When trying to come with an idea for this week’s editorial, I was talking with a colleague about attendance, and if there was such a thing as home field advantage anymore?
In The Past:
Looking back at some of the most notorious places to play in the past, a few places came to my mind just from my own experiences. The Spectrum in Philadelphia, The Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, and Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. These were big hockey arenas, but the fans were almost on top of the players, the glass was low, and they drew very well. These teams were almost unbeatable on their home floor, and the boisterous, sometimes verging on insane crowds had a lot to do with it.
During this period, every arena had their own nuances, each constructed slightly differently. Some arenas had smaller surfaces, some were lit differently, some had more lively boards, etc. Many organizations put their teams together with these home arena strengths in mind, and reaped the benefits of smart building.
With arenas changing configurations to be more spacious, with pretty much the same dimensions, that advantage was gone. Using the same materials for boards, higher glass, more separation of the fans from players, those advantages were gone as well.
Teams that drew well still had a noise advantage. Calgary, Colorado, Saskatchewan, and Rochester (in the mid 2010’s) all had great attendance, and in turn also had tremendous won/loss records at home. All these cities had championship teams as well, though it begs the question of the chicken and the egg…Did the crowds help create the championship teams, or did the championship teams draw well because they were winning? A safe answer would be to say both were correct.
Although a few cities still had strong attendance numbers (pre Covid-19), Calgary, Buffalo, Saskatchewan, and Colorado were still drawing 14,000+ per game, the majority of the league was much lower than that. Were these teams still as dominant as before? Did home advantage have anything to do with it anymore?
Although parity in the league has a lot to do with the results, minor lacrosse development has allowed all teams to build strong competitive units. The once ominous arenas didn’t seem so ominous anymore. Teams are business as usual, not paying much attention to the “barn” they were playing in.
Fast Forward To This Year:
With Covid-19 still prevelant, and teams like Halifax, and Toronto playing in front of empty houses (Halifax not allowed to play in Nova Scotia due to protocols, and using Toronto’s arena in Hamilton, Ontario for home games at the moment), attendance down everywhere due to the pandemic, home field advantage is less than ever. As of the end of week 10 in the NLL this year, home teams are 24-22.
To answer the question…No, home field advantage is not what it once was, but neither is the game itself.
State Of The Union:
Television deals, and social media platforms in full swing. With the marketing of teams merchandise, games, players, etc, full arenas are not the only way teams can make money anymore. This puts the focus on other aspects of the business of the game.
The NLL has spent a number of years building a solid foundation. With “blue chip” ownerships, TV/Radio, plus social media platforms, it is more financially sustainable than ever before. With Commissioner Nick Sakeiwicz and his team, this league will see growth for years to come. With more people exposed to the game, it allows teams freedom to market. Selling to “in market”, as well as “out of market” fans around the world. Thus Increasing bottom lines, and assuring the league of success for many years.
Don’t forget to check out Gary and his co-host Candid Frank Stanisci’s weekly Lacrosse talk show…”NLL Lacrosse Talk” . This past week’s guest was New York Riptide GM, Jim Veltman
Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.