By Zach Baru
As Boston celebrates a Major League Lacrosse championship, the city looses a big part of the lacrosse community. Earlier this month and just days after the Boston Cannons won the MLL championship, the Boston Blazers announced the suspension of their operations for the 2012 National Lacrosse League season.
This is a major loss for lacrosse fans in Boston, which has a rich tradition of not just lacrosse, but professional indoor lacrosse as well. The original New England Blazers began playing in the Worcester Centrum in 1989 and moved to the Boston Garden in 1992 to become the Boston Blazers. The Blazers continued to play in the new FleetCenter until the end of the 1997 season when the Major Indoor Lacrosse League became the NLL of today with a new entity and individual team ownership.
Today's NLL saw the Boston Blazers join the league in May of 2007, with their first season at the then named TD Banknorth Garden in 2008. The ownerships of the two Blazers' franchises had no relation, but both have had the same goal, giving Boston fans a chance to be part of one of the fasting growing sports in the country. Over the last ten years, the number of high school lacrosse programs in the United States has nearly doubled from 1,600 to over 3,000 today, reason to believe in the long-term success of professional lacrosse.
And if the last decade has been any indication, the success will come from the indoor game, as the NLL continues to dominate in ticket sales. In 2011, the NLL averaged 9,722 fans per game, while the MLL averaged 6,417. It is also noted that four of the ten franchises in the NLL averaged over 10,000 fans per game last year, while the MLL had one such example of its six teams. This season, MLL's Denver Outlaws averaged 12,331 fans per game, which is much inflated by their annual Fourth of July game in which the city holds a fireworks display at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
As professional indoor lacrosse in the United States has a longer history than its outdoor competitor, it is no question that the NLL continues to beat the MLL in attendance each year. In the NLL's twenty-five year history many of its games, including a large amount of championship games, have seen sell-outs of major arenas throughout all of the United States and Canada. Attendances have often reached up to 19,000 fans, proving to marketers that the valuable young adult demographic will buy into this sport.
There is no question the NLL will be missed in Boston. The Blazers have made themselves a part of the community, not only on the field, but off the field as well. They have reached out to youth lacrosse programs throughout the city, growing the sport, and creating a presence within the community. Something all franchises should make a part of their daily routines. It is sad to see them leave, but professional indoor lacrosse has and will always have a rich history in the city of Boston. Only time will tell what the future holds.
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at email@example.com.