The Big Apple’s big-boy lacrosse team, the New York Lizards, are ready to roll with both eyes firmly planted on a Major League Lacrosse title.
Winning a championship is the objective for every professional sports franchise, but in some cases, it’s the mission statement. In the case of the New York Lizards, the goal for each Major League Lacrosse season is to put a championship caliber team on the field and provide their fans with a first class experience on gamedays.
In other words, excellence from top to bottom both on and off the field is the objective.
So after just missing the playoffs last year and three seasons removed from winning the 2015 MLL title, the Lizards were hard at work during the off-season in putting together a roster that will compete for the Steinfeld Cup.
With the season and home opener against the Denver Outlaws on Saturday April 21 at Hofstra just a couple of weeks away, the Lizards have their eyes on the prize.
“We are very excited with the additions we made during the off-season,” said Lizards CEO Jeff Rudnick. “Our plan is to always minimize any “rebuilding period,” so we try to get a good mix of veterans and younger players.”
With a roster that already includes Paul Rabil, considered by many to be the best player in the world and the face of the sport, along with other stars like Rob Pannell, Joe Walters and Will Manny, the Lizards made some key offseason acquisitions like face-off specialist Brendan Fowler, a Long Island native who has some big shoes to fill after the retirement of Greg “The Beast” Gurenlian.
The Lizards added 2017 MLL All-Star Mike Bocklet to the rosters. He comes over from the Denver Outlaws where has been one of the top scorers in the league and led the Outlaws to a championship in 2016. Also, the Lizards acquired defenseman Matt Landis in a trade with the Boston Cannons and they selected 13 players in the MLL Supplemental Draft including former University of Maryland defenseman Greg Danseglio who played 12 games for Rochester last season.
Training camp got underway this past weekend including a 23-7 victory over Team Israel in a pre-season game so the 2018 Lizards are officially open for business.
“The first week of training camp went really well,” said General Manager and Head Coach Joe Spallina. “The guys were motivated and the stick skills looked great. Last season didn’t end the way we wanted and it is great to see that everyone stayed motivated through the off-season.”
Spallina is the architect of a roster that returns a large number of players from last season’s club that was in contention for a playoff spot right down to the final game of the season. There are some new faces, but the Lizards head into the new season with continuity as a major attribute.
It’s early, but the Lizards are off to a great start in preparing for the season on both ends of the field.
“Offensively, it was great to see the way the ball was moving and there was less dodging and passing,” said Spallina. “Defensively, the results were similar. We have so many MLL quality defensemen so the intensity and attention was the best I’ve seen this early.”
With one more week of training camp until the regular season begins, the Lizards have high expectations in 2018. The feeling is that this is a team that will be fun to watch, win a lot of games, and be among the teams that will have a great chance to win it all.
“We’re super excited,” said superstar midfielder Paul Rabil, who was a part of the Lizards’ 2015 championship team. “Our coaches and front office did a great job acquiring talent this offseason and that will add a ton of value in 2018. As with probably every other team in MLL, our goal and expectation for ourselves is to win a championship.”
With three MLL championships on the franchise’s resume, the Lizards have provided fans on the lacrosse hotbed of Long Island with plenty of thrills and excitement over the years. They play their home games at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University, an iconic lacrosse venue in the Northeast that has hosted many NCAA Tournament games over the years.
“The intimacy level at Shuart Stadium makes for a great experience for the fans and definitely helps us with a home field advantage,” said Rudnick.
While the Lizards’ coaches and players will be hard at work winning games on the field, the Lizards’ staff has been preparing to make the gameday experience for the fans second to none once they enter the stadium. The Lizards have put together some special promotional nights including a Lizards schedule magnet giveaway to the first 1,000 fans on opening night April 21 against Denver at 7 p.m. ET and a bobblehead night on May 6 when the Lizards host Atlanta at 5 p.m. ET.
But the bobblehead will not be a Lizards player. The Lizards have planned what they’re calling a “mystery bobblehead” night. What the Lizards did was contact pro and college teams from around the country to see if they had any excess bobbleheads from their own giveaway nights that they would be willing to send.
“We had a great response from so many and we are now going to be giving out a bobblehead to the first 1,000 fans at the game,” said Rudnick. “There are a lot of fun and cool bobbleheads that we received, so we are really excited about this giveaway.”
The atmosphere for Lizards home games makes for a fun evening for all fans. From the time you’re greeted at the main gate by the Lizards Dancers and staff to the interactive experiences, to the pomp and circumstance of pre-game introductions, it’s a great night for families, youth lacrosse teams and other groups to take in a game featuring some of the best players in the world.
There are even special perks to being a season ticket holder whether it’s in the stadium seating area or in on-field VIP seating like the Diamond Club and Coaches Club that includes food and drink.
“With such limited premium seating at the venue, the season ticket holder knows they will never get shut out from getting the best seats in the house,” said Rudnick. “They also receive exclusive player meet and greets, a special entrance to the stadium, discounts on merchandise, camps, clinics, and other special events we put on.”
The New York Lizards enter each and every MLL season with the objective of winning a championship. With a returning group of players that won three of their last four games last season and just missed the playoffs along with an exciting group of new faces, the Lizards enter the 2018 season with a lot of expectations and excitement.
The ultimate objective is hoisting the Steinfeld Cup for the fourth time in franchise history.