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Friday, November 28, 2008

National Lacrosse League - Part 5

The other professional lacrosse league in North American plays a version of box lacrosse. There are slight variations from the traditional Canadian version, but for all intents and purposes, the National Lacrosse League is an indoor box league. Of course the NLL follows Major League Lacrosse by having an exclusive equipment and apparel deal. In this case, the deal is with Reebok.

It is with this exclusive deal that we will start. Prior to RBK's entry into the NLL, teams were folding left and right. Then the vector came in and providing some stabilizing income. As a result, every team began wearing Reebok jerseys and footwear. Around the same time, RBK purchased The Hockey Company and re-branded some Jofa helmets with their logos for the NLL. Originally, that was the extent of RBK's involvement in the league's equipment.

A couple of years ago, Reebok introduced new shafts and pads (Great Atlantic Lacrosse) has their gear in stock). The vector even signed Brodie Merrill to promote their gear. Once this deal debuted, the league required every player to switch to it as well. Players could still use whatever head they desired. That will change this season as Reebok has created new heads. Now all gear used in the NLL has to be Reebok. Whether this is good or bad, I don't know.

Obviously, I could suggest the the NLL follows my suggestion to MLL by allowing sponsored players to use the gear they endorse. This is obvious. Without doing that, however, I see other ways to allow the players more choice without bringing in actual competition. For starters, I think players should be allowed to use Adidas gear and shoes as well. This works because the trefoil owns the vector. In theory, it is the same as Warrior and Brine being the choices in MLL. However, the Adidas gear is technically licensed to a third party company, The Henson Group, while Reebok's is made by the company itself. Still, allowing even one more option gives the players some control of their gear.

There is talk of an outdoor league from the NLL geared toward competing with MLL. Considering that the current league is strapped for cash, bringing in another field league may not be a smart move. Logic dictates that the NLL will set shop up in cities in which they currently have indoor teams. This means that several teams will be in the same markets as existing MLL teams. Most of the speculation points to the field teams carrying over the same names as the indoor teams as a brand extension. I feel this would cause confusion and dilute the quality of the product because field teams require more players than box teams. Also, some of the higher quality players may choose to participate in the more established MLL rather than the upstart league.

For the time being, the NLL would be better served by staying indoors. Ideally, the NLL could be to MLL what Arena Football is to the National Football League - a pseudo minor/development league. Players should be able to hone their skills indoors before going outside and performing on (what should be) the bigger stage. Of course the NLL would still have high quality players and career pros just like the AFL does. A few MLL players could still hit the indoor turf under a deal similar to the American Hockey League, NBA Development League or minor league baseball. They could opt to be full time box players or full time field players. Of course, this assumes that either or both leagues would take the necessary steps to have their players be full time professional lacrosse players...

Tribe 7