Monday, June 24, 2024

Sports This Week: Ottawa retuning to NLL

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Another ace of sorts for the Black Bears is having the Toronto Rock just down the road.

YORKTON – If you are a fan of the National Lacrosse League – with the Saskatchewan Rush here – a sports fan should be, you are no doubt aware a new team is being added on this side of the 49th parallel.

OK, so technically not a new team since it is relocating from New York, but the Ottawa Black Bears will be new to Canada for the start of the 2024-25 season.

The NLL has been in Ottawa previously, the Ottawa Rebel being part of the league from 2001-2003. But Chelsea Dermot VP, Business Operations with the Black Bears said this team will have a brighter future in the city.

“Ottawa is a great sports market,” she told Yorkton This Week, adding “. . . I think we’re just in a different world” than when the Rebel played.

In terms of a sports market McDermott pointed out the city has CEBL, CFL and of course an NHL team already.

So, is it a good thing to have what might be a somewhat crowded market in which to carve out a fan base for the NLL?

McDermott said Ottawa is ready to embrace the Black Bears.

“This market has shown it’s excited for the return of lacrosse,” she said.

The New York Riptide ownership group GF Sports and Entertainment will maintain that ownership and operation of the franchise and will play home games at Canadian Tire Centre. 

“There’s a lot of horsepower behind the team to see it succeed,” said McDermott.

It will help too that the team has Jeff Teat.

“He’s a generational talent,” offered McDermott, who added she tells those unfamiliar with lacrosse that Teat is the Connor McDavid or Connor Bedard of the game.

In general McDermott said the players are “very excited,” about the move and are keen to be part of the effort to promote the arrival of the Black Bears.

“We have players wanting to relocate to Ottawa,” she said, adding that is great in terms of having them involved within the community moving forward. “. . . That’s a huge benefit to us as we do a lot of outreach.”

That outreach is not just about putting fans in the stands for Black Bear games, but just as importantly growing the sport of lacrosse, said McDermott.

With that in mind the team will be hosting clinics and camps in the community to hep develop lacrosse.

In addition, the Black Bears are meeting with minor lacrosse officials “to discuss how we grow this game,” said McDermott.

Another ace of sorts for the Black Bears is having the Toronto Rock just down the road.

Ottawa versus Toronto “is naturally the battle of Ontario,” offered McDermott noting the CFL where the Redblacks and Argonauts are rivals.

“The battle of Ontario will be continued with lacrosse.”

Now, until the new season starts, it will be about building the Black Bear brand. That effort will focus a lot of attention on engaging fans, said McDermott.

“It’s not just about selling the team,” she said.

So, for example the Black Bears asked fans what the team slogan should be for season one – the one chosen being ‘Bear Witness’.

“It’s about engaging with the community,” said McDermott.

Of course in the end they need to sell tickets too, and so far McDermott called the interest “an overwhelmingly positive response.”

Certainly the Black Bears appear to be offering a rather good value for a pro sport ticket at $229 for a season seat.

From the outset McDermott said the team realized, “ we have to make sure this is affordable for a family.”


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