Lacrosse is among five new sports that will be added to the Olympic program The 2028 Los Angeles Games were officially announced a month ago and the interest in this traditional indigenous sport is already felt.
North America’s professional lacrosse league, the National Lacrosse League (NLL), intends to take advantage of the momentum it has to offer and test the Montreal market.
Moreover, a joint press conference with the Montreal Canadiens will be held on Thursday to announce the hosting of an NLL game, possibly in February at Place Bell in Laval.
The commissioner, owner of New York and vice president of Rocket, came to see the atmosphere and the hall (Place Bell) at the beginning of November. They considered it positivesays Steve Veilleux, president of La Crosse Québec in an interview with Radio-Canada Sports.
This meeting will be organized as part of the UnBOXed program, launched by the NLL, which aims to raise awareness of sports in schools, not only in the fifteen cities where it was founded, but also in nine other communities: Baltimore, Charlotte, Minneapolis-St. . Paul, Ottawa, Salt Lake City, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Montreal.
Each of its cities is named, Castors in Montreal’s case, and the NLL offers equipment and support to schools in those communities that want it.
We need to build a community, a fan base. Our number of lacrosse players, I don’t know if we can support an NLL team, but with the Montreal Castors, in terms of initiation in the schools and visibility in the leagues, it will help develop enthusiasm for the leaguethe president of the Quebec federation is delighted.
There are currently about 800 people in Quebec who play box lacrosse, the formula used in the NLL. For the record, there are two ways to play lacrosse. In an enclosed area, on a surface without ice, similar to an ice hockey rink, and field lacrosse, which is played outside on a larger field.
Expansion in a metropolitan region?
The league is very clear that the UnBOXed initiative is not an expansion. But this isn’t the first time the city region has made headlines for founding a team. In 2021, the New England team had to be relocated, and the city of Laval was in play.
We were in discussions, Steve Veilleux remembers. It was very close to 2021-2022. There is a great interest in indigenous culture there. Lacrosse already had a team in Montreal. We know that at the professional level, Montreal has great visibility and scale.
In any sport, if there is a close professional goal, it is a great inspiration for youngsters and parents to enter their youngsters or to enter themselvesnotes Philip Dubeau Chicoine, General Manager of La Crosse Québec.
This is the best marketing for a sports organization. The Olympics too. The two best marketing elements to attract players. Pinball is a great opportunity to raise awareness of a sport that is accessible and requires a lot of skill. A professional team would be a great showcase for the sport.
In 2002, Montreal was part of the NLL for one season with the Express playing their games at the Bell Center. But the adventure was short-lived.
I wasn’t in the lacrosse world yet, but at the Bell Center the fixed costs were too expensive. But here, with Place Bell’s operating costs, it can help. Administration may be the same for the Rocket and Lacrosse teams. There may be economies of scale for administration, imagine Steve Veilleux.
That’s the formula that exists in the rest of Canada. Like for example, MLSE in Toronto which has several teams. They share marketing resources and ticket sales. Same thing in Winnipeg and Calgary. That’s what Montreal can do,adds Philip Dubeau Chicoine.
Could next time be good for the NLL in the metro area?
I think so. We can look at examples in Saskatchewan, which before the arrival of Rush had only a few thousand players. They went from 2,000 lacrosse players to 20,000 within 2 years. It’s exponential. It would be a big challenge to acceptconcludes Steve Veilleux.
The proverb says: never two without three.
(With information from Antoine Deshaies)