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.
Obscure game program here from the defunct Washington Stealth (2010-2013) of the indoor National Lacrosse League. The Stealth were kind of a weird fit in the NLL, playing in the decidedly minor league city of Everett, Washington while most of their opponents played in big city NBA and NHL arenas.
But the Stealth were really good in 2010, the franchise’s first season in the Pacific Northwest after a failed run in San Jose. Coming into this February 5th match against the visiting Minnesota Swarm, they were undefeated at 5-0 and in control of the NLL’s West Division. That’s former Johns Hopkins star Paul Rabil on the cover of the match program. Rabil is one of the greatest players in the sport of lacrosse today, a two-time MVP of the summertime outdoor Major League Lacrosse and a perennial winter All-Star selection in box lacrosse for the NLL. On this night though, Rabil was notable mainly for getting a game misconduct penalty in the third period.
The Stealth held off the last place Swarm 12-9 and improved to 6-0. The rest of the regular season was a rougher ride. Washington went just 6-5 the rest of the way, but still won the West Division. They hit the on switch again for the playoffs and went undefeated in the postseason, defeating the Toronto Rock for the 2010 NLL Champions Cup on May 15, 2010
Everett, Washington’s Comcast Arena was the third stop for this wandering box lacrosse franchise, which began play in upstate New York as the Albany Attack back in 2000. After four seasons in Albany, the franchise moved across the country to the Bay Area and became the San Jose Stealth in 2004. Current owners Bill & Denise Watkins purchased the club in 2007 while it was languishing with the worst attendance in the league at San Jose’s HP Pavilion.
The Watkins’ moved the franchise to Everett following the 2009 season. Everett was by far the smallest market in the National Lacrosse League, which takes pains to avoid being tagged as a “minor league”. Accordingly, the franchise took on the regional “Washington Stealth” identity and hoped to draw fans from throughout the Puget Sound region.
The Stealth were an outstanding team on the carpet. During their four seasons in Everett, the Stealth appeared in the NLL Championship Game three times, winning in 2010 and losing in 2011 and 2013. The exception was a demoralizing 2012 season, which saw Head Coach Chris Hall miss part of the season after a throat cancer diagnosis. The Stealth went into a nose dive and finished dead last with a 4-12 record.
With Hall back for a full season at the helm in 2013, the Stealth returned to the NLL final against the Rochester Knighthawks. Although the Stealth earned the right to host the title game, Comcast Arena in Everett was unavailable due to a schedule conflict. They were forced to move the game 90 miles north to the Langley Events Centre in Langley, British Columbia. There, the Stealth lost to Rochester 11-10 in a closely contested game before 5,200 fans (see complete game video below).
Despite the on-field success, the Stealth were a loser at the box office in Everett, which turned out to have all of the limitations of a minor league market despite the NLL’s assertions to the contrary. Six weeks after the 2013 title game, the Stealth announced a permanent relocation to the Langley Events Centre. The franchise will be known as the Vancouver Stealth beginning with the 2014 season.
The New Jersey Storm were a short-lived indoor lacrosse franchise owned by recently retired New Jersey Nets All-Star Jayson Williams. Williams, who reportedly earned $87 million during his 9-year NBA career, paid a $500,000 expansion fee for the National Lacrosse League team and named the club after his alma mater, the St. John’s University Red Storm.
Less than three months after the Storm’s November 2001 debut, Williams accidentally shot and killed his chauffeur at his New Jersey mansion on Valentine’s Day 2002. He would spend much of the next decade in judicial proceedings before finally entering prison eight years after the incident in February 2010 after pleading guilty to aggravated assaults. Despite his legal troubles, Williams would remain the owner of record for the Storm until the franchise’s eventual demise in California in 2005.
The Storm struggled on the field and at the turnstiles during their two seasons in New Jersey. The team finished 5-11 in 2001-02 and 3-13 in 2002-03, missing the playoffs both seasons.
In September 2003, the franchise relocated to Anaheim, California. The club played two years as the Anaheim Storm before folding in June 2005.
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 (1978-1986) of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Baltimore prevailed 11-10 in a close match, packed with crowd pleasing hard hits.
The Washington Wave lasted for three season, folding at the end of 1989. The Thunder hung onto until 1999. One franchise from that original 1987 season, the Philadelphia Wings, still plays to this day and is still owned by Russ Cline & Chris Fritz.