Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Garden Gets a New Game

NY Time Article on National League Lacrosse
Featuring Gameplan Creative Founder Tom O'Grady

Published: July 12, 2006
The Attack Apples, anyone? The Slashing Skyscrapers? The Edgy Egg Creams?

For the first time in a decade, New York City is getting a new major league professional sports team, officials said yesterday, an as-yet-unnamed men’s indoor lacrosse franchise that is to join the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty in playing at Madison Square Garden.

In making the announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg showed off his command of the sports esoterica, playfully acknowledging that the game’s appeal may still be a bit lost on the urban hordes who packed bars to watch the World Cup.

“I know you all agree with me that there’s nothing quite like a middie clamping down on a rock on a face-off, scooping it up and cradling it with his wand and then dishing it off to a crease attackman who stuffs it into the back of the cage,” said the mayor, who played intramural lacrosse while at Johns Hopkins.

Later, explaining that the sport is popular at city high schools, he said, “It’s a great chance to take a stick and hit somebody.”

So, starting in January, the city will join metropolises like Rochester, Buffalo and Calgary as a home to one of the fastest-growing sports in North America. According to National Lacrosse League officials, average attendance this year was just under 11,000 fans per game, with several games drawing more than 16,000. Officials said that the league approached the city’s Sports Commission to gain access to an enormous fan base in the metropolitan region.

The team, whose principal owner is Gary Rosenbach, co-founder of the Galleon Group, a manager of hedge funds, will join 12 others in the league, which just completed its 20th season.

The team has hired a coach, and the players are to be selected starting today in an expansion draft with Chicago, which also landed a new team for the 2007 season. The two teams will be allowed to pick up to 11 members each from existing teams.

The New York team is set to play four of its eight home games at Madison Square Garden, and officials are in discussions to hold the balance at the Nassau Coliseum, where the New York Saints, a defunct Long Island-based lacrosse team, once played.

Officials estimated that tickets would cost $20 to $25 on average, and predicted that the owners would work out a deal to broadcast games locally. The league has already negotiated a deal with OLN, the cable network that will be known as Versus in September, to televise 16 games nationally on Saturday nights next year.

Chicago has already selected its name, the Shamrox, but the New York team will let fans have a say with a contest, as was the case with the Brooklyn Cyclones, the minor league baseball team. People can submit their suggestions on the team Web site,, over the next two weeks.

Tom O’Grady, the founder of Gameplan Creative, a sports branding agency based in Chicago, said that New York was lucky in having so many icons to choose from in devising a name. At the same time, he cautioned that, being New Yorkers, fans would not take to something too cute or cuddly.

“It’s a fun and youthful sport, and so it should have a name that’s fun and youthful,” Mr. O’Grady said, explaining that the sport is especially popular among college students.

Or course, Mr. Bloomberg already knows what he would call the team: “The Mighty Mikes,” he said, “seems to have a nice ring, don’t you think?”

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