best of times, so maybe my judgement is a little clouded here. Note that I have no problems with the players themselves, it’s just the union I don’t like.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that there will be lacrosse this year, and so, dear reader, you can look forward to game highlights and lacrosse commentary from yours truly throughout the season, which will begin in late December or early January. If you’re not into lacrosse but are looking for something just as insightful as my commentary will likely be, here you go.

Aside: Yes, the title of this post is a small Halloween reference.

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