Walking into Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario to watch the Premier Lacrosse League games I tried to imagine being a lacrosse obsessed 12 year old again.
The towering stadium, the endless vendor tents, the fastest shot booth, players signing autographs right in front of me in the fan zone, and being able to watch my heroes play only a few feet away from me would have been like Christmas in August. The hundreds of kids I saw running around the stadium having the time of their life probably felt the same way.
The PLL is helping create a whole new generation of lacrosse fans.
The cheers of the excited young fans screaming the players’ names “Rabil!” “Connor!” “Please sign my hat!” “Please sign my shirt!” were all you could hear after each of the games. Connor Fields or Paul Rabil stood right in front of starstruck fans and then posed for a picture over and over again for almost 30 minutes after the game. The look of complete joy on those young fans’ faces is what gives me hope that the PLL and pro lacrosse have a bright future ahead of them.
The PLL’s Vlogs after every weekend give you a good idea of what it was like to be there as a fan and how easy it is to meet the players.
I’m finding myself jealous of young lacrosse fans today because growing up in the Michigan getting to go to a pro lacrosse game was never really a possibility. If I was lucky I might catch 2 MLL games on TV in an entire summer and now fans have access to every PLL game for only $40. I got goosebumps as I got a chance to walk down the tunnel and on to the field in Hamilton last weekend. After 14 years of playing lacrosse this was actually the first pro field lacrosse game I have ever been to. 12 year old me would have been freaking out that I was on the same field as all of the players, but I hid my wide eyes under my sunglasses and tried to act professional.
Between the skill level of the players and new rules, the games themselves were exciting from start to finish. It seemed like if you looked away for a second you were going to miss a Sportscenter Top 10 play. The 52 second shot clock kept play constantly flowing and both teams looking to push the ball or wanting to take more risks. The biggest thing that stood out to me was that in person the field looks so short with the extra 10 yards taken off.
Standing on the sideline for the teams’ warmups the players seemed loose, but you could tell none of them are taking anything for granted because roster spots are not guaranteed week to week. Every player is laser focused and will do anything to win. The teams all have Tewaaraton winners, 1st Team All-Americans, and World Championship players that make the product on the field a must watch.
It is wild to see Paul Rabil walking around getting ready for the game while there is so much he probably has to do as the Co-Founder and CSO of the league. Rabil is a real life Jackie Moon playing in the games of the league he helps run and he is not only just playing he is scoring game winning goals. You will not see that anywhere else in major professional sports.
Seeing lacrosse on this big stage with so many people behind the scenes making sure everything is running smoothly is so refreshing as the PLL is already functioning on a level closer to one of the big four professional leagues. Their media team is a well oiled machine taking photos or video and then running to get it uploaded on social media in between breaks in play. The amount of high quality content they put out in a weekend is amazing.
With Canadian players dotting the rosters of the several of the teams, the games in Hamilton meant a little more. When Josh Bryne, a British Colombia native, scored the game winning goal in overtime for the Canadian filled Chaos squad, the Canadian fans went crazy and let out the loudest cheer of the weekend. Bryne as well as other Canadians like Brodie Merrill, Dhane Smith, Ben McIntosh, Joel Tinney, and Clarke Petterson playing in the PLL shows how far field lacrosse in Canada has come. The next time the PLL comes to the area I wouldn’t be surprised to see the crowd double or triple in size.
After both the PLL and MLL seasons are over, the following months are going to be filled with heated debate about what league format is better and what needs to be done to take pro field lacrosse to the next level.
By next summer there might only be one of these leagues left standing.
Who knows if the touring style will be sustainable or how long the PLL stays that way, but after experiencing the PLL in person all I know is that if they can continue to bring lacrosse to fans in person and on the NBC broadcasts like they are now, then the landscape of the sport will be completely different as early as 5 years from now.
There are four weeks left to watch the PLL in person. Do not miss your chance to experience some of the most exciting lacrosse the sport has ever seen.