Stability in the NLL

OK, this is getting ridiculous. There’s a news report saying that the owner of the Chicago Shamrox is trying to sell the team, and they might fold (as early as this week) which would require yet another dispersal draft. Is anyone else getting tired of this? The last time an NLL season began with exactly the same teams as the previous year (in the same cities) was 1993. Here’s what’s happened since:

  • 1994: Removed Pittsburgh
  • 1995: Added Rochester, removed Detroit
  • 1996: Added Charlotte
  • 1997: Removed Charlotte
  • 1998: Added Ontario and Syracuse, removed Boston
  • 1999: Ontario moved to Toronto
  • 2000: Added Albany, Baltimore moved to Pittsburgh
  • 2001: Pittsburgh moved to Washington, Syracuse moved to Ottawa, added Columbus
  • 2002: Added New Jersey, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver
  • 2003: Washington moved to Colorado, removed Montreal
  • 2004: New Jersey moved to Anaheim, Albany moved to San Jose, Columbus moved to Arizona, removed New York and Ottawa
  • 2005: Added Minnesota, removed Vancouver
  • 2006: Added Edmonton and Portland, removed Anaheim
  • 2007: Added New York and Chicago
  • 2008: Removed Arizona
  • 2009: Added Boston, removed Chicago?

Sometimes franchises fail because lacrosse just didn’t sell in that city (Ottawa, Anaheim). Sometimes they fail because of corrupt or incompetent ownership (Vancouver). In the case of Arizona, it was some mystery reason that made no sense — they shut down operations because the season was cancelled, but then the season was resurrected two weeks later. Arizona management announced that they had already shut everything down and couldn’t restart it in time (though every other team managed it), so they’d just sit out 2008 and return in 2009. Of course they didn’t return at all, so it sounds to me like they used the season cancellation as an excuse to fold up operations since they weren’t making much money. This is too bad (particularly for Arizona fans), since they had a very good team that made the finals twice in three years. The Chicago thing sounds like another mystery reason — their owners say that it’s just too difficult to manage the team in Chicago from their offices in Atlanta and LA. Mmmmmmkay. Never heard of phones? Email? Video conferencing? Hell, hire someone who lives in Chicago that can run things.

What the hell ever happened to due diligence, not only on the part of NLL ownership groups, but on the part of the NLL itself?

Apparently the Chicago owner announced that he wanted to sell the team during the middle of last season, which means that less than two seasons after he bought an expansion franchise, he’s trying to sell it. Did he not consider the “difficulty” of running a team from a thousand miles away before spending $3 million to buy an expansion franchise? Did the NLL not ask him how he intended to run the team from a thousand miles away?

Twenty-one NLL teams have folded or moved since the league was formed in 1987. Of those, four only lasted a single season. Compare that to the NHL, where a total of eighteen teams have folded or moved since 1917. Three cities (Pittsburgh, Washington, and New Jersey) have had NLL teams fail twice, and the New York Titans are threatening to make it four. Does this sound like a good league to purchase a franchise in?

Having said that, the Toronto, Colorado, Calgary, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Rochester franchises are all healthy. I don’t know about Edmonton, Minnesota, Portland, or San Jose, and I haven’t heard too much lately in the way of negative rumours about those four. I really hope that the late 90’s and early 2000’s were a kind of experimental phase for the NLL, where they tried lots of new markets, many of which failed. Now that they have a core of seven or eight franchises that are doing well and are unlikely to fold, perhaps we’ll see a little more stability.


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