There are plenty of reasons to patronize your local National Lacrosse League team. The games are fast paced, hard hitting, full of amazing athleticism and incredible playmaking. But the teams need to take a break to catch their breath now and then.
That's when the dance teams bust out to add some additional flavor to the show.
While doing my initial poking around the interwebs researching this piece, it was Edmonton Crush coach Joelle Rebke who pointed out that, with the exception of the Toronto Rock Cheerleaders, the teams in the NLL are "dance teams," not "cheerleaders." As she explained to me by e-mail,
"It's a common mistake we get called a cheer team all the time, people get confused when they see the pom routines. But we only use poms about one in every three routines, and we don't do 'cheers' or stunts like cheer teams do—only dance and perform to music."
Make no mistake, these women have some serious talent and some serious moves. They have style, grace, sexiness and energy that brings the event to a whole new level.
In fact, the real challenge during my hours of research was figuring out a way to rank the teams, since the pictures and video out there for each team are so good. There really isn't a bad group among them.
So I came up with a highly unscientific formula that looks at more than just the excellent results you see on the floor. I've factored in things like the team's website and use of social media, whether the information they have available is current and their involvement in the community.
The four teams that answered my follow-up questions through Twitter or e-mail also received bonus marks for being so helpful with my research. I really appreciated the assistance!
Feel free to argue with my rankings if you're so inclined, but, to be honest, I'd rate them all anywhere from excellent to slightly more excellent.
So have a look through and bask in the glory that is NLL dance teams in action.
The Wild Bunch work with the Colorado Mammoth. I like the name, even if it can only be classed as peripherally connected to Mammoth.
The Wild Bunch web page features pictures and good bios of all the girls on the team, although, like many of the web pages of NLL dance teams, doesn't provide much information about the team itself.
There are a handful of pictures of the team in action mixed into the Mammoth photo galleries, but you have to go looking for them.
The Wild Bunch do have a YouTube page, which has been kept fairly current, so that gives fans a chance to check out their routines, which is good news.
The Swarm Performance Team are Minnesota's dance team. To me at least, that name suggests they should be coming out in muscle cars or doing lots of acrobatics or wire work or something. But no, not so much. Oh well...
The SPT web page is quite comprehensive, providing in depth bios and pics of the team members, team news and updates (although the "Performances" tab is a little out of date) and information on the annual Junior SPT program.
Like a few other teams in the NLL, the Performance Teams run an annual junior event where kids can learn some dance moves and then perform with the team at a game.
They also have a Twitter account, but their last tweet was in November, so it isn't being kept up to date.
If you go looking for them, you can find a few decent videos for the SPT on Youtube, but they don't have their own page, nor do they have a Facebook page.
Yep, that's the team's name. "Cheerleaders." Unfortunately, that's kinda lame. Someone wasn't feeling very creative while brainstorming on naming day, I guess. I have to deduct a couple points for lack of originality on that point because, let's face it, the one thing a cheer squad should not be is boring.
Toronto's cheerleaders are the only true cheerleading group in the NLL, focusing as much on cheers and the traditional pom-pom work as opposed to what the other teams do, which has far more emphasis on dance routines.
Their web page is right up to date, with current pictures and lots of content in the bios of the entire team, along with photos of their two most recent home games. Not much info on the team itself, however, so I can't really comment on what the team may or may not do away from the Air Canada Centre.
The Toronto Rock's YouTube page features a smattering of video on the Cheerleaders, but they don't have their own page and the content in there is pretty sparce.
They do, however, have an up-to-date Twitter feed, so you can keep tabs on the team that way.
I think Knightingales is a nice, feminine play on the Knighthawks team name.
The vast majority of the information I've got about the Knightingales came straight from the source.
Amy, the team's director, informed me that the girls are one of the most educated of all the teams in the NLL. The team is comprised of teachers, bankers, college students and other professionals, all either with a degree or working towards one.
The tight-knit group invests a lot of time into charity work and public appearances, with contributions to events as diverse as the March of Dimes campaign to children's birthday parties.
They also organize and run the Junior Knightingales camp for kids every year, teaching youngsters some dance moves that they get to perform at a game.
Their web page is an ad for their auditions last September, so it is overdue for some updating. Their Facebook page is basically blank, and you have to go looking on YouTube to find any video of them.
They did open a Twitter account @Knightingales in just the past week, so maybe they've decided to dip their toes a little deeper into the social media pool.
A shame that there's so little media presence for them because everything I learned from Amy about the team suggests that they're pretty excellent. They deserve a better social media presence.
The Drill Crew do an outstanding job at Roughnecks home games, so much so that they were voted the No. 1 dance team in North America by Minor League Sports in 2010. Choreographer Dana Murphy was named NLL Girl of the Year in 2011. Talent abounds on this squad.
As with many of the other teams, the Drill Crew are active in the community, doing work with charities, making public appearances and so forth.
Their web page, located in the Fan Zone tab of the Roughnecks' web site, hasn't been updated for 2012, which is a little disappointing. They do, however, provide constant updates on their Twitter feed.
Their YouTube page has only one video on it, which is a year old. Videos elsewhere are fairly few and far between, unfortunately.
One other interesting tidbit: In a joint venture with the Edmonton Crush, the Drill Crew will be hosting the Crush at the Roughnecks/Rush game in Calgary on Saturday, Feb 18. The Drill Crew will then be venturing north to Edmonton for the game on April 21.
The Bombshells are the dance team associated with the Stealth. I suppose you might say the Stealth sneak up on you and the Bombshells blow up just when you least expect it. Or something like that...
The Bombshells web page is one of the best in the NLL, with tons of content.You've got photo galleries, a video gallery, a page of pics and member bios (including a brief video intro for many of the dancers and a personalized slideshow of them in action!). Seriously, this is how this sort of web site should look. Outstanding job!
The video gallery is the only thing on the site that is a little light on content, but given the way the rest of the site has been maintained, it is probably safe to say this will have new content added soon.
They also have a Facebook page which is fairly well maintained and includes links to some pictures as well as videos on their YouTube page.
The Bombshells are active in their community, volunteering for local charities and helping with fundraising events around Everett and the surrounding community.
Not sure if Bandette is a real word, but I kind of dig it.
The Bandettes' web page provides a pic and a bio with good detail for all the dancers, but nothing about the team in particular. If you go looking around the rest of the Buffalo Bandits' site, however, you'll find some Bandettes pictures under the multimedia tab. Not ideal, since you have to search for them, but it is there.
Captains Kirsten and Lauren B. do a nice job of bringing lots of different dance influences to the performances so they're always fresh and entertaining. With a team of 18 girls, this is probably a lot of work.
They also have a presence on Twitter as well as on the Buffalo Pro Cheer website which keeps tabs on all the cheer and dance squads in the Buffalo area.
Buffalo Pro Cheer also maintains a YouTube page, which stays very current, so you can check out videos like the one above.
The Bandettes also have a Facebook page, but it has not been used much and appears to have been inactive since late 2011.
The Crush take the floor during breaks at Rexall Centre in Edmonton and do a consistently nice job. I also like the name, which is a cute little play on "Rush," the NLL squad with which they're working.
The Crush are a solid dance team on the floor. Team captain/coach Joelle has tried to incorporate a number of different dance styles into the show, giving the audience lots of different elements to take in, from hip hop to kick lines to jazz.
When they're not performing, you can find them out in the community doing charity work and promotions. Their social media presence is excellent, with current information in all areas.
As with many of the other teams, the Crush put out an annual calendar as a fundraiser and they take a lot of pride in doing a high quality job for that project.
This is a team that commands attention!
Angels. Wings. Get it?
This team is the cream of a very good crop.
The Angels work alongside the Philadelphia Wings in the City of Brotherly Love. A team of 12 girls, they perform at home games, do promotions and make appearances all over town. As with most of the teams in the NLL, these ladies stay busy!
One of their popular annual promotions is the Angels Dance Clinic, which brings in dancers from ages 6-18 to participate in a training session followed by an appearance on the floor of a Wings game to show off what they've learned.
Also, like several of the other teams, they take pride in producing a calendar for fans, although 2012 is the first time in a long time that they haven't done so.
The Angels have a very good presence online, with their main web page coming off the Wings' site, regular tweets from team captain Lauren (who was kind enough to answer a couple extra questions for me), as well as a presence on ultimatecheerleaders.com. No YouTube page, but videos, such as the one above, can be tracked down fairly easily.