HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – (Staff Report with Information from Official NLL News Release) – In 1997, the WNBA launched to great fanfare with the marketing slogan of “Who’s Got Next?” It was a clever campaign, despite the obvious grammatical miscue, as it depicted a popular hoops playground saying that fit quite well with the women’s sports movement, shining brightly after the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
For the sport of indoor lacrosse, National Lacrosse League franchise movement is an issue but the league is working hard to fit strong ownership groups together with loyal and passionate fan bases in large, mid-size and small cities throughout North America.
As the 2018-19 winter NLL season fast approaches, the question for the NLL and its team owners and league Commissioner Nik Sakiewicz , is “Who’s Got Next?”
Will it be Dallas?
Will it be a brand new franchise for a brand new building that will open next year and be christened by the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco?
Might it be the recently renovated and remodeled Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, forever a hotbed for the traditional lacrosse game and a fervent breeding ground for lax players – both male and female – that stock collegiate rosters from Maine to Southern California?
Surprise! It’s Halifax.
The National Lacrosse League, North America’s prominent indoor lacrosse league, recently announced it awarded a franchise to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Curt Styres, the current owner and general manager of the Rochester Knighthawks, will relocate his team and received approval from the NLL Board of Governors.
For the upcoming season, Rochester team’s full roster will remain intact and will play at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. The first game in Halifax, under a new team name for the 2019-20 season, will be played at Scotiabank Centre in December 2019.
In addition, the league announced the sale of the Rochester franchise, inclusive of the brand, to Terry and Kim Pegula starting with the 2019-20 season. They are planning to field an expansion team for the 2019-20 NLL season.
“We are very proud to welcome the great city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, as a National Lacrosse League franchise,” said the NLL’s Sakiewicz. “Known as a great events city with a passionate, loyal, and hungry fan base for major league sports, Halifax proved to be an ideal location for our league’s expansion in Canada.
“Curt Styres is one of our longest standing and most passionate owners and I am sure he will bring his knack for winning to this great City just as he has in Rochester. This marks yet another exciting step towards the execution of our 5-year plan.”
The Halifax franchise will begin play during the 2019-20 season at Scotiabank Centre, with many of the players on the current Knighthawks roster. The season will include nine regular season home games, pre-season and playoff games.
“When I took over ownership of the Knighthawks on June 19, 2008, I said that when I left, I wanted to leave the team in better shape than I found it,” said Styres. “I believe we have done that as we have added three banners to the rafters as NLL champions and made a fourth trip to the Finals last season. We have also created hundreds of new fans and introduced the game to thousands of children across western New York State. Again, I cannot put into words how proud I am of everything that WE have accomplished together.”
Finishing the regular season with a 10-8 record, the 2017-18 Knighthawks were crowned East Division champions and advanced to the franchise’s first NLL Finals appearance since 2014. Though falling short to the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush in Game 3, the franchise was still awarded for their stellar season. Four members of the Knighthawks took home NLL season awards.
“Our city, partners and customers are ready for the unprecedented mix of sport and entertainment the NLL will bring to Halifax,” said Carrie Cussons, president & CEO of Scotiabank Centre. “We’re committed to providing our customers with a diverse mix of events and I can’t think of a better addition than professional lacrosse. We’re thrilled to welcome the NLL and Curt Styres to Halifax and can’t wait for the 2019-20 season.”