Yesterday, Devan Kaney sat down in a virtual interview with NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz to break a huge announcement. It was like music to our ears when Sakiewicz confirmed that the NLL would launch their 35th season on April 9th, 2021. Barely more than a year to the day from when the NLL announced the remainder of the 2020 season would be canceled, box lacrosse makes its return.
Soon after the NLL announced the rest of the 2020 season was canceled, the league formed a return-to-play committee back in June. That committee included the NLLPA, league stakeholders, broadcast partners, and just about any other facet ties into a successful season. First and foremost, the top priority concerned the health and safety of any person who was a part of an NLL game. Announcing April 9th, 2021, as the date for NLL Faceoff Weekend affords the league enough time to take corrective steps for a safe reopening.
In his conversation with Devan Kaney, Nick Sakiewicz made it known that he intends to include fans when the 2021 season begins. Due to the season starting in April, that means that the season could likely run into the summer of 2021. Some obstacles that will be overcome by the NLL include arena availability and conflicting with other ongoing leagues. Where the NLL is at an advantage is that they had arguably the longest time to stand back and inspect how the NHL, NBA, and MLS have safely resumed their seasons. They’ve learned from the MLB and the NFL too.
Speaking of conflicting with other ongoing leagues, the NLL will cooperate with other lacrosse organizations in Canada and the United States to avoid any scheduling or shared player conflicts. “Adapt and expect the unexpected” is the mantra that Nick Sakiewicz provided to Devan Kaney during this announcement. If there is a possible challenge that presents itself along the way, the NLL is prepared to face it head-on. The NFL and the MLB had to reschedule games because of COVID outbreaks in some facilities when players or staff had tested positive. A preventative approach with flexibility is the only real way the NLL can stay on the attack in 2021.
The NLL has kept their relationship close with Turner Sports and Bleacher Report (B/R Live) to broadcast the games. In a strange time where sports temporarily disappeared, NLL content creators, marketing executives, social media account managers, and the NLL business partners have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep fans invested. Jessica Berman, the NLL Deputy Commissioner, is planning best practices in correlation throughout the thirteen team markets for fans to return.
The Announcement Within the Announcement
At this time, there is not a timeframe of when the NLL will release a full schedule, but Nick Sakiewicz did hint towards another big announcement. The NLL could plan to expand from thirteen teams to fifteen teams. When you hear that lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport, this is the proof. The NHL is expanding to Seattle with the Kraken, but the NLL is doubling-down those efforts with two new franchises. Who will join Fort Worth when the NLL expands to fifteen teams?
Mandatory Credit – Alex McIntyre