By now, fans are accustomed to business getting in the way of the purity of sports.
Every major North American pro sports league has seen labour disputes result in the cancellation of games. Major League Baseball had its season cut short in 1994, resulting in the cancellation of the World Series. The National Hockey League cancelled its 2004-05 season entirely, resulting in the Stanley Cup not being awarded for the first time since 1919.
There’s far less money at stake in the sport of lacrosse, though that hasn’t stopped the NLL from becoming the latest league to let money get in the way of competition.
The National Lacrosse League announced Thursday that it has cancelled the first two weeks of the regular season, which was scheduled to begin on December 1.
The timing for some teams couldn’t be worse.
Expansion teams in San Diego and Philadelphia will see their inaugural seasons delayed.
— Vancouver Warriors (@nllwarriors) November 9, 2018
The home opener for the newly branded Vancouver Warriors has been cancelled. The Warriors were set to hit the ground running on December 8 against the Toronto Rock, the first game since the franchise was bought by Canucks Sports and Entertainment, and moved from Langley to downtown Vancouver.
Instead, who knows when the season will begin.
Players, understandably, are concerned they’ll be left behind as the NLL grows. Two new expansion teams have brought new money into the now 11-team league, with a 12th team in Halifax set to join next year. Last season, three teams averaged more than 14,000 in attendance.
The Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association (PLPA) exercised an opt-out clause in January from the collective bargaining agreement they signed in 2013. Since then, the two parties have failed to come to an agreement on a new CBA.
“We have put a very good and fair offer on the table, which includes a 25% increase in salary and benefits for the players,” the NLL said in a statement. “It is a significant improvement from where the players were at the beginning of their last employment agreement and a testament to our ownership’s commitment to continue to invest heavily in our sport and grow the League.”
NLL players typically work a second job, as the average wage is in the $20,000 range.
For the moment, it’s unclear how the league will juggle its schedule whenever a deal is eventually reached. The NLL typically plays an 18-game regular season schedule, with the playoffs wrapping up in June.
The Toronto Rock had two road games cancelled but aren’t scheduled to play at home until December 28. The Calgary Roughnecks saw one road game cancellation, with their home opener set for December 15.