American content

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Madison Square Garden in New York has played host to major sporting events, concerts, trade shows and dog shows.

But it wasn't until the New York Titans showed up on the scene that professional lacrosse was a fixture in the famous arena.

The Titans are one of two National Lacrosse League expansion franchises this year. And just by being in the league, the Titans have taken professional indoor lacrosse to the next level.

"Having them is huge for our league," said Edmonton Rush head coach and general manager Paul Day. "They've done a good job getting a lot of exposure for the league."

New York and Chicago were both granted franchises this year increasing the number of teams to 13.

This weekend the Rush travel to face both the Titans and the Shamrox in back-to-back encounters. Today they're in New York, tomorrow Chicago.

"I remember going to New York for the draft this year," Day said.

"They have a huge scoreboard in front of MSG and they were showing lacrosse highlights every day, so it was big for the league.

"And the new markets have done well."

MSG AND VETERANS

Splitting their inaugural season between MSG and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, the Titans have made good progress selling the game to New Yorkers.

While the indoor game is not completely foreign, the area is more familiar with outdoor lacrosse.

"When you're trying to promote box lacrosse, there is a certain amount of selling and promotion that you do have to do to expose people to the game, to teach them about the game and make them understand what they're watching," said Titans general manager Randy Fraser.

"The perception here is that it's a rough, barbaric game, because the field game is not as physical."

A key to luring lacrosse fans to the indoor version in New York is to field a team with recognizable names.

OUTDOOR STARS

Unlike a lot of other teams in the league, the Titans have a high American content with a number of former college outdoor stars.

"Our team is mostly American players and American players are traditionally mostly field lacrosse players," Fraser said.

"Their experience in box lacrosse is very limited. We have five rookies in our lineup that were new to box lacrosse.

"But their learning curve has really increased, probably beyond where we thought they would be.

"So we're really happy with some of these guys. They're real athletic players. They were Division 1 NCAA All-Americans."

On the floor the Titans have struggled as most expansion franchises do.

Heading into this weekend's game against the Rush the Titans are in the basement of the East Division with a 2-11 record.

But as is the case with most expansion teams, the

challenge is getting through the first year and then build for the following seasons.

The Rush can attest to that.

"We're a little disappointed in our record," Fraser said.

"But we're very happy with the progress our team has made. And we're looking forward to next season.

"We positioned ourselves with the players that we currently have and the opportunity with some of the draft picks we've got with some of the trades we've made. We're looking good draft-wise."

Helping out were the reasonable expectations of the ownership in the first year. There was no mandate on the management and coaching staff to make the playoffs or win a certain number of games

The goal at the start of the season was to be competitive - which the Titans have been, losing three one-goal games and a pair of two-goal contests. They wanted to entertain - which they have scoring 164 goals this season, the third highest in the league.

And they wanted to build for the future - which they have loading up with draft picks.

"I think the overall thing is that we were just building for future success.

"We knew we were going to take our lumps with the new American players," Fraser said.

"Off the floor it's gone really well. It's gone really smoothly.

"We have a great staff here, we have a strong ownership group, an experienced president, a fantastic equipment manager and the players have all had a great experience.

"We haven't had any complaints. It's been the opposite, we've had a ton of praise."

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WHO TO WATCH

CURTIS PALIDWOR, RUSH

Rush goalie started the season as a member of the Titans before a trade brought him to Edmonton.

PAT MADDELENA, TITANS

Titans forward has 35 goals in 13 games this season, fifth highest in the NLL.

GAME NOTES

This weekend is the first and only time this season the Rush are going up against the league's two new teams, the Titans and Chicago Shamrox. The Rush are in Chicago tomorrow ... Heading into the weekend the Rush are a game and-a-half behind the Calgary Roughnecks and San Jose Stealth for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Rush have a game in hand on both. The Stealth are in Arizona this weekend, while the 'Necks have a home-and-home series against the Portland Lumberjax ... A.J. Shannon is making his debut for the Rush today. Shannon was acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bandits in the off-season but has yet to play for the Rush due to a knee injury.


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