Lacrosse hits prime-time

Toronto Rock forward Stephen Leblanc (17) soars through the air in the first period as Washington...

Toronto Rock forward Stephen Leblanc (17) soars through the air in the first period as Washington Stealth goalie Tyler Richards (L) blocks his shot during the NLL Championship on May 15, 2011. (Jack Boland/QMI Agency)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

EDMONTON - The National Lacrosse League is going prime time.

In his first visit to Edmonton in over a year, NLL commissioner George Daniel announced Monday a deal with CBS Sports Network to air select games over the next two seasons.

The 2012 schedule will feature five games in the regular season and three in the playoffs, including the championship, live and in high-definition on Saturday evenings.

The agreement marks the first prime-time weekly television package in the 26-year history of the league.

It reaches 98-million homes across North America, said Daniel. Its available through various cable and satellite providers so were very excited about that.

Its the first time the NLL will be on live prime time Saturday nights.

The deal, which will focus on the leagues six U.S. squads beginning with a game-of-the week on April 7, will be joined by an increase in Canadian broadcasts of the three teams based north of the border too.

You can expect also to see some more NLL action on Canadian networks as well this year, Daniel said. Well have some announcements on that shortly.

The increased television presence across the league will help expand box lacrosses audience.

It brings the sport to new people, it brings the NLL to new people, Daniel said. A steady Saturday-night prime-time presence really goes a long way in doing that.

Going hand-in-hand with the television deal, the NLL undertook some rule changes to speed up the hard-hitting action and create more scoring opportunities.

Weve added some new rules this year to help improve the flow of the game, that were real exicted about, Daniel said.

Among them, major penalties will see teams go short-handed for five minutes or until the opposing team scores three power-play goals instead of two.

Faster transition, over-and-back count, slimmer goalie equipment and changes in the way substitutions are made are all designed to usher in more on-floor action.

Weve got a great game as it is, Daniel said. And weve got a competition committee thats working very hard always trying to always tweak the game, so theyve come up with some new rules to help the flow of transition and hopefully just do a little bit to make it that much better.

And its all just around the corner with the 2012 regular-season schedule commencing Jan. 8 in Toronto. Both the Edmonton Rush and Rochester Knighthawks are ready to open their training camps this weekend.

The NLL is major-league, Daniel said. Weve got everything you can ask for in a major-league sport. Weve got hard-hitting action, high scoring. Weve got the best players in the world playing. We play in major-league arenas.

Weve got everything you could want, even more affordable ticket prices than all the other leagues. So weve got the best of both worlds.

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