Toronto-Edmonton NLL final intriguing

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 PM ET

EDMONTON - In soccer they have relegation. The bottom two teams drop down to a lower league.

In hockey they may have lacrosse.

Toronto and Edmonton finished 29th and 30th in the NHL this season, respectively. Instead of relegation, Edmonton and Toronto may meet in the National Lacrosse League final.

If the Toronto Rock defeat the Orlando Titans Saturday in Florida and the Edmonton Rush defeat the Washington Stealth later Saturday in Seattle, it's Toronto-Edmonton in the NLL final for the Champions Cup.

In Edmonton!

This could be interesting.

It's been 17 years since a Canadian franchise won a Stanley Cup and 20 years since two NHL teams — Calgary and Montreal — met in the final. But all of a sudden ...

There has never been an all-Canadian final in the National Lacrosse League.

There's never even been an NLL playoff game in Edmonton, period. The previously rancid Rush made their first appearance in

the playoffs in their five-year history in Calgary last weekend.

The idea of an Edmonton-Toronto final at Rexall Place creates a lot of questions for fans who have perhaps never paid any attention to the Rush before — which is most of Edmonton.

Like why, considering these teams have been known to play games on consecutive nights, can't the NLL have best-of-seven, best-of-five, best-of-three, or at least away-leg, home-leg soccer-style playoffs?

It seems somewhat insane for your first-ever home playoff game to be the league final.

And if the Rush make it to the final and it's in Orlando, how many Edmonton fans will even watch it on TV?

Last week's game from Calgary was not televised. Saturday night's game from Seattle will not be available on home TV either. (You can, however, find it on nll.com). The final is on TSN2, but it might be moved to the main network if it's Edmonton-Toronto.

Before the possibility of the Rush being in the final occurred, there was the question of whether attendance would go up next year simply because the Rush played in their first playoff game in five seasons in the league and knocked off the defending champions who just happened to be Calgary. Or does it have to happen at home, or at least on television, to have any effect?

Some contend it isn't necessarily a good thing to have a home playoff game in this league.

The franchise Edmonton plays Saturday set the record for lowest attendance figure in league history with 1,437 in 2008 in San Jose, ironically against Edmonton. The Stealth moved to Everett, Wash., after drawing 2,679 for a playoff game two years ago and followed it up with similar sized crowds last season. In the first ever playoff game in Everett last weekend, the Stealth drew 3,268. Which is not why this one is in an arena in Seattle. Sesame Street has the Everett building booked for the weekend.

Portland drew 6,053 for a playoff game last year and folded the franchise.

The New York Titans drew 4,878 and 5,644 for playoff games in Madison Square Gardens last year, but waved the white flag and moved to Orlando where the first playoff game there drew 4,205 last weekend.

But a Toronto-Edmonton final in a year where the Oilers are 30th and the Maple Leafs are 29th?

To this point there have been six NLL finals in Canada — four in Toronto (15,691 in 1999, a sellout again in 2000 in Maple Leaf Gardens, 19,409 in 2001, and 19,432 in 2005 in the Air Canada Centre) and two in Calgary (19,289 in 2004 and 13,042 last year.).

This may be perfect for the local franchise which had a $1 ticket promotion for a game last year and ended up with fans in only a quarter of the seats during the “four quarters for four quarters” promotion which backfired big time with the players also picking that game to stink the joint out, en route to finishing the first four years of their existence with a 16-48 record.

A Toronto-Edmonton final in Edmonton the year the Oilers were 30th and the Leafs were 29th might be the happening that finally does it for this franchise.

You could get into that.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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