The National Lacrosse League is coming back to the Lower Mainland.
And, in particular, the Langley Events Centre.
Its been nearly a decade since B.C. was home to an NLL team.
The Metro Vancouver area hasnt seen professional lacrosse since 2004, the final season for the Vancouver Ravens, a financially troubled franchise that played out of Rogers Arena (then General Motors Place).
That all changed recently when the NLLs Board of Governors unanimously approved the relocation of the Washington Stealth franchise from its previous home in Everett, Wash. to Langley, effective immediately.
The Stealth signed a five-year lease with an additional five-year option, and will begin play at the LEC in the 2014 NLL season.
Its a historic day for the NLL to be returning to British Columbia, said NLL commissioner George Daniel. We are proud to bring the worlds best lacrosse players back to the Vancouver market.
The Stealth has been one of the most successful franchises in the nine team league, having reached the finals three of the last four seasons, including this most recent year (which was hosted at the LEC) and winning the championship in 2010.
We are excited to bring the National Lacrosse League back to B.C., said Stealth owner Denise Watkins. Our goal is to bring our brand of Stealth lacrosse with us and continue the strong tradition we have built to the Greater Vancouver market.
The move is expected to have a tremendous impact on Langley, as well as the surrounding areas.
The Stealth will represent and draw from all over the Metro Vancouver area and beyond. The Township of Langley is extremely proud to have the Stealth and the NLL call the Langley Events Centre home, Township Mayor Jack Froese said. We welcome our residents and visitors to the Township who look forward to watching and cheering for the Stealth.
Stealth defenceman Mike Grimes plays for the Western Lacrosse Associations Langley Thunder during the summer and lives in Coquitlam, so hell be in familiar territory when the next NLL season rolls around.
Its exciting [for the Stealth] to be moving to Langley for me, being a guy from Coquitlam said Grimes, who played alongside fellow Thunder players Athan Iannucci, Lewis Ratcliff, and Mitch McMichael with the Stealth this past season.
On a personal note, Grimes commute time to NLL games will be slashed from about two-and-half hours (when you factor in border lineups) to about 40 minutes.
It should be an advantage for us to have all the players in the same area for a game, he said.
Grimes has mixed emotions about leaving Everett, however: I really liked it there. Its too bad it didnt work out in Everett. But Im looking forward to this new chapter.
Stealth general manager Doug Locker said the fact the LEC is located within 25 minutes of most of the major minor lacrosse associations in the Lower Mainland seemed like a perfect fit for us.
As for the fans in Everett, Locker realizes they were extremely disappointed with the news of the relocation, but many are already making plans on making the trek north of the border to support their former team.
We have had a surprising number of positive emails, said Locker, the NLL General Manager of the Year for the 2013 season. They plan on being with us in Langley. We really do think well see quite a few of them.
While the fan support for the Thunder has been tepid so far this WLA season, Grimes is confident lacrosse fans will support the Stealth in Langley.
He pointed to the NLL championship game that was played at the LEC on May 11, when the Rochester Knighthawks edged the Stealth 11-10 before a sold out crowd inside the LEC.
The events centre also hosted two NLL exhibition games that packed the LECs arena bowl in December of 2012 and 2011. The 2011 pre-season contest involved the Stealth and Toronto Rock.
When you look at the championship game, we had pretty good support here, Grimes said. Hopefully were not only going to get support from Langley, but from all over the Lower Mainland. Theres a big lacrosse community in the Lower Mainland and hopefully theyll all jump on board and support us.
Locker said the Stealth will work with the Thunder and the Langley Minor Lacrosse Association to help promote lacrosse in the area.
By having a pro team in the region, we believe that it will really hopes grow lacrosse in general, he predicted. We will do whatever we can to work with the minor association right up to the WLA team, depending on what kind of support they need. Were all in it together. We all represent lacrosse. Our ultimate goal is to grow the game and make it as strong a product as possible.
For those unfamiliar with lacrosse and the NLL, Grimes compares what is dubbed as the fastest sport on two feet to hockey, but with more goals.
Its a fast-paced, high energy game, with lots of scoring and lots of hitting, he said. We have world class talent coming in; the best players in the world.
The Stealth and LEC will be hosting a press conference on July 2 in which information pertaining to ticket pricing, season ticket availability, sponsorship opportunities and more plans will be announced.
The NLL season starts in mid- to- late December or early January and runs to the end of April with the playoffs stretching into mid-May. The Stealth will hold its training camp in November.
Games are primarily held on weekends, usually Saturday nights.
@ Copyright 2013