The one thing very noticeable in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) draft was the lopsided picking of players in the east, compared to players in the west. There are a number of factors in play, but exposure, or lack there of, is top of the list. How do we get these kids noticed when they have a window of only a few months to play at top levels?
Enter the Arena Lacrosse League (ALL):
For five years the ALL has been taking players in Ontario, giving them venues, NLL calibre coaching, professional environments, and a League using NLL rules, to help them develop to the next level of their careers. The league has up and coming players, veterans at the end of their careers, as well as newbies trying to get the best coaching available to start their journey. This league plays concurrently with the NLL, allowing the professional league an opportunity to call up players when they are short due to injuries, or other issues, knowing that these guys will be able to handle it when they step in.
The Arena Lacrosse League is officially recognized by the National Lacrosse League as their developmental league.
The West Coast:
After playing summer ball in the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA), or Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL), the western players either hang up their stick for the year, or travel across the country to Ontario to play for the ALL. Most won’t get the exposure they need, or the extra coaching to help attain the next level, and will have a tougher time to get where they need to be. This is a great deal of the problem why western players aren’t getting drafted near as high, or near as often as their eastern counterparts.
Enter the ALL West Expansion:
Last Thursday the Arena Lacrosse League announced a deal with the Langley Events Centre in Langley, British Columbia, to be the home for ALL West. The arena will host all the games for the league’s season, which will consist of four teams, playing weekly games also concurrent with the NLL season, with the exact same blueprint of what’s been happening in Ontario.
“We are all very excited about the growth and potential opportunities this announcement brings to the West. Our goal has always been to create a pathway of opportunity for players trying to reach the highest level possible in the game” stated ALL President Paul St. John. Now that the ALL West is a reality, it’s a big day for lacrosse players that reside in Western Canada as they chase their dreams of one day playing pro in the NLL.” St. John added, “With our on-going partnership with the NLL and the expansion into Canada’s West, we will now provide players who have usually put their stick away for the winter the opportunity to join a league that provides terrific competition and development, providing these players the opportunity to be exposed to NLL teams with the possibility of getting promoted in-season to the NLL. The ALL is proud that 15% of current NLL players have played at least one game in the ALL.”
Does this solve all the problems the West is having getting noticed? No, but it is a major step in the right direction. With the right TV or Social Media deal, who knows what is achievable. But for starters at least, the players will be playing all year round, at a top level.