Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Canada's Hidden National Pastime

Although lacrosse is Canada's official national sport (at least since 1994 it's been "official" as far as summer sports go) we know the reality is different. One of the reasons lacrosse lags so far behind other sports on Canadians' radar is marketing pure and simple.

Despite having a fairly fast-paced game (although it does bog down into a Four Corners Dean Smith model more often than '80s Oilers air hockey) with loads of shots and goals, only 2,000+ showed up to Game 4 of the NATIONAL championship of box lacrosse in this nation last night.

Think about that for a second. Short-season Class A baseball draws more for run-of-the-mill weekday nooners here in the Lower Mainland. The entire possible seven-game Mann Cup series would still not fill the Pacific Coliseum for one Vancouver Giants' game. This as the New Westminster Salmonbellies celebrate their 120th anniversary as a sports franchise.

So here we are 120 years in and the most the Western Lacrosse Association (as hosts this year of the Mann Cup) can scrape together is 2,000+ folks to watch their sport played at its highest level.

The athletes are certainly not to blame as they are highly skilled, dedicated and hold down full-time jobs outside their sport. The ticket prices are not as $15 got you in to the Mann Cup Final. So who is to blame?
The price is right

Well, let's forget assigning blame, as I think you can figure out where blame lies when a business is not as popular or successful as it should be. Let's look to solutions.

Now during the game the PA announcer noted the Bellies were on Twitter and Facebook. Now how about adding a few banner ads on Web sites that sports fans may stumble across so they'd actually know when the games were on. Yes, I'm talking Slam, TSN and Sportsnet.

Speaking of which get the game on TV. Forget this nonsense about PPV online as who is honestly going to "pay" to watch lacrosse online when half the world is streaming much more popular sports live illegally or legally over the Net. Get the game at least on Shaw TV as the WHL does. Get some ads on Sportsnet, the Score and TSN. That would be a start. At least we seem to get highlights on most sports channels even if they tend to buried.

Personally, I'd rather see the WLA pool all its teams' resources and get the Vancouver Ravens back in the NLL. Or how about following junior lacrosse and hockey's lead by choosing one host a la the Minto and Memorial Cups respectively? That way the Mann Cup could be promoted year long as a must-see spectacular. As great as the play is in the WLA is, it's as the old analogy goes--"If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone know your game exists on anyone's sports radar?"

All I know is the vast majority of Canadian sports fans are missing a great game and lacrosse in this country needs to take a hard look in the mirror to figure out why our "national" game draws peanuts in the stands and barely registers at all on the national consciousness.