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Professional lacrosse makes it big in Toronto

The Story

Pro box lacrosse is taking Toronto by storm thanks to the success of the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League. By routinely selling out Maple Leaf Gardens, the Rock has become the crown jewel of the league. However, while crowds of over 10,000 pack the Gardens, teams south of the border are struggling. "The league is really on thin ice a lot of the time," admits Toronto coach Les Bartley in this CBC Television clip. But there's no denying the remarkable success of professional lacrosse in the crowded Toronto sports market. Even more amazing is the fact few of the players in the league make their living from lacrosse. Players are paid between $400 and $1200 a game and the majority of them have full-time jobs or go to school on the side. None of the players are getting rich. None of them are superstars. They're just regular guys.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Evening News
Broadcast Date: Feb. 18, 2000
Guest(s): Les Bartley
Reporter: Debbie Lightle Quan
Duration: 6:59

Did You know?

. The forerunner to the National Lacrosse League was the four-team Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League formed in 1986. Three years later it expanded to six teams and was renamed the Major Indoor Lacrosse League. In 1998 the MILL merged with the upstart National Lacrosse League, taking the latter's name and adding two teams: the Syracuse Smash and the Ontario Raiders based out of Hamilton, Ont.

. In 1998 the Raiders moved to Toronto, were renamed the Rock and began playing at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Rock won its first NLL championship — known as the Champion's Cup — in the 1998/1999 season, defeating the Rochester Knighthawks in the final. The Rock went on to win three league championships (1999/2000, 2001/2002 and 2002/2003). A loss to the Philadelphia Wings in the 2000/2001 final prevented Toronto from winning five straight League titles.

. Maple Leaf Gardens was the Rock's home for its first two years before moving to the Air Canada Centre at the start of the 2000/2001 season. On March 31, 2001 the Rock sold out the ACC as they defeated the Columbus Landsharks 11-8. The crowd of 19,059 fans set a new League single-game attendance record.

. At the time of this 2000 news report, the Toronto Rock were the only Canadian club in the eight-team National Lacrosse League. In 2001 a second Canadian team was added when the Syracuse Smash moved to Ottawa and were renamed the Rebel. The team folded in July, 2003. In 2002, league expansion saw the Calgary Roughnecks, Vancouver Ravens and Montreal Express join the NLL. Montreal suspended operations for one season at the end of the 2003 campaign due to low attendance.


Lacrosse: A History of Canada's Game more