The 2009 Major League Lacrosse season is set to start on Friday, May 15.
Major League Lacrosse? What?
Yes, and in fact, the league founded by Jake Steinfeld, Dave Morrow, and Tim Robertson will be playing in its ninth season this year.
This league has intrigued me to the point where I plan on covering it here on Bleacher Report.
But first, let’s learn some history behind the fast-growing league.
MLL was founded in 1999, when “Body by Jake” founder Jake Steinfeld was reading about the rising popularity of lacrosse in North America. Steinfeld, Warrior Lacrosse president Dave Morrow, and business partner Tim Robertson and founded Major League Lacrosse.
Regular season play began in June of 2001, with six teams playing 14 games. The league played with six teams until 2006, when four more teams entered the league.
The league enjoyed much success and expanded to the West. Beginning in 2006, teams were located in Philadelphia (Barrage), Boston (Cannons), New Jersey (Pride), Long Island (Lizards), Rochester (Rattlers), Baltimore (Bayhawks), Denver (Outlaws), San Francisco (Dragons), Los Angeles (Riptide), and Chicago (Machine).
Major League Lacrosse continued to play with 10 teams throughout the 2008 season, but financial problems caused Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Rochester, and San Francisco to fold.
Toronto entered the league at the beginning of 2009, purchasing the rights of the Rochester Rattlers. They thus gained the staff and players of the Rochester squad, but the team name, colors, and history were left behind in New York for a possible team in the future.
Fox Sports Network televised games in 2001 and 2002, and ESPN2 has televised games since the 2003 season. In 2007, MLL and ESPN2 agreed to a contract that will keep Major League Lacrosse on ESPN2 until the 2016 season.
David Gross has been league commissioner since 2004.
Some of the MLL rules are different that high school and college rules.
Major League Lacrosse uses a 60-second shot clock, installed to keep the game fast and entertaining. Like basketball, if the shot clock expires the other team gains possession.
There is no restraining box in MLL due to the shot clock.
Another unique rule in Major League Lacrosse is the two-point arc. If both of the player’s feet are behind the line when the ball is scored, it is worth two points instead of one.
MLL teams are allowed to dress 19 players for games.
The eighth MLL season was the last in which teams played in separate conferences. The Eastern and Western conferences were eliminated at the end of the season due to the Riptide, Barrage, Pride, Rattlers, and Dragons folding.
In the offseason, there were a number of trades and player announcements. The LA Riptide traded captain Matt Ogelsby to San Francisco.
Former Ivy League player of the year Joe Boulukos announced his retirement.
San Francisco traded former MVP Ryan Powell away to Denver in exchange for a first and second round pick in the MLL Collegiate Draft.
On May 28 the Boston Cannons selected Paul Rabil with the first overall pick in the draft. Casey Powell became the all-time leading scorer in MLL history on June 10, passing Mark Millon. Jesse Hubbard also set a MLL record, becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in league history also passing Millon.
The season ended on August 24 when Rochester defeated Denver 16-6 to win the Steinfeld Cup. Joe Walters was named playoff MVP.
John Grant Jr. (Rochester) took home the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year award, and Los Angeles goalie Mickey Jarboe won Goaltender of the Year.
The 2009 season of Major League Lacrosse will welcome a couple of rule changes. Four long-stick defenseman will now be allowed, just like in high school and college lacrosse. Also, teams will be able to dress 19 players for games instead of 18.
The teams competing for the Steinfeld Cup this year are the Cannons, Machine, Outlaws, Lizards, Washington Bayhawks and expansion franchise Toronto Nationals.
Casey, Ryan, and Mikey Powell, three of the game’s best and most popular players, will all sit out the 2009 season. The brothers did not report to their respective teams as of the April 1 deadline.
ESPN2 will air 11 MLL games, including live broadcasts of the All-Star Game, the first semi-final game, and the championship game.
The 2009 All-Star Game will take place in Denver, Colorado at INVESCO Field at Mile High on July 16.
The season will come to a close on the weekend of August 22 and 23 with the NewBalance MLL Championship Weekend at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (home of the Bayhawks) in Annapolis, Maryland.
Expect team previews next week for all six teams as the Major League Lacrosse season draws closer!