Klonsinski: NLL Lacrosse doesn’t disappoint
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, February 26, 2016
When a friend and I decided to go to Denver over Christmas break this year, I never thought the best experience we’d have would come from a bunch of guys running around inside a hockey rink.
Running, not skating.
A bit of background: every year, a friend from back home and I have gone on a hockey trip of sorts. The first year, we went to Denver and watched four Colorado Avalanche games. The next, we met in Scottsdale, Arizona, to go watch some Phoenix Coyote games, as well as take in the wonders that are Spring Training games. All of these I could devote an entire Sports Authority to.
This year, though, we went back to Colorado for a week over Christmas break. We decided to splurge on Avalanche tickets once again, but during the off-nights we searched for other, less-expensive alternatives. New Year’s night, we found out there was a Colorado Mammoth game at Pepsi Center, so we said, “What the heck?” and dropped a whopping $30 on seats in Row 5 at a National Lacrosse League (NLL) game between the Mammoth and the Georgia Swarm.
It ended up being one of the greatest decisions we made all trip.
The entire event was incredibly put together; it was the opening night of the season, so from the cheerleader and mascot introductions through player intros the pyrotechnic, smoke and light displays had the place rocking, but I didn’t know what to expect from the game itself.
It didn’t disappoint.
As someone who hates watching score after score in sports like basketball, the game itself provided a great balance. As someone who’s grown up watching hockey, I appreciate a sport where scoring is still something to celebrate, so watching the Mammoth slowly pull out to a 4-2 lead after one quarter wasn’t too much for me, especially considering how the game flows in box lacrosse.
See, as opposed to the version of the game played outdoors, box lacrosse has a shot clock set at 30 seconds. It’s got a very similar feel to an NBA game, as the teams have to trade shots back and forth, but as opposed to the NBA, I got to appreciate just how much defense matters in box lacrosse.
See, every time the ball changes possession, both teams make wholesale changes: the team bringing the ball up field swaps a defensive unit for an offensive one, and the other team swaps an offensive group for an offensive one. As such, there’s always a group of players focused solely on stopping the other’s offensive group. The reward for a hard-fought stop and controlling a loose ball or rebound? A pat on the back and a seat on the bench. Defenders rarely contribute offensively beyond fast-break opportunities: between the Mammoth and Swarm combined, defenders scored just two of the teams’ combined 31 goals.
In an American sports culture that can’t stand seeing a game that produces five or fewer scoring events (see: hockey, soccer and a pitchers’ dual in baseball), the game represented a beautiful balance between uninterrupted flow and scoring.
The game atmosphere itself resembles an NBA game — there’s a live DJ, plenty of chants, interactive activities and other gimmicks to satisfy someone who has no interest in the game whatsoever and simply wants something to do on a weekend night.
Not that the product on the field demands distractions, of course: the fast-paced, high-intensity battles taking place every possession were enough to sway me.
I never expected to be blown away by an NLL game, but before halftime my friend and I were already looking at how much season tickets for a team would be. That’s when we discovered something even more incredible: season tickets for a 10-game home schedule in the fifth row are just $200, or $20 per game. Considering you’ll pay at least that much for a fifth-row ticket for a single NHL, NBA or NFL game, it’s a steal.
Box lacrosse might not get the attention of a bigger sports league, nor does it fit the profile of a sport on the rise in this country like soccer.
Still, anytime I’m taking a trip somewhere and have a free night, the NLL will be on my radar.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.