The Georgia Swarm’s recent victory in the Champion’s Cup was fortuitous for the National Lacrosse League for two reasons: one, it showed that young franchises can prosper, and two, it showcased the Thompson brothers, the best players in the game.
As the NLL actively searches for expansion partners, showcasing two of their youngest franchises was the best scenario they could have hoped for. Granted, both the Rush and Swarm have been around for awhile in other cities, but they are the league’s most recent transplants – new in their communities, tasked with building reputations and fanbases all over again.
The Swarm’s attendance is not great. They hosted 7,642 patrons for game one, their highest-attended game ever. Crowds in Georgia are routinely around the 4,000 mark (though the arena holds 13,000), although crowds in the teams’ former home of Minnesota averaged around 9,000, so there’s room for the Swarm to grow in their new environment.
But, some positives that came out of their cup run were the relationships that they built with other Atlanta-based teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Gladiators, Falcons and Braves, as well as the Atlanta Motor Speedway, not to mention a lot of local media stations. The Swarm benefitted from the promotion from these other teams.
They even got Ludacris to perform at halftime. The performer added some extra legitimacy to the event for some skeptics who might otherwise have never given lacrosse a chance.
We’re not going to talk about Backpack Kid, though. I just don’t get some social media trends and stars.
Having the final game in Saskatchewan was a great showcase. Fourteen thousand crazy Rush fans is no better advertisement for lacrosse. Potential owners will salivate over the excitement they saw and the potential revenues lacrosse could bring them if they’re lucky enough to copy the Rush’s business model.
With the NLL actively courting cities with other pro sports teams, new franchises will have a leg up with sports-minded people in place. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hire some lacrosse people to complement their staffs. All the pieces need to be in place to make expansion successful, and the recent Champion’s Cup showed what it will look like when that happens.
The other benefit for the NLL was the all-Thompson brothers final.
The four siblings from Onondaga Nation have been making headlines for years with their exciting and skilled play but for the first time, it was truly showcased in the NLL. Lacrosse is in their blood; it is their history, present and future.
There are no tricks with the Thompsons. They don’t create drama. They don’t exaggerate injuries. They don’t chirp the opposition or their fans. They play the game hard and honestly, the way it was meant to be played. And what a great display it was for the NLL.
While Lyle and Miles were dominant offensively, Jeremy Thompson dominated in the face-off circle for the Rush, winning 19 of 28 draws in game two.
It’s unfortunate that Hiana was a scratch for the series, but of the four, he’s seen the least amount of time and success in the NLL thus far; his day has yet to come.
It was magical watching the other three play against each other, especially in those last few moments. Jeremy made a save on Lyle before Joel White tied the game. Then Lyle passed to Miles for the game winner. They left their mark all over that game, as they have been trying to do as well with their business, Thompson Brothers Lacrosse.
The four brothers and cousin Bill O’Brien travel around the USA teaching clinics and instilling a love and appreciation for lacrosse in their students. They’re positive role models for not only their own communities, but f0r every child they encounter.
It was kismet that the two teams with Thompson brothers met in the final. It was the best scenario the league could have hoped for, short of having all four of them on the same team. Now three of them are champions. All four played for young teams that made it to the final. The NLL promoted the heck out of its championship, trying to draw in new viewers. That shows the league is going in the right direction: investing in its players and teams. That’s surely going to be attractive to potential new franchisees.