For the first time in its 34-year history, the National Lacrosse League (NLL) will not be crowning a champion.
The NLL announced that it is cancelling its 2019-20 playoffs and shifting its attention to preparing for the 2020-21 season.
The league initially suspended play on March 12 in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic before cancelling all remaining regular-season games on April 6.
Lacrosse fans had been holding out hope for some kind of playoff but according to the league, there were simply too many obstacles to overcome.
“After an exhaustive effort weighing all of the factors, including the health and safety of our players and staff, immigration challenges, and the resources required to execute a post-season tournament under the current circumstances, our senior leadership and Board have agreed to redirect our attention to planning for next season,” NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said in a news release.
“Communities are starting to open up, sports are beginning to return, and we look forward to our 35th season. We wish everyone continued health and safety as we navigate our way back to the game.”
The Saskatchewan Rush were leading the West Division with a 7-3 record when play was suspended. After a slow start to the season, the team felt it was rounding into championship form but now they won’t get a chance to compete for their fourth NLL title in six years.
“It’s disappointing, that’s for sure. We obviously would love to have had a playoff and another chance to win a championship, but I think at the end of the day it’s the right call,” Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan said.
The team’s captain expressed similar feelings.
“Really and truly, like we’ve got a solid team and it’s a year that a lot of guys in their prime had taken away from them so it is a tough pill to swallow on that end,” Chris Corbeil said.
But the veteran defender believes cancelling the playoffs was the right move for a league that depends on ticket sales for a large percentage of its revenue.
“We’re not the NHL, we’re not the NBA, we’re not the NFL where we can play in front of empty stadiums and rely on that big TV revenue. We need people feeling safe and feeling confident coming to an arena,” he said.
The NLL has not determined when the 2020-21 season might begin but it’s widely believed that January is being targeted for a return to play. The league said dates for the start of the season and the 2020 NLL draft will be announced in the fall.
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