Best Place to Find Low Prices - Discontinued Gear

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Team USA - Warrior

Inside Lacrosse posted pictures of the new Team USA gear today. Warrior now holds the contract for our national team, yet they do not have these pics on their site. Team USA will wear this stuff at the World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England this summer. The team's Warrior Trojan helmet has not yet been released.
I think it is a little too much all around. Way too busy. I'm fairly patriotic but the flag on the cuff of the gloves is tacky. I like the lining in the shoulder pads, but why all of the rest of the graphics? They will be covered by the jersey anyway.
Overall, this stuff reminds me of the World Cup 94 Us soccer jerseys.
What do you think of the national team's gear?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MLL Expansion/Relocation Part 3

Let's flash forward two years from the last wave of expansion to kick off the third part of this series:

2015 - What Was Old Is New Again

1. Philadelphia Barrage - No team in Major League Lacrosse has travelled as much as the Barrage. Originally playing in Bridgeport, CT from 2001-2003, the Barrage settled in Philadelphia where they won 3 league championships (2004, 2006, 2007). After financial, stadium, and ownership issues during their last championship season, the MLL took control of the team. In order to test the waters of several potential expansion cities, the Barrage went on tour for the 2008 season. After winning three of their five "home" games (wins: Virginia Beach, Dallas, St. Louis; losses: Cary, Portland) and four of their seven road games, the Barrage made it to the league semifinals. Hoping to repeat, they took the Rattlers to overtime only to lose by a single goal.

Philadelphia is a sports mad city. They love their Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies. Very few markets are as rabid as the City of Brotherly Love and very few offer such a potentially strong lax following. After all, the Wings are the oldest team in the National Lacrosse League. Pittsburgh's entry opens the door for a cross state rivalry that will mimic that of the Flyers and Penguins. This rivalry will bring out strong civic pride in both fan bases whenever the teams face each other.

Before they bounced around the country, the Barrage bounced around the Philadelphia metro area. But with the birth of Philadelphia Union in the MLS comes an appropriate venue for lacrosse - Union Field. The 18,500 seat stadium sits on the banks of the Delaware River and offers a welcoming environment. With ample transportation options and a lower operational cost than other venues in the city, Union Field would become known as a premier lacrosse facility.

2. New York Red Bulls - I can already see the responses for this one. Purists will hate the fact that I even suggested such an atrocity. Some will decry bringing in a second New York area franchise, especially after the failure of the NLL's Titans. However, I have four very good reasons for suggesting this team.

First, New York is probably the most important market. Considered the center of world capitalism, NYC is vital to the success of pretty much every sports league. The NFL, NHL, and MLB all have two teams in the market. The NBA's Nets and a third NHL team (New Jersey Devils) are on the fringe of the NYC market; there is consistent talk of the Nets moving to Brooklyn. While the Lizards are technically in the New York market, the average New Yorker would blatantly claim that Long Island is not "New York". Somehow Harrison, New Jersey is considered "New York" as evidenced by the construction of Red Bull Arena for the MLS team. Regardless, a team named for and representing the NYC metro is vital to the league's success.

Second, Red Bull Arena is scheduled to open this season. The 25,000 seat stadium is already being regarded as the crown jewel of the MLS despite its teams' inability to succeed. With a cost estimated over $100 million, the Austrian beverage maker will surely be looking to increase revenue with a second professional team. Lacrosse has already demonstrated itself as a suitable fit for soccer stadiums.

Third, the league needs another high dollar investor. Red Bull entered MLS with the purchase of the Metrostars in 2006. The estimated $200 million purchase price included the team and its history. But it also brought the aforementioned stadium, new league sponsorship, and the beginning of team shirt sponsorship - all of which translated into a major revenue stream for the league. With sponsored skateboarders, surfers, air races, and other high energy events, lacrosse could become Red Bull's marquee team sport. Lacrosse is generally viewed a hip and tough - if not "extreme" - which fits nicely into their advertising niche. Major League Lacrosse would certainly benefit from such inclusion.

My fourth point is a justification of the team's name. It can be assumed that Red Bull will be putting some serious dollars into their MLL investment. Having the naming rights for the team that they own which plays in their stadium is a given. As their Racing teams, Austrian hockey team, and MLS, Austrian, Brazilian, & German soccer clubs are already named after the drink, expect the MLL team to follow suit. Using the same name for multiple teams under one organization is a traditional practice in many countries, and is evidenced by the Austrian program alone. Adding the lax team to the fold would be the logical course.

On a side note, a pseudo fifth reason, the logo lends itself beautifully to lacrosse. It is not hard to imagine a charging red bull on either side of a silver (or athletic gold) Pro7. The key would be convincing the Austrian giant that the jerseys should be red rather than the navy worn by their soccer and hockey teams...

-League Alignment-

Adding two teams to the Eastern Division will create some growing pains. It will also cause temporarily unbalanced divisions; the alternative would be moving a team from the East to the West. Since Philadelphia was brought back in to feud with Pittsburgh, moving the Pride would be illogical. With the rest of the teams firmly entrenched, there is no alternative. The new East includes: Philly, NY, Long Island, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Rochester. The West soldiers on with: Chicago, Denver, Dallas, LA, Seattle, and San Jose.

Now at fourteen teams, the league can expand the playoff structure to include two more teams. The first place team in each division automatically earns a spot in the league's championship weekend semifinals. The second place team in each division will host a playoff game the weekend before. Facing them will be the fifth and sixth team overall to be seeded first by division, then by standing. See the examples below for a better explanation.

A. League: 1. Boston-E, 2. Toronto-E, 3. Washington-E, 4. Denver-W, 5. Chicago-W, 6. Long Island -E, 7. LA -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
As the winners of their divisions, Boston and Denver get a bye to Championship Weekend. As the runners-up of their divisions, Toronto and Chicago will host a playoff game. The playoffs make table look like this: 1. Boston - E, 2. Denver -W, 3. Toronto - E, 4. Chicago - W, 5. Washington - E, 6. Long Island -E, 7. LA -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
Because the #5 and #6 teams are both from the East, Toronto draws the lower seed and will play Long Island. Chicago ends up with Washington by default.
Playoffs: East - LI at Toronto; West - Washington at Chicago
Championship Weekend: East winner vs Boston; West winner vs Denver

B. League: 1. Boston-E, 2. Toronto-E, 3. Washington-E, 4. Denver-W, 5. Chicago-W, 6. LA - W, 7. Seattle -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
As the winners of their divisions, Boston and Denver get a bye to Championship Weekend. As the runners-up of their divisions, Toronto and Chicago will host a playoff game. The playoffs make table look like this: 1. Boston - E, 2. Denver -W, 3. Toronto - E, 4. Chicago - W, 5. Washington - E, 6. LA - W, 7. Seattle -W, 8. SJ - W, etc.
Because the #5 and #6 teams are both from both divisions, the overall rank does not matter. Toronto will host Washington and Chicago will host LA.
Playoffs: East - Washington at Toronto; West - LA at Chicago
Championship Weekend: East winner vs Boston; West winner vs Denver

Continue to Part 4

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

MLL Expansion/Relocation Part 2

Without too much delay, let's continue on our quest to make Major League Lacrosse a truly national professional sports league.

2012 - Back to Ten Teams

1. Seattle Sea Lions - Unlike 2011, this year's teams will be true expansion franchises despite the three dormant teams still out there. For the Emerald City, I chose something natural and native to serve as the nickname. This choice was inspired by the Seahawks and Sounders, both of which represent the area's natural beauty. Just like those teams, the Sea Lions will wear Emerald green trimmed with blue.
For the opening seasons, games will be played at the Starfire Sports Complex. As the fan base grows, the Sea Lions will consider joining the football and soccer teams at Qwest. Seattle was chosen for its strong and rapidly growing lacrosse scene. The passion of its fans, as demonstrated by the Sounders this season, booted Seattle up my list.
2. Dallas Generals - Perhaps no city in the entire country is as synonymous with sports as Dallas. With teams in every major league and a powerful lacrosse culture producing some large and talented players, Dallas would be a natural fit for the MLL. Taking advantage of what might be the most beautiful soccer stadium in the US, the would play their games at Pizza Hut Park. While some point to its Frisco location as the source of FC Dallas' low attendance, I think the stadium would provide the best atmosphere for professional lacrosse. Like soccer, lax is better in a more intimate atmosphere.
With a city with as much renown as Dallas a strong name is required. Breaking away from the western theme of many of its teams (Cowboys, Desperadoes, Rangers), I am going with "Generals." This name signifies strength and leadership, both of which are values that are widely associated with the state of Texas. Also, the name allows the incorporation of a star, the city's symbol as evidenced by its flag and many of its sports teams. In addition to sharing their stadium, the Generals will wear FC Dallas' colors of red, navy, and silver.

-League Alignment-

The addition of two solidly Western teams will cause a small alignment change. The 2012 Western Division will consist of: Seattle, Dallas, LA, Denver, and Chicago. The 2012 Eastern Division will be: Pittsburgh, Toronto, Washington, Long Island, and Boston. The playoff format is unchanged.

2013 - Familiar Faces

1. San Jose Dragons - Major League Lacrosse re-enters the Bay Area exactly where it left it. Although they were previously identified as San Francisco, the Dragons return to the league rightfully named for the city in which they play. Beginning with the 2008 season, the Dragons moved south to play at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. With no suitable venue in San Francisco, the Dragons re-emerge in San Jose - in the New Earthquakes Stadium. The new home of the MLS club is scheduled to open in 2012 and will be the key to the rebirth of the Dragons.
2. Rochester Rattlers - When the 2008 MLL champion Rattlers moved to Toronto last year many people cried foul. When the league said that Toronto was technically a new franchise and Rochester was merely suspended, many were confused. Blamed on the economy and stadium issues, the suspension made a little more sense.
As the world slowly gets back to normal, expect Rochester to return to the league. They will move back into their old home, Marina Auto Stadium. Their colors and logo will remain largely unchanged to ensure continuity from their last championship team. Unfortunately the team will have a new coaching staff and roster as the previous personnel moved to Toronto.
Despite being the smallest market in the league, Rochester will return because of its location near traditional hotbed areas. The superb soccer stadium is a worthy home and lends itself wonderfully to lacrosse. Despite losing all of its players last year, expect the reborn team to be a championship contender by 2015.

-League Alignment-

With a team added to each geographic area, there will be no alignment change. The 2013 Western Division will consist of: San Jose, Seattle, Dallas, LA, Denver, and Chicago. The 2013 Eastern Division will be: Rochester, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Washington, Long Island, and Boston. The playoff format is unchanged.

Continue to Part 3

Monday, January 11, 2010

Breaking News! - Easton Buys Talon

Following my prediction from October 29, 2008, Easton has officially thrown itself into lacrosse. Inside Lacrosse reported early today that Easton-Bell Sports has acquired Talon Lacrosse creating a new Easton Lacrosse division. Even though it is a different company than I had mentioned in my original post, Easton followed the path I anticipated by purchasing a small, established company known for producing high quality lacrosse equipment.
Combining Talon's expertise with Easton's technology and production capability will result in superb equipment at competitive prices. This gear will no doubt be more readily available than Talon's current offerings. Expect Easton Lacrosse equipment at Great Atlantic Lacrosse, Lacrosse Monkey, and other large retailers as early as this fall.
This move definitely signifies the current growth of lacrosse may be just the tip of the iceberg. With another large multi-sport multi-national corporation entering the fray, expect to see increased exposure at all levels and a broadening of the professional game. Easton's move should increase the pressure to make Major League Lacrosse and/or the National Lacrosse League into more than vehicles to advertise New Balance (Warrior, Brine) and Reebok products, respectively. With all of the major players in the four "American" sports (hockey, baseball, football, and basketball) now in the mix, there is too much money to be made to allow the professional game to wallow the way New Balance has.
My biggest question revolves around Easton's corporate sibling, Riddell (former makers of Onyx lacrosse gear). Both are owned by Fenway Partners; keeping both brands active in the sport seems unnecessary. Although the Onyx line of equipment died, the Riddell helmets continue to be worn primarily by schools wearing Adidas. The helmets are regarded as one of the ugliest and bulkiest in the game. With the success of the Stealth helmet in hockey (I have one and love it, BTW) and the reset opportunity this move provides, I have a hard time believing that Easton will not jump a chance for a new lid. An subtly edgy design that incorporates the classic grace of Cascade's popular helmets - similar to the Stealth - adorned with the familiar diamond logo could be an instant success.
I will definitely be interested to see the new products as they roll out. Given the bad blood between Easton and Warrior following the formation of the latter's hockey division, things could get interesting as lax continues to grow. Easton will no doubt open their pockets to give New Balance a run for their money. And they have the name and reputation to do it.

Tribe 7