Saturday, January 10, 2009

New season, new look, new commissioner

January 10, 2009

First, the big news of the day. Many were surprised to hear that Commissioner Jim Jennings resigned today. His reasoning: "I feel that I have accomplished all the goals I set out to do at the NLL. I want to spend some time with my family before pursuing other opportunities and taking on the next challenge."

Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer George Daniel will take over effective immediately. He was president of the New York Titans in 2007.

Jennings has been at the helm since 2000. While the league has grown and expanded, and franchise values have gone from $250,000 to $5.6 million, there have been some serious questions about Jennings leadership. While the NLL All-Star and Championship games are televised on network TV, it could be much better.

There is a strong online following for the NLL, but let's face it, the league is marketing-challenged. Probably the biggest faux pas was the league playing "chicken" with the Players' Association last year, when the league announced it was canceled -- then changed its mind a week later. All the goodwill that was collected up until then had been erased. The diehard lacrosse fans still showed up, the people on the fence, the ones the league needs to get to one game to get them hooked -- they assumed the league was dead. Even some media did. That's on Jennings' watch. It's like as good things happen on one side, the league shoots itself in the foot on the other to balance things out.

But we have a new season underway and a new commissioner. The Calgary Roughnecks also have a new look -- in the front office and the office itself. The team moved to new swankier quarters, with a workout facility and room for the new staff to move around.

I'm writing this in the first quarter of the Roughnecks home opener versus the Edmonton Rush and am staring down at an awful lot of empty seats. What happened to the 11,000 to 12,000 that have attended these games for the past number of seasons? Let's hope this isn't a trend.

This is a fantastic league to follow. It has a good online presence, which is where most fans learn about the game. It has so much potential. Let's hope the new commissioner will provide some stability and sustain its growth.


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