MSL - State of the League Annual Assessment

As the year 2021 has passed and the beginning of 2022 has arrived, it is a fine time to solicit comments from Major Series Lacrosse Commissioner Doug Luey.  Commissioner Luey offered his insightful and frank thoughts regarding important issues affecting Major Series Lacrosse.

MSL Commissioner Doug Luey  
“The pandemic gave us time to reflect on where we have been, where we are and where we want to be. The product has never been better, the MSL governors are committed and now it is up to all of us to deliver the vision”.

Opening Question:  
Like so many activities in the world, Major Series Lacrosse shut down completely in 2020.  The 2021 season still saw no MSL regular season or playoffs and sadly, no Mann Cup.  However, Major Series Lacrosse did hold the “MSL Classic” in 2021.  As Commissioner, what are your thoughts and assessment of the MSL Classic?

“The MSL Classic was an excellent opportunity for our players and teams to stay active and participate. We took advantage of the Classic by trying some new rules (for example - eight second rule) rather than implement first and deal with the fallout after the fact. We learned a lot from the players and MSL fans who participated in a post Classic survey”.

Prelude: There are a number important issues needing assessment.  One can examine many factors when evaluating the overall shape of Major Series Lacrosse. Please comment on the following specific areas:

Your assessment on the stability/strength of current six franchises?  
“Despite the pandemic I think our teams are relatively stable and the draft is working based on the parity in the league. For a very long time there were only a couple of teams competing in the league that could make a Mann Cup run. Now all our teams have that capability”.

Any thoughts regarding MSL expansion in the future?  
“Our governors are pro expansion right now providing it is the right fit for our league. There has been interest from a number of centers, but the past 2 years have proved difficult to go forward. Personally, I would like to see our league mirror our partners in the Western Lacrosse Association at 7 stable teams”.

Progress on Current and/or Future League and Team sponsorships?  
“Again, the “MSL Classic” started to draw a lot of attention to what we were doing in MSL and we believe we can parlay that into a couple of major sponsorship announcements. We fully expect to make these announcements prior to our return to play in 2022. We have been fortunate to retain the great partners we had in the past. These include Legend Rings, Uncommon Fit, True Lacrosse, Signature Lacrosse, LaxBallz and Training Division”.

Fan Support – MSL strategy for increasing “at the arena” fan support?  
“That is a great question and without having a crystal ball is difficult to answer, but I believe in our product and we have the best box lacrosse players in the world. We will continue to market ourselves as such and have faith that people will not only return to the game but attract those new to our game”.

Commitment of players – they have options beyond playing MSL and how does this impact MSL rosters?  
“As stated above the best players want to compete and the willingness to compete against the best will always make MSL an attraction for those players. Many have told me (including players), a great career has less meaning unless you have a Mann Cup on your lacrosse résumé”.

MSL Officiating – Overall assessment.  Do you have sufficient referees?  Are you happy with their overall performance?  
“The Ontario Lacrosse Association although concerned with the loss of officials have assured us, they have enough. MSL has taken great strides to improve our relationship with the officials and their feed back has been completely positive about officiating in our league. We look forward to continuing that with the implementation of some “new” rules (for example - fast starts on the change of possession).

Player safety – the game has become so fast, the players so incredibly athletic and skilled - What can the MSL as a league do to try to ensure overall player safety?
“The first thing that comes to mind is the desire to go to a 3-man officiating system. Like other sports the athletes have become much more skilled, bigger, and faster, we need to keep up. The second thing is working with the officials to call the rules as written and as intended. This will require continued systematic communication that we implemented a couple of years ago”.

Media coverage – MSL strategy?  
“We learned a great deal during the MSL Classic and were thrilled with the results of offering free webcasting of all the games. MSL has developed a Digital Media Platform we must continue to follow to stay relevant going forward. Resources are making the roll out difficult, but I am confident once we announce the schedule we can get back on this front and center”.

MSL/WLA relations?  
“They have never been better in my humble opinion. The WLA Commissioner Paul Dal Monte and I speak on a regular basis and it is always great to talk to someone who shares the same passion and vision for our respective leagues. The sharing of ideas and plans make the role of Commissioner enjoyable when working with people like Paul and the WLA league”.

Without providing names, do you have certain “go to people” you consult with in dealing with MSL related concerns and plans?  
“Absolutely, I have been very fortunate to be surrounded with great lacrosse people I have met over the years. There is a certain skill involved in asking the people you work with for their opinions rather than telling them yours. These people include the veterans of the game, coaches, managers, officials, and administrators. Without naming them, they know who they are and I am always grateful to exchange thoughts on what is best for the game”.

Final Question: Although you have offered insightful comments in addressing the subjects raised – as MSL League Commissioner, can you summarize your overall feeling of what shape the MSL is in?  
“The one and only benefit of the downtime due to the pandemic - it gave us time to reflect upon where we have been, where we are and where we want to be. The product has never been better, the MSL governors are committed and now it is up to all of us to deliver the vision”.

 Just for fun, let’s wrap it up with this.  I’m going to throw topics at you and ask you to offer a response?

Will the MSL ever consider downsizing goalie equipment?  
“With the potential implementation of some new rules (for example - ball directed into the net), I don’t see it as necessary. I believe the changes will result in a faster game with more scoring anyway. As previously stated, the athletes are big and strong so why put the goalkeepers at risk. Case in point would be an injury to a NLL goalie a couple of weeks ago who was injured wearing a cage that would not be allowed in the MSL given our rules”.

Do you foresee the MSL/WLA leagues ever attaining regular national media coverage?  Yes, there are numerous lacrosse specific social media sites.  However, I am thinking seeing regular MSL/WLA coverage on national sports networks such as TSN and Sportsnet?  
“Yes, I think the potential is there now more than ever. The National Lacrosse League recent television announcements may end up being a yardstick for us going forward. I keep being told there is a market out there but if it is not being delivered to us.  All we can do is keep knocking on doors and one of these days we will get invited in”.

Are there any issues related to MSL or lacrosse in general that keep you awake at night?  
“None whatsoever, if you are dedicated to the growth and spend your waking hours trying to come up with new and innovative ideas there is no reason to have trouble sleeping”.

If you could wave a magic wand – what would you do to impact lacrosse and specifically - Major Series Lacrosse?  
“How about making it a prerequisite of citizenship - everyone MUST attend one of  Canada’s National summer sports events. How often do you hear people state after attending their first lacrosse game say “It won’t be my last”?”

Concluding Comment:We may have to do this as a podcast or a video  next time.  Are you good with that?  
“Anytime.  And thank you for the opportunity to address issues I know our fans, players and partners want feedback on”.

(Written by Rad Joseph - Member of Major Series Lacrosse Media team)