The New York/New Jersey Hitmen will live on in spirit, as New York was named one of eights hosts to the rebooted XFL on Wednesday.
Thanks to the XFL, New York football is partying like it’s 2001.
It was announced on Wednesday afternoon that East Rutherford, NJ will be one of the eight cities to host the reborn XFL. The league made the announcement at MetLife Stadium, where the new team will play its home games.
IT’S OFFICIAL: The new-look #XFL is proud to be coming to New York and playing at @MLStadium, beginning in 2020! Make your season ticket deposit today: https://t.co/KF0BBLebbK #XFL2020 ? ? pic.twitter.com/2Uz2MFrTsJ
— XFL New York (@XFLNY) December 5, 2018
The event at MetLife unveiled the cities and venues for the league’s return in February 2020. XFL founder Vince McMahon and commissioner Oliver Luck were in attendance.
“We think a lot of passionate football fans are in the large markets and are season-ticket holders for the Jets or the Giants or the other teams in the other markets and miss football,” Luck told Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “Come February, there’s a little bit of a void in many people’s lives.”
Returning after its failed single season in 2001, the XFL previously made its mark on the Meadowlands with the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. The team ranked second in XFL home attendance during their brief Meadowlands tenure, drawing an average attendance of 28,309. The San Francisco Demons led the way, earning a 35,005 average at Pacific Bell Park (now known as AT&T Park). Despite the relatively strong numbers, the Hitmen played in a mostly empty venue. The spacious Giants Stadium seated just under 80,000.
“Few cities in the world can match the speed and intensity of New York,” reads a statement on the league’s official website. “Deep down, we always knew we would play here and we can’t wait to give these fans what they deserve in 2020.”
New York is one of two XFL markets making a comeback from the 2001 edition. The other, Los Angeles, was the home of the league’s lone champion, the Xtreme. At quarterback for the Xtreme was league MVP and former NFL first-round pick Tommy Maddox. The ex-New York Giant later made an NFL comeback after his XFL tour, playing five subsequent seasons in Pittsburgh.
The Hitmen partook in the XFL’s debut game, as millions of viewers took in their 19-0 loss to the Las Vegas Outlaws. Television ratings steeply declined after the successful opening weekend, as many quickly soured on the league’s gimmicks. Hitmen head coach Rusty Tillman was a notable critic of the gimmicks, and later experienced them firsthand. Actor and XFL television analyst Jesse Ventura took a shot at Tillman during a game, calling him “Gutless Rusty” for kicking a field goal on fourth and goal in a Hitmen win. Despite the XFL and its television partners hyping up the war of words, Tillman did not give in to Ventura’s goading.
The league has since insisted that it will be downplaying the wrestling connections and will be gimmick-free. But Luck has continued to hint at unspecified innovations to the traditional game of football.
“I’ll emphasize when people watch the game, they’ll see 11-on-11, same field, same 60 minutes,” Luck told Joyce. “It’ll look like football, but we do plan on innovating in a couple of spaces. We’ve convened what we call a ‘football reimagined’ effort. (We’re) looking to address those issues that football fans tend to complain about.”
Other cities announced included Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C.