The Stealth of the National Lacrosse League are starting to do an impression of the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association.
The Kings started in Rochester way back when. They moved to Cincinnati, then to Kansas City-Omaha, and finally to Sacramento. The team motto practically has been "Go West, Young Men."
The Stealth started as the Albany Attack in 2000, and lasted four years. Owners couldn't make the team go there, so it was off to San Jose. Instead of moving West after that (Honolulu?), the franchise went north to the state of Washington.
Alas, that didn't work well either. The team announced today that it was moving to the Vancouver area. The Vancouver Stealth will play in Langley Events Center in Langley, British Columbia. If that sounds familiar, the championship game was played there in May when Washington's facility was booked.
Everyone associated with indoor lacrosse figured Vancouver would be a natural stop for the league. The area has a pool of players, which means the fans don't have to be introduced to the game. Vancouver's rivalries with Edmonton and Calgary will jump a couple of notches.
The catch, of course, is that Langley is not Vancouver. It's quite a distance away - an hour or so by car, according to the stories I've read today, if there's only a little traffic. The building also holds 5,200 people, as that was the sellout number for the championship game. It will be tough for the Stealth to compete against Buffalo and Colorado with that size of a building.
Speaking of those two other teams, they are the obvious blueprint for success -- have the larger big-league teams in town own the lacrosse team, and use marketing synergy to cross-promote the franchises. There are all sorts of savings involved in terms of costs.
I'm sure the league tried to find someone who would put a team in downtown Vancouver. If that option isn't viable, this might turn out to be a good intermediate step. If the franchise sells out in Langley, maybe that could lead to a move to Vancouver proper down the road.
In the meantime, I feel sorry for people back in Everett, Wash., area. That was quite a distance from downtown Seattle, and it was tough for lacrosse to make an impact on the crowded Seattle sports calendar from that distance. That's in spite of the fact that the team did quite well there for the most part, a record that included a championship and a couple of appearances in the finals.
The road to franchise stability no doubt will be easier in British Columbia, and that's good. But it's still not going to be easy. Any more north for the team, and the Bandits will be hosting the Fairbanks Stealth any year now.
--- Budd Bailey