Top lacrosse league in the world makes final a best of three

The National Lacrosse League, NLL, will be featuring a new championship final this season.

The NLL, the premier league in North America, has announced that starting in the 2015 season the battle to be crowned champs will be a best of three-game series.

Lacrosse is still a growing sport in North America when compared to that of hockey, football and baseball. But it is finding ways to make itself a more entertaining and popular option for sports fans across the continent.

Last season, the final showdown of the league’s top two teams was a two-game series, with a 10-minute mini-game at the end of the second game if needed. In previous years, it mimicked that of football playoffs, being a one-and-done single elimination game.

Mike Board, general manager of the Calgary Roughnecks, also sits on the NLL’s board of governors and competition committee. He says that both fans, and competitors support the move of the final series going to a full three games.

“It was sort of a two-pronged attack. One was that the fans around the league have told us that they want more playoff games, so this adds another game into the mix, and the other thing was from a competition side of things, making it a two-out-of-three was something a lot of the coaches and GM’s felt was a logical step after we expanded the playoffs last year.”

As it stands right now, the only series that will be best of three will be the final. The division finals will stick to two full games, and the 10-minute mini-game, if needed, will be played immediately following the conclusion of the second game in the series. The quarterfinals will remain a single elimination game.

Calgary Roughnecks, and diehard lacrosse fan, Matt Brosseau, says that players should have more than one opportunity to win a title, and that more games are always a bonus anyways.

“One game knockouts were fun, but it felt like it didn’t give players any room for error. Not how a title should be decided. The fans always have wanted more games anyway. With the increase to nine games and more [games] in the playoffs we get this now.”

Adding the third game in the final does multiple things. It allows for more tickets to be sold, but more importantly, allows the competitors to regroup and prepare for a full length, all out, final game, for all the marbles.

Board agrees.

“From a player’s standpoint and from a coaches standpoint I would suggest that if you’ve won a game and then you lose one, knowing that you’ve go another chance at it is motivational, it’s almost like a game seven kind of thing in hockey. A do or die situation. It’s hard to say someone could have won both games in that series and it doesn’t go to a third game,” says Board.Roughnecks #4 Geoff Snider tries to solve Edmonton Rush goalie Aaron Bold with defender #6 John Lintz looking on. The matchup occurred January 24th, the Rush won easily by a score of 16-8.
Photo by: Olivia Condon.

The mini-games are still a huge part of the playoffs, as they remain in the semi-finals. Board likes them, and thinks they add an element for the fans.

In last year’s edition of the NLL playoffs, the Calgary Roughnecks went all the way to the final, participating in two mini-games. They defeated the Edmonton Rush in the semifinals by a mini-game score of 2-1, and eventually went on to lose the championship deciding mini-game at the hands of the Rochester Nighthawks by a score of 3-2.

Brosseau says that the mini-games have both good and bad features.

“I thought the mini games were kind of innovative and interesting however I don’t think I liked them. The game in Edmonton especially because we got pummeled in the first half so it felt like we could just proceed to the mini game yet we still had another half to play.”

Board, however, liked the atmosphere of the buildings when the mini-game was going on.

“I didn’t mind the mini games, I mean I know we lost one and won one, but I looked around the crowds and things like that when the mini game was on and the people in Edmonton were on their feet and the people in Rochester were on their feet so I think it was great for the fans.”

Calgary Roughnecks’ Dane Dobbie (#44 Middle) celebrates his first-quarter goal with teammate Curtis Manning (#10 Left) and Karsen Leung (#21 Right) against Edmonton Rush on Jan. 24.
Photo by Olivia Condon.
As far as what the league has done to make the game more entertaining and attract more fans, Board is satisfied and looking forward to what the season brings.

“I’m kind of happy that the league’s done it this way and I’m anxious to see how it plays out this year.”

So far this season, the ‘Necks have gotten off to an unexpectedly slow start, going on a 0-3 run to kick off the 2015 campaign, including an embarrassing 16-8 loss to their provincial rivals, the Edmonton rush.

It’s still early, but the favourite to take a run at the title out of the gate is the Colorado Mammoth, doing everything right and starting the opposite of the Riggers at 3-0.

ajsmith@cjournal.ca