June 20, 2003
Pro lacrosse league a good fit for London
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press
The London Rebel. Not bad. OK, so maybe we\'re dreaming in technicolour. Although the idea of a National Lacrosse League team moving from Ottawa to London is enticing, it simply will never happen.
You never know. Since the John Labatt Centre opened less than a year ago, this is the second time rumblings about an NLL lacrosse team have begun making the rounds.
All of this is fairly preliminary stuff. Last year it was a group of western Canada business people who made some inquires about purchasing an expansion team and London was one of the locations they investigated.
This time there\'s a rumbling that the Ottawa Rebels are considering a move and London is on their map.
Whether the Rebel move is anybody\'s guess. No one is about to talk about who\'s moving and where they might go. One thing about the NLL, it isn\'t afraid to move franchises. New Jersey is another team considering a move to Arizona where they\'d partner with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Albany has already pulled up roots and moved to San Jose, while Columbus might also move.
Talking and doing are two different things. But there\'s no doubt there\'s been consideration given to bringing a team to London.
\"We talk to lacrosse teams all the time,\" said Brian Ohl, manager of the JLC for Global Spectrum. \"We\'ve talked about lacrosse internally and believe it would be a good fit for us.\"
But have any teams talked to you about moving here?
\"We\'ve spoken to a number of teams about London, but it\'s been more of an explanation type of thing about how things are here,\" Ohl said.
Yes, London is a long shot when it comes to attracting this type of team, although with the improvement in facilities, the city is no longer simply passed over without consideration.
But as big-money players sink tons of cash into these teams, move them to bigger cities and fail, there\'ll come a time when they may consider trying something different.
A NLL team would be a perfect addition to the JLC\'s list of events. A seating capacity of 9,100 is ideal for lacrosse and large enough for a team to turn a profit. While teams such as the Toronto Rock, Colorado Mammoth and Philadelphia Wings draw huge crowds, the Rebel were drawing less than 5,000 a game.
The schedule is small enough that it wouldn\'t have a huge impact on other events. There would be some eight regular season home games per season.
It would be a great complement to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, the main tenants of the JLC.
The league has the type of rock-and-roll atmosphere that makes it attractive to young fans. Older fans love the speed and physical aspect of the game. Any team in London would draw from the substantial lacrosse fan base throughout southwestern Ontario. It\'s also a sport whose popularity as a participation sport appears to be on the rise.
Geographically, London would be a great fit. The NLL is divided into three divisions. There are a number of teams within a five-hour radius of this city, including Toronto, Rochester, Columbus and Buffalo.
The league will hold meetings next week in Las Vegas where some of these questions will be answered.
There is also a question of the lease. As the main tenants, the Knights have to give the OK for any other hockey team to play out of the JLC. But neither Ohl nor Knights owner, general manager Mark Hunter knows if that extends to any other team outside of hockey.
\"I\'d have to look at the lease but if there was any other kind of additional tenant we would work with the Knights since they are the main tenant,\" Ohl said.
Now that\'s really jumping the gun.
It never hurts to be prepared.