Lacrosse gambles with pro league: National Lacrosse League born in east

The Canadian Press

An ambitious plan to make box lacrosse a major spectator sport in Canada has been launched.

The National Lacrosse League was born Wednesday, with teams in the Ontario centres of Brantford, Guelph and Whitby and in Newport, N.Y.

An 18-game schedule begins the third weekend of January with the championship game in Brantford on April 7.  Three games—semifinals and final—will be televised live by The Sports Network.

Plans for 1992 call for additional NLL teams in the east and for a western division in British Columbia.

‘It will succeed’

“We realize that 80 per cent of these types of ventures fall apart, but professional lacrosse has been tried four or five times and we feel that this time it will succeed,” said NLL president Dave Thomas, a Brampton, Ont., public school vice-principal.  “We’re finally putting a carrot in front of the youngsters who play this game across Canada.”

Each original franchise costs $15,000.  All players will each be paid $100 a game plus travelling expenses.

More than 300 players submitted their names for the first NLL draft.  The Buffalo Renegades won first pick through a lottery system and made Barry Powless, 33, a teacher at an Onondaga Nation elementary school outside Syracuse, N.Y. the No. 1 pick.

“I have a picture in a scrapbook of my grandfather when he played lacrosse,” said Powless.  “It’s a family tradition.

“I have an opportunity now to fulfill a dream of playing lacrosse at its highest level.”

Powless played senior lacrosse in Fergus, Ont., last summer and was a member of the Coquitlam, B.C., Mann Cup finalists two years ago.

He’s a distant relative of the Powless family of Ontario.  Ross Powless and his son Gaylord were two of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

The Guelph Power picked second and selected Ken Passfield, the goalie from the Mann Cup champion Brooklin (Ont.) Redmen.

Each team chose 50 players.

Hood top referee

NLL teams will allow players to use only plastic sticks, saying they will help reduce the level of injuries and intimidation of the traditional wooden sticks.  There will be four 15-minute quarters rather than the traditional three periods.  Teams must advance the ball over the centre line within 10 seconds and a team is allowed a possession limit of 30 seconds.

Bruce Hood, the former National Hockey League referee, will be referee in chief of the new league.

(Edmonton Journal, November 29, 1990)

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