June 27, 2012

MLL Commish Talks Expansion, All-Star Game

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

MLL commissioner David Gross said Wednesday that expansion in Charlotte and Ohio "has gone very well," with respect to fan support.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.co

Ahead of Saturday night's annual Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game, league commissioner David Gross met with members of the media on Wednesday to discuss the weekend's events and other MLL items.

Saturday's game (7:30 p.m. ESPN2) at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., will use the "Old School" vs. "Young Guns" format for the third time in league history (Full rosters here). Steve Duffy, representing the defending champion Boston Cannons, will coach the Young Guns and Ohio Machine coach Ted Garber will lead team Old School. At halftime, the annual fan-favorite skills competition will also be held.

Expansion Going Well in Charlotte, Ohio

Although their records may not reflect success – the Ohio Machine is 1-6 and the Charlotte Hounds are 2-6 – Gross said he's pleased with the first seasons of the league's pair of expansion franchises. Charlotte ranks third in average attendance (5,788), trailing only Boston and Chesapeake, and Ohio ranks sixth (3,656), according to the league's official statistics.

"Expansion has gone very well," Gross said. "I'm sure both Charlotte and Ohio wish they had a better win-loss record, but the fan support that they've received in both markets has been very good and we expect that to continue to build."

No New Expansion Plans

The league said earlier this year it would have no new expansion for the 2013 season as it had previously said was a goal at this time last year.

"No real news on expansion," Gross said. "We're not going to have expansion in 2013. The earliest at this point will be '14."

If there will be expansion in 2014, it will be announced in January.

More Television

More MLL games are on widely available, national cable television this season than ever before, with a new one-year agreement in place with CBS Sports Network running concurrently with the league's ESPN deal that goes through 2016. CBSSN has also aired a weekly magazine "Inside the MLL" every weekend this season.

CBSSN is scheduled to show 14 games, including one of the league's championship weekend semifinals in August. ESPN, as it has in years past, will televise one semifinal and the league's championship game. "We've been thrilled with TV so far this year," Gross said.

Draft to Stay in Pre-College Season

It appears the pre-college season rookie draft is here to stay.

There are still uncertainties for MLL general managers, coaches, and draftees with the early draft date – see, No. 1 overall pick Rob Pannell's season-ending injury and return to Cornell (sorry, Long Island) and undrafted Eric Lusby's post-season emergence (congrats, Charlotte, on the waiver wire pickup) – but the draft will continue to be held before the college season for the foreseeable future.

"Everyone is very happy with how the draft has gone from a marketing standpoint," he said. "We thought it was a big blow for the Lizards with [Rob] Pannell's injury and him looking to get an additional year, but luckily you had [rookie of the year candidate] Matt Gibson step right in there at attack and Long Island's having a great year. Next year they will be able to add Pannell if he signs with the league. Most of the draft picks have now found their way into the MLL and a lot are making a great contribution early on. We're pretty happy with how that's gone. It's our intention to continue that."

Gross said next year's draft will be held Friday, January 11 at 8:30 p.m. in Philadelphia, the same weekend the US Lacrosse National Convention is in town.

Next Year's All-Star Site

Next year's all-star event likely will be held in the city of one of the existing eight MLL franchises, Gross said. But he said the league would not be opposed to returning to Florida for future events. "We're fans of test marketing," he said, mentioning the possibility of putting an expansion team in Florida.

HEADstrong's Presence This Year

Expect to see a lot of lime green Saturday night, the trademark color of the HEADstrong Foundation, which has partnered with MLL for the weekend.

Some players will wear lime green gloves or use green stick shafts, and all players will wear lime green shoelaces, Gross said. "Their presence is going to be felt very strongly," he said. "We're very proud to have them as part of this year's event.

"We've had some great charities involved with the league, but none have pulled at the heartstrings more so than Nick [Colleluori's] story," Gross said. "To find out that he had blood cancer and to start his own foundation in the last year of his life...the charity has done some tremendous work, not just raising awareness but providing support to others."

Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Thursday for LM's mid-season MLL awards and check back this weekend for all-star game coverage.

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