The way the new National Lacrosse League commissioner sees it, the league needs to expand.
“(Expansion) has to be the plan when you have nine teams,” said Nick Sakiewicz, in a phone interview with the Times last week (Feb. 22).
“We need a bigger footprint, more teams in the league.”
He was back in New York after a two-day visit to Langley on the weekend, where he took in quite the barnburner, a 14-13 Stealth come-from-behind overtime victory against the Calgary Roughnecks at the Langley Events Centre.
Sakiewicz is in his first season as NLL commissioner, after working in various capacities with Major League Soccer.
The game drew just under 4,000 fans and the Stealth sit ninth in the league in attendance with an average of 3,974.
The LEC is also the smallest venue in the league with a capacity of 5,276.
But those numbers don’t scare the commissioner.
“What an intimate place; there was a lot of energy in the building and it is a fantastic venue to watch box lacrosse in,” he said.
“It was a great event and the fans were into it: great fan base, tremendous game, it was a perfect night.”
“Keep producing events like that (the Stealth victory),” he added when asked what the team needed to be successful in the market.
“How could you not want to spend a night watching an event like that,” he said.
Sakiewicz took the NLL job back in January.
At the time of his appointment, he cited that similar to soccer in North America, lacrosse is “a dynamic and rapidly-growing sport among an incredible demographic in North America.”
And while the Stealth may play out of Langley, they represent a very significant market for the league.
“This is a hotbed of lacrosse; so many of our players come from this market,” Sakiewicz said.
“There is so much tradition there and excitement; it is absolutely a very important market for us.”
He also complimented Stealth owner Denise Watkins, whom he watched the Calgary game with.
“She is like a fan, it is fantastic,” he said. “I love that in owners. when they take that much love and care for the team.”
The Stealth relocated to Langley from Everett, Wash. for the 2014 season.
And two other teams also relocated this past off-season with the defending NLL champions going from Edmonton to Saskatoon while Minnesota moved to Duluth, Georgia.