That Does It! Ottawa Needs an NLL Team...
Ottawa, Ontario. For you Americans reading this, Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. Ottawa is home to countless things. This includes places such as Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, and Major’s Hill Park. The city also hosts two professional sports teams in the Ottawa Senators (NHL) and Ottawa Redblacks (CFL). While lots of neat things to do, there is one starved community that doesn’t have what it deserves. Yes, the Ottawa lacrosse community deserves an NLL team.
If you didn’t know, Canada has two national sports. The first one is obvious. Hockey is the national winter sport; however, lacrosse is Canada’s national summer sport. Now answer me this Canadians. How can Canada’s capital city not host a professional team for their declared national summer sport? This is blasphemy! Imagine if Washington D.C. didn’t host an NFL or MLB team. That would be inconceivable.
Patriotism aside, Ottawa would be a great market for the NLL. The city is the 6th largest in Canada with a population of 934,240 (2016 Census Data). Clearly, Ottawa has the population size for a team if Halifax (population of 403,390) does.
Nationally, Canadian teams are extremely popular. The NLL ranking in 2019 average attendance for Canadian teams follows: (1) Saskatchewan Rush with 14,639; (4) Calgary Roughnecks with 11,847; (5) Toronto Rock with 9,700; (9) Vancouver Warriors with 3,507. The number to the team name represents a team’s attendance ranking throughout the entire league. Please note, the source I used did not have average attendance for San Diego (Click here for the website). If you take the average of NLL Canadian attendance, a team in Ottawa would, on average, host 9,923 fans per game. That would put them at fifth in attendance in the NLL and third amongst Canadian franchises. Also note that Canada only has two eastern teams in the Toronto Rock and (yet to play) Halifax Thunderbirds. With the addition of a new team out east, it means the league is looking into eastern Canada for expansion markets. Having a team in Ottawa could potentially lead to growth in Quebec (hello Montreal), which could build up another potential expansion market.
I mentioned this in my Vegas article (can find here), but the NLL looks for markets with an NHL team. This makes it easier to field a team since box lacrosse facilities are already present. Good news! Ottawa hosts the Ottawa Senators, so the facilities are there. One of the drivers for box lacrosse was it allowed hockey arenas to keep winter visitors coming all year. This is why the game is played in a hockey rink and has lots of similarities to hockey. It was meant to keep hockey fans in the arena after hockey ended. Well here’s an easy way for Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to keep fans coming back after Ottawa gets eliminated from making the NHL playoffs (it’s an annual occurrence). The Senators are worth 435 million dollars (link). According to former NLL commissioner George Daniel, an expansion team costs 3 million dollars (link). With the amount of revenue Ottawa brings in, an NLL team would be a wise investment to keep fans coming back to Canadian Tire Centre since hockey won’t be played there in April (let alone May/June).
My final reason for an NLL team in Ottawa is the city’s strong lacrosse community. While researching, I noticed the city hosts at least three youth lacrosse leagues/associations! That’s quite a bit, especially when you take into account all the levels of play listed on league websites! These leagues included Gloucester Minor Lacrosse Association, Nepean Knights Minor Lax, and Ottawa Nemesis Field Lax. There is a strong box lacrosse community within the city that will always be there to support a pro team. With a strong, local lacrosse community, a team is guaranteed a decent built-in fanbase. Besides youth, there are a couple ALL (Arena Lacrosse League) teams nearby the city. For example, the Oshawa Outlaws, Whitby Steelhawks, and Paris Riverwolves are a couple hours from Ottawa. Teams such as these are a built-in feeder system for an NLL team.
With lacrosse being so popular in Canada, it makes sense to field a team in the nation’s capital. The city is known for its support towards their hometown teams. If a new team in Ottawa performs well the first couple of years, I believe they could become a staple of the city’s tradition. The Battle for Ontario between Ottawa and Toronto has potential to be an epic rivalry the NLL could play up. With such a passionate lacrosse presence, Ottawa deserves an NLL team. The NLL needs to make it happen.