The commissioner of the Western Lacrosse Association is hoping to turn a season lost to the COVID-19 pandemic into a found opportunity.
Paul Dal Monte said a decision by the league’s governors, as well as their counterparts at Major Series Lacrosse in Ontario, to call off their 2020 seasons, along with the Mann Cup national championship, had an air of inevitability. But they’re equally determined to use the time and energy that would otherwise be put into managing and playing 63 games plus playoffs into finding new ways to reconnect with fans and build the sport’s grassroots.
“Now we have time to step back,” Dal Monte told The Tri-City News of the cancellation of the season that was scheduled to begin Thursday. He added the league needs to pay particular attention to its digital and social media presence, as well as getting games to viewers at home through webcasting and putting together video packages.
Dal Monte said the summer will be anything but a holiday for lacrosse executives, coaches and players, all of whom will be enlisted to have a role as the sport begins to reemerge from its hiatus at the minor level. They’ll be conducting clinics, holding workshops and taking a fresh look at rules.
“Lacrosse is still a sport that is entrenched in the community,” Dal Monte said. “We hope some of the programs will make people more passionate.”
While most big time professional leagues continue to ponder their immediate futures with billions of dollars at stake, Dal Monte said the WLA’s small financial footprint means most franchises should be able to cope with the loss of ticket sales and sponsorship money.
“Our overhead is low,” he said, adding with no games and no trip east for the Mann Cup, there will be no costs like transportation, security or arena rental fees.
And while Dal Monte concedes reupping with sponsors may present a challenge, most support the league and its franchises because it’s a passion rather than a payoff.
Dal Monte said other administrative issues like player eligibilities and plans for next winter’s draft will also have to worked out over the next several months. But he’s confident everyone involved with the sport will stay hungry for it through its absence.
“We’ve got a long runway to get there,” he said.