Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘National Lacrosse League 1998’ Category

2010 Orlando Titans

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Orlando TitansNational Lacrosse League (2010)

Born: August 11, 2009 – The New York Titans relocate to Orlando.
Folded: August 2010.

Arena: Amway Arena (13,680)

Team Colors: Navy & Orange

Owner: Gary Rosenbach

 

The Orlando Titans were brief visitors to the Central Florida pro sports scene, managing only a single season at Amway Arena in the winter of 2010.  The franchise was founded by hedge fund manager Gary Rosenbach as the New York Titans in 2006 and spent three seasons in New York and New Jersey before shifting to Orlando in August 2009.

The Titans were a successful club on the carpet.  The club made it to the National Lacrosse League championship game in 2009 during its final season in New York.  In Orlando, the Titans won the East Division with an 11-5 record and advanced to the Champions Cup semi-finals, where they lost to the Toronto Rock. Casey Powell was named the NLL’s 2010 Most Valuable Player and Matt Vinc earned 2010 Goaltender-of-the-Year honors.

Off the field, the franchise bled red ink in both New York and Orlando.  Rosenbach bought the expansion rights for $3M in 2006 at the peak of the National Lacrosse Leauge’s franchise valuation bubble.  Shortly before the Titans shifted from New York to Orlando in the summer of 2009, Rosenbach resigned from Galleon Group, the $7B hedge fund that he co-founded in 1997.  In October of that year, Galleon exploded in spectacular fashion when Rosenbach’s former partner and co-founder Raj Rajaratnam was arrested and charged with insider trading violations, along with several other Galleon traders. Rajaratnam was eventually sentenced to 11 years in prison in one of the rare Wall Street criminal prosecutions of the Great Recession era.  Rosenbach was never charged.

Shortly after the 2010 season ended, Rosenbach either withdrew or substantially reduced his support for the Titans, throwing the team’s future into question.  In August 2010, the NLL confirmed that the Titans would sit out the 2011 season in an attempt to re-organize financially.  Rosenbach formally put the team up for sale for $1.4M a week later, which was less than half what he paid for the expansion rights four years earlier. There were no takers and the Titans were effectively out of business at that point.

 

==Links==

National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs

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2000-2003 Albany Attack

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Albany AttackNational Lacrosse League (2000-2003)

Born: May 21, 1999 – NLL expansion franchise.
Moved: June 9, 2003 – Relocated to San Jose, CA.

Arena: Pepsi Arena

Team Colors: Navy, Grey, White & Aqua

Owners:

 

The Albany Attack were a pro box lacrosse team that competed in the National Lacrosse League in the early 2000’s.  The Attack debuted at Albany’s Pepsi Center on January 14, 2000 with a 21-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Crossefire in front of an announced crowd of 8,044.  Crowds declined steadily from there, however, and Albany consistently placed at or near the bottom of NLL attendance rankings during the Attack’s four season run.

The team was usually mediocre, finishing .500 or below in three out of four seasons.  But the exception was a big exception. In 2002, the Attack posted the best regular season record in the NLL at 14-2.  After besting in the Rochester Knighthawks in the semi-final match, the Attack hosted the 2002 NLL Championship Game on April 13, 2002. A raucous crowd of 9,289 (see video below) turned out at the Pepsi Center to see the Attack lose a 13-12 thriller to the Toronto Rock.  Goaltender Rob Blasdell was named the league Goalie of the Year for 2002, while Attack head coach Bob McMahon took home league coaching honors.

The excitement around the Attack’s 2002 breakthrough season failed to carry over to the team’s fourth campaign in 2003.  The Attack reverted to an 8-8 team that missed the playoffs.  Attendance remained bleak as Albany 2003 average of 3,689 per contest ranked 11th among the NLL’s 12 franchises.

In June 2003, club owner Herb Chorbajian sold the franchise to a group of California and Toronto investors who moved the team to San Jose, California where it became known as the San Jose Stealth.  After several subsequent ownership changes and relocations, the franchise remains active in 2015 as the Vancouver Stealth.

 

==Albany Attack Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

2001-02

2001-02 1/27/2002 @ Calgary Roughnecks  W 12-7 Program

 

 

==YouTube==

Highlights of the 2002 NLL Championship Game between the Attack and the Toronto Rock at the Pepsi Center. April 13, 2002.

 

==Downloads==

2001-02 Albany Attack Final Team Statistics

 

==Links==

National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs

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2000-2003 Columbus Landsharks

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2000-01 Columbus Landsharks Media GuideNational Lacrosse League (2000-2003)

Born: 2000 – NLL expansion franchise.
Moved:
August 28, 2003 (Arizona Sting)

Arena: Nationwide Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Columbus Landsharks were a toothless entry in the indoor National Lacrosse League, playing three seasons of box lacrosse at Nationwide Arena from 2000 to 2003.  The club was originally owned by John Livsey, the former Commissioner of the NLL.  But Livsey bailed quickly after the Landsharks tanked at the box office (6,559 attendance in 2000-01, compared to league average of 8,117) and on the carpet (3-11 record) in their inaugural season.  Livsey sold off the club to new owners in Montreal.  The original Landsharks franchise became the Montreal Express, who lasted just one further season in Quebec before folding in 2002.

Meanwhile, the owners of the NLL’s New York Saints franchise stepped in to form a new expansion club in Columbus that adopted the Landsharks name and history (such as it was).  The out-of-state owners stewarded the Landsharks through two more desultory seasons before giving up in August 2003, when the franchise moved to Phoenix and became the Arizona Sting.

The Landsharks’ three-year record was 16-30 and they never made the playoffs.

 

==Columbus Landsharks Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
2001-02 12/14/2001 @ Calgary Roughnecks L 20-13 Program

 

==Links==

National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs

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March 21, 1987 – Baltimore Thunder vs. Washington Wave

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Baltimore Thunder vs. Washington Wave
Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League Championship Game
March 21, 1987
The Capital Centre
Indoor Lacrosse Programs 1987-Present
12 pages

 

This was a great find from a collector in Maryland.  A championship game program from the debut season of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League back in 1987.

The Eagle league was the second attempt to start a professional box lacrosse circuit in the United States.  The National Lacrosse League (1974-1975) played during the summers in sweat box hockey arenas for two summers in the mid-1970’s before folding.  Eagle league founders Russ Cline and Chris Fritz were promoters by trade: hard rock concerts, monster truck shows and tractor pulls.  Big arena events with blue collar appeal.  Box lacrosse was no different.  As Sports Illustrated’s Franz Lidz put it in a feature on this 1987 championship game, Cline and Fritz marketed box lacrosse to “fans of ice hockey, pro wrestling and Rambo.”

All four of the league’s franchises advanced to the playoff series after the Eagle League’s modest six-game inaugural season.  According to Lidz, Cline & Fritz were so sure that either the regular season champion New Jersey Saints (4-2) or the Philadelphia Wings (3-3) would advance to the championship, that they booked the Philadelphia Spectrum to host the title game in mid-March.  When the league’s two weakest teams, the Baltimore Thunder (2-4) and Washington Wave (2-4) both advanced to the final by upset, the promoters pushed back the championship by a week and hurried to book the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland where they Wave played their home games.

An announced crowd of 7,019 turned out for the title match on Saturday, March 21, 1987.  The Capital Centre didn’t own its own lacrosse carpet, so the game was played on a second-hand indoor soccer carpet purchased from the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.  The carpet still bore the logo of the defunct Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League.  Baltimore prevailed 11-10 in a close match, packed with crowd pleasing hard hits.

The Eagle League still exists today, after a couple of name changes.  The league was known as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League from 1988 until 1997.  The league adopted its current brand name – the National Lacrosse League – in 1998.  In the early years, Cline & Fritz owned the league and all of its franchises.  In the 1990’s, the league moved to a franchise model.  Expansion fees rose as high as $3.0 million per franchise in 2006-2008, although the league’s speculative bubble in franchises fees has since deflated.

The Washington Wave lasted for three season, folding at the end of 1989.  The Thunder hung onto until 1999.

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2007-2008 Chicago Shamrox

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National Lacrosse League (2007-2008)

Born: February 2006 – NLL expansion franchise.
Folded: December 11, 2008.

Arena: Sears Centre

Team Colors:

Owners: Donald Sallee, Kevin Loughery, Sr. & Kevin Loughery, Jr.

 

This is the best thing I’ve done for Chicago since drafting Michael Jordan in 1984.” – former Chicago Bulls Head Coach Kevin Loughery Sr., on bringing a National Lacrosse League expansion franchise to Chicago.

The birth of a pro sports franchise calls for a heavy dose of hyperbole and NBA veteran Loughery went all in by invoking the J-word when announcing the launch of the Chicago Shamrox in February 2006.  Safe to say the feeling didn’t last long for the elder Loughery,  his son Kevin Loughery Jr., the team’s managing partner, or their primary financial backer Donald SalleeTheir investment lost an estimated $6 – $7 million dollars during the team’s disastrous two-season run in the National Lacrosse League.

Sallee and his partners paid a $3 million expansion fee for the Chicago franchise in February 2006, buying in at the peak of a speculative bubble in the 20-year old box (indoor) lacrosse league.  Although franchise fees had escalated from $500,000 to $3 million over the previous six years, the Shamrox entered a league that had yet to solve the problem that had sunk countless pro sports start-ups: how to break even as a tenant in someone else’s building.  Labor strife also loomed on the horizon, with the league’s collective bargaining agreement due to expire shortly after the Shamrox’ inaugural season in 2007.

The Shamrox set up shop at the brand new $62 million Sears Centre in suburban Hoffman Estates, Illinois.  The 11,000 seat building opened in October 2006 and was already troubled by the time the Shamrox debuted in January 2007.  Ryans Cos., the arena operator, was a Minnesota-based property developer that had no previous experience managing venues.  They signed up a menagerie of doomed sports franchises from cut rate leagues to fill dates.  In addition to the Shamrox, the logjam of tenants included the Chicago Hounds of the United Hockey League, the Chicago Storm of the Major Indoor Soccer League and the Chicago Slaughter of the Continental Indoor Football League.  The Hounds had to cancel their inaugural game when Ryan Cos. officials failed to prepare the ice surface or install safety glass in time for the game.  4,000 stupefied hockey fans were sent home after watching hapless arena employees blast the gloppy ice rink with garden hoses and fire extinguishers for two hours in a novel (and fruitless) approach to ice making.

The Shamrox debut on January 6th, 2007 went much, much better.  The Shamrox defeated another NLL expansion club, the New York Titans, 15-12 in the inaugural game for both clubs.  A Sears Centre record crowd of 8,456 turned out for the game, which was televised nationally on the NLL’s cable package with the Versus Network.

After a 2-0 start, the 2007 Shamrox finished the season 6-10 and did not qualify for the playoffs under Head Coach Jamie Batley.  Attendance was disappointing and the opening night numbers turned out to be a peak.  A screwy schedule offered no help the Shamrox ticket sales department.  After the thrilling opener, the team spent over a month on the road before returning for the team’s second home game.  At the conclusion of the season, the Shamrox’ final four home games – half of their entire 2007 home slate – were crammed into a 21-day stretch.  The Shamrox averaged 6,025 fans over eight home matches – far short of the NLL’s purported league average of nearly 11,000.

According to a lawsuit against the National Lacrosse League in April 2009 (later withdrawn), Shamrox ownership realized they had bought a lemon almost immediately.  The team’s 2007 inaugural season was characterized as “a financial disaster”.  As early as August 2007, according to court documents, the Shamrox owners were desperate to sell but allegedly encountered obstructions from the league office.

Meanwhile, the National Lacrosse League was mired in a chaotic offseason.  On October 16, 2007, the National Lacrosse League announced the cancellation of the 2008 season due to an impasse with the Professional Lacrosse Players Association over a new collective bargaining agreement.  Under the previous CBA, salaries average $14,500 across the league, with a $6,800/year rookie minimum and a $25,552 ceiling for up to two “franchise” players.  At the time, most NLL players held jobs during the week, practiced one night a week, and played in the league on weekends.  70% of all NLL players were Canadian, so the Shamrox actually held their Wednesday night training sessions in Ontario and then flew players to league cities for matches.

The 2008 season remained cancelled for nine days, but the sides continued to negotiate.  On October 25, 2007 they reached agreement and the season was back on.  But the nine-day shutdown cost the league two franchises. The expansion Boston Blazers delayed their start for a year until 2009.  The Arizona Sting also suspended operations for a year, which later became a permanent shutdown.

With ownership still desperate to unload the club, the Shamrox opened their second season in January 2008. It was largely a carbon copy of the first.  The team once again finished 6-10 and out of the playoffs with Jamie Batley as Head Coach.  2008 attendance dipped nearly 20% to an average of 4,964.

In the spring of 2008, the league introduced the Shamrox owners to investors from Sports Capital Partners (SCP), owners of the St. Louis Blues of the NHL and Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.  Shamrox investors put together a sale agreement with SCP that would have moved the club to St. Louis at a “fire sale” price, as characterized by Shamrox owner Donald Sallee in the 2009 lawsuit.  The league rejected the transfer application, killing the sale.

As the 2009 season approach, the nearly insolvent Shamrox owners were still stuck with the club.  On December 5th, 2008 Shamrox officials notified the league that a shutdown was imminent, barring some unforeseen miracle.  The league responded with a directive the Shamrox officials sell the franchise within 120 days, pursuant to the league’s constitution, or else lose all rights to their league membership.

The Shamrox formally shut down on December 11th, 2008, just fifteen days before the start of the 2009 NLL season.  The league hurried to conduct a dispersal draft and rework the league schedule.  The news came as a shock to NLL fans, who had little awareness of Chicago’s franchise turmoil.  The clock was now ticking on Shamrox ownership to recoup some portion of their massive financial loss through a sale before the April 7th, 2009 termination deadline.  Soon, it appeared they had a willing buyer.

Steve Donner and Curt Styers headed Orlando Sports Partners, LLC.  Donner was a long-time sports investor and former NLL owner.  Earlier in 2008 he sold his small market Rochester Knighthawks NLL franchise to Styres for an astonishing $5.6 million, a nearly 100% premium over the previous record price for the league.  Donner’s group offered $1.5 million for the Shamrox with a plan to relocate the team to Orlando.  At this point, Donald Sallee alleged in his lawsuit, the league interfered in the sale, telling Donner that the league would not approve the sale.  Allegedly, the league then offered Donner an Orlando expansion franchise for the price of $5 million.

With the St. Louis and Orlando deals torpedoed, the April termination deadline arrived with no resolution.  Sallee filed suit against the league on April 7th, 2009, as referenced above, on grounds of anti-trust violations, tortious interference, breach of contract and fraud.  Although the suit was voluntarily withdrawn two weeks later, it’s worth noting that the suspended Arizona Sting franchise also sued the NLL just ten days earlier for interfering in their own attempted $1.5 million sale to Donner’s Orlando group.  After Sallee withdrew the suit, the franchise was formally terminated in the spring of 2009.

After the Shamrox folded in December 2008, ownership declined to issue refunds to the small (very small) number fans who purchased 2009 season tickets by cash or check.  This led to an extremely unflattering column by The Chicago Tribune’s consumer affairs reporter Jon Yates in June 2009 which laid bare some of the financial numbers to the public for the first time.

“It was a complete mess from the beginning,” former Shamrox President Phil Ryan told Yates. “The Shamrox just bled money.”

Ryan noted that the team only had 250 season ticket holders heading into the 2009 season and pegged the Shamrox’ two-year losses at $6 million to $7 million.  As of December 2009, a full year after the shutdown, fans were still waiting for their refunds.

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The Shamrox may have died, but they were outlived by their dance team, the Hot Rox, who continued to perform for several years at Chicago Fire soccer and Chicago White Sox baseball games, in addition to overseas tours to support American troops.

==YouTube==

The Shamrox’ home debut at the Sears Centre against the New York Titans on January 6, 2007.

 

==Downloads==

Chicago Indoor Lacrosse Team, LLC vs. National Lacrosse League, Inc. court filing. April 2009.

2008 National Lacrosse League Media Guide (.pdf)

Chicago Shamrox sources

 

==Links==

National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs

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Written by AC

January 28th, 2012 at 10:13 pm

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