A rooting interest: Pro indoor lacrosse team will generate plenty of fans, locals say

Kevin Crowley, center, who plays in the National Lacrosse League for the former Philadelphia Wings, competed for Canada in the recent World Lacrosse Championship gold medal game in Colorado. It is expected the Wings will relocate this week to Mohegan Sun Arena.
Kevin Crowley, center, who plays in the National Lacrosse League for the former Philadelphia Wings, competed for Canada in the recent World Lacrosse Championship gold medal game in Colorado. It is expected the Wings will relocate this week to Mohegan Sun Arena. Karl Gehrig/AP Photo

Kevin Crowley is a member of the former Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League, expected later this week to announce Mohegan Sun Arena as their new home.

Crowley played for gold medal-winning Canada recently at the Federation of International Lacrosse world championship in Colorado, scoring five goals as the team topped the United States 8-5 for the title before 11,861 fans.

There's more.

Philadelphia, which formerly played games at the Wells Fargo Center, was one of the original four members of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League as it was first known in 1987. The Wings won the championship for the indoor men's league six times, most recently in 2001. In 2000, the Wings played the Pittsburgh CrossFire before 18,911 fans at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, what was then the largest single-game crowd ever to see a professional game indoors.

That's more than enough to convince Ledyard High School boys' lacrosse coach Mark Farnsworth to attend a game when the Wings - or whatever they'll be called in their new venue - begin the 2015 season.

Mohegan Sun has a press conference scheduled for Wednesday to announce the "acquisition of a second professional sports team." The NLL team will join the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA, in its 12th season.

"That's awesome," Farnsworth said Monday. "I think it's great news. There's such a strong following of kids. ... not just for one gender, but for both genders there's going to be a draw. There's kids that are picking up the sport, investing in getting better at it. There's quite a few that have been down to the national championships in the past. They follow it intently.

"Having it closer to us will just generate more interest."

Indoor lacrosse, played on a smaller surface, with fewer players and at a faster pace than the outdoor game, is known by some as "box lacrosse."

The NLL features nine teams, five in the United States and four in Canada, and competes from late December through the playoffs in May.

The Rochester Knighthawks won this year's title, their third straight, with a victory over the Calgary Roughnecks.

The Philadelphia Wings, under head coach Blane Harrison, were 6-12 in 2014. Three members of the team, Crowley, captain Brodie Miller and Jordan Hall played for the Canadian team which won the world championship on July 19.

"If the product is good, there is some star power, some recognizable names, they'll want to go," East Lyme High girls' coach Phil Schneider said of the potential fan base. "... The growth is still there. I think it'll be interesting."

Judd Andres, president of the East Lyme Lacrosse Association, one of the area's first youth lacrosse organizations, saw both his children, Alyssa and Mitchell, play the sport at East Lyme High School and at the collegiate level.

Andres also helped form the New England Coast Lacrosse League, which hosted the Coastal Youth Lax Jamboree in East Lyme this spring, featuring more than 80 teams.

"Oh, my gosh," Andres said of the Wings' move to Mohegan Sun. "That would be very exciting. ... It's about time. It's the right time for a major team to continue to foster and nurture that passion that is building within the southeastern Connecticut community. It could do wonders for our area. Something like this would generate a whole lot. ... something we could claim.

"This is big news."

The Wings announced their intentions to relocate on their website on July 11.

"My love for the Wings and my connection with the city has made this move all the more difficult," Wings owner and team president Michael French said in a press release. "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of our Philadelphia supporters over the past 28 years.

"The financial model in a market with so many sport and entertainment alternatives has proven to be unsustainable. Finding a new venue with new strategic partners was the only way to ensure financial stability."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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