While NLL Commisioner George Daniel was in town for Kaleb Toth Night, we sat down with him to talk about NHL ownership, NLL expansion and another team in Vancouver.
Q: It’s been almost two years since the Calgary Flames have bought the Roughnecks, what are your thoughts on the tenure?
A: I think there was a great foundation laid here by Brad Bannister and the prior ownership but I think what the Flames have done is take the franchise to a whole other level. Ceremonies like tonight with Kaleb Toth is an example of that. That was first class in every way. Not only elevates the Roughnecks, we have ceremonies in other buildings where players have a banner raised and it elevates the whole league.
(The Flames) bring a lot of infrastructure and credibility and it really has helped take the Roughnecks franchise to a whole other level. They’ve got the marketing prowess and foundation to really tell people about the Roughnecks in a way where some other franchises can’t do when it’s a non-NHL organization.
Q: Is that the style of ownership you want to push with an NHL team owning an NLL organization?
A: Three of our nine teams are owned by the NHL and the fourth one is marketed by the NHL in Philadelphia. It’s always been a real staple in our league throughout our 27-year history of the league having close relationships with the arenas and NHL teams. Obviously, it’s one that we will always want to push through. We know we aren’t going to have that in every market and every situation. We also have high quality owners in our non-NHL markets but if there is a situation and right opportunity to expand and bring an NHL owner into the fold, we will always look to that.
Q: When it comes to expansion, are you looking at NHL owners for NLL teams?
A: We are always looking at talking to NHL owners, NBA owners, any type of sports owner and building owner that has control of the building and all the revenue streams — they are an attractive candidate for ownership. They aren’t the only one, we have many quality individuals who don’t own other franchises and are building successful franchises. That model works too, but at the foundation, you always want to find a good building partner, even if they aren’t an owner. That’s what we try to strive for in every prospective expansion market.
Q: You’ve talked about expansion in the past, elaborate as to why you want to expand the NLL right now?
A: It makes sense for us to expand in a slow and measured way. When we bring in a new team, we want to make sure it’s the right market, right ownership group, right building. It’s important to grow the league at a steady pace. We need to increase the number of teams in both the US and Canada to gain more traction with television sponsorships and long-term growth potential, for us to maximize our potential. You need a point of critical mass and you can only get that with more cities and more fans in different locations.
Sometimes, you simply need more teams. We only have three cities in Canada, six in the U.S. so we would like to see that grow over a period of time.
Q: What are your thoughts on Vancouver as an expansion market?
A: We think it could be a great market for us. Lacrosse, obviously, is very popular in the province. We’ve had a preseason game the last two years up in Langley Events Centre. Similarly, we’ve held a preseason game this year in Montreal. We think both those games are important to our long-term pursuit of expansion because they allow us to continue momentum and the conversations with people we are having about the potential of bringing franchises back. We have no set timetable, but Vancouver is an important market long term, Montreal is as well. It’ll certainly be our preference to get back in those markets. We are going to do so under the right conditions, right group. We have no set timetable, but certainly having those games will help build momentum towards that.