On September 25, 2018, the formation of the Premier Lacrosse League was announced. One year later, the PLL changed the sport of lacrosse this past summer and in the process has created a new generation of lacrosse fans.
The PLL Championship game drew a crowd of 12,556 people that flooded both sides of Talon Energy Stadium in Philadelphia with 313,000 people also tuning in on NBC to witness Matt Rambo score in overtime to crown the Whipsnakes as the first ever PLL Champions. What an incredible game to showcase lacrosse on one of the biggest sports networks in the world.
Any first year professional league in any sport would be thrilled with those numbers, but the fact that a first year pro lacrosse league was able to draw that many eyes on their championship game is truly special.
Looking back to the first ever PLL game on June 1st there was a lot of uncertainty about how the first season would go. There was no doubt that the product on the field would be incredible, but would fans show up? Would people watch on TV? Will the investors be happy with what they see? Will this actually work? Three months later with success after success, more people have been exposed to lacrosse than ever before. The PLL has become a known commodity in the sports world.
It seemed like every few weeks a new article would appear on Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg, Yahoo, and other large media outlets about the PLL. Paul Rabil found his way onto Pardon My Take, the most popular sports podcast in the world, as well as other business and sports shows. It was refreshing to have non-lacrosse writers treat lacrosse as a legitimate sport and business venture instead of some second tier sport.
The first year of the PLL has also brought something lacrosse has desperately needed more of: personality.
Basically starting from scratch at the PLL training camp, the PLL media team helped promote and develop some of the most entertaining personalities lacrosse has ever seen. RJ’s Vlogs, Mic’d Up videos, and endless behind the scenes content made the players and coaches more accessible to the fans than ever. Every one of the 6 teams has created a unique image and attracted a fan base all their own.
Here are just a few of the nicknames, catchphrases, and personalities each team became known for.
The Chaos Bomb Squad, the Andy Towers energetic and intense coaching style, Connor Fields embarrassing defenders, Blaze Riordan body slamming people, and Sportscenter calling them Chowse.
Tom Schreiber’s surgical dismantling of defenses, the Faceless Men defense, the Will Manny and Marcus Holman connection
Connor Farrell the Milk Man, the Crotty kid, Gutty, Joel White GBs, Wolf
Roll Woods, the Beast, Ryder Garnsey’s no holds barred playing style, Landis Island
Dripsnakes, Whipsteaks, Chef Rambo, Chanenchuk the 2 Point King, Ryan Drenner Mr. Clutch
Speed Boi, Atlai, Rabil, the Bulls, Joel Tinney celebrations, Ironman Buczek
🗣️THIS IS THE FUTURE SPORTS
We interview @trevorbaptiste9 LIVE ON THE FIELD – 5 seconds later he scored while mic'd up! 🤯
"THAT'S SPEED BOY!!" pic.twitter.com/vKeQbfPRwH
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) August 25, 2019
After every weekend there was a new nickname, catchphrase, or crazy highlight that would be all over Twitter and Instagram for the week. If you missed one of the games, you could pretty much get an idea of how a game went, the big plays, the highlight reel play, and who won by scrolling through the PLL Instagram feed.
When I went to the PLL games in Hamilton, I saw in person how much work goes on behind the scenes for the broadcast, the in game social media posts, and the game itself. Making sure the fans are as engaged as possible and providing the players with anything they need to be able to be at their best.
Taking care of the players was crucial for the PLL from the start. Giving them better pay, better media coverage, and equity in the league have made the players actually feel like real professional athletes. They are paving the way for young players everywhere to make professional lacrosse a legitimate way to make a living. These players put everything they had into this first season and they gave fans some of the best field lacrosse ever played.
Thank you to the Rabil brothers and everyone at the Premier Lacrosse League for taking this leap of faith. The sport of lacrosse is better because of it.
Those kids that went to the games will cherish the signatures, the jerseys, t-shirts, and the memories from this first season. Lifelong fans were made this summer that will be the heart of what will make this league survive and thrive.
The lacrosse world anxiously waits for what the PLL will do next.