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NLL's Black Wolves franchise sold, will relocate to Albany

Brett Manney, captain of the National Lacrosse League's New England Black Wolves, remembers the team's first season playing at Mohegan Sun Arena after arriving from Philadelphia. Among his first thoughts: "Where's Uncasville, Connecticut?"

"Then it it was like, 'This place is awesome.' I loved it," Manney said.

After six seasons, the Black Wolves franchise will leave Mohegan and relocate to the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., information first reported Monday by the Albany Times Union.

The Times Union Center is set to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday to announce the move, which comes with the sale of the team to an ownership group led by former lacrosse All-American and NLL alumnus Oliver Marti.

"I talked to (head coach Glenn Clark) earlier today and he said, 'How do you feel about it?'" Manney, a defender, said in a telephone interview. "I'm actually kind of torn. (Playing for the Black Wolves) is where I was going to retire. I wasn't planning to go anywhere else."

Clark said it will be difficult to leave Mohegan Sun, where the fans weren't the same in numbers as some of the bigger arenas among the 14 NLL teams, but had all of the same enthusiasm as the more massive crowds.

"It had a lot of that feel to it," Clark said. "It was a smaller venue, but it was vertical, it was on top of you, we loved it. We absolutely loved playing there and being there. We turned it into something that was really special."

In 2020, New England was 8-3 and in first place in the NLL East Division when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus. The remainder of the regular season was canceled on April 8 and the league announced the cancellation of the postseason on June 4. That would have made five straight trips to the playoffs under Clark.

The NLL originally planned to hold a shortened 2021 season beginning in April, celebrating its 35th anniversary, but that, too, was canceled due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. A traditional 2021-22 season is slated to begin in the fall.

The league approved the sale of the Black Wolves on Friday. Clark, who also serves as the team's general manager, said that it was the decision of the Mohegan Tribe to sell its majority stake in the team. Team owners Mike French, Brad Brewster and Ted Goldthorpe will retain their minority stake and move with the team to Albany, Clark said.

Clark was playing for the Toronto Rock during the 2002 season when the Rock won the NLL championship over the Albany Attack, when Albany previously had a team in the league. That game was played at Times Union Arena, formerly known as the Pepsi Center.

"We played and beat them in Albany," Clark said. "I've had success in that building. I celebrated in that building, big time."

Another memory Manney has of the 2014-15 season, the Black Wolves' first in New England: the players used to make videos, explaining the rules of box lacrosse to the new fan base in southeastern Connecticut.

"'This is a crosscheck. This is a slash.' I remember me and Kevin Buchanan doing those videos," Manney said. "To get to where it is now. (The fans) are dedicated to the team. They're wearing jerseys. ... I feel really bad for people in the surrounding area. They invested in us. They got to learn the game. They would see us before and after the game. I really feel bad.

"You got to understand who they are and where they're from, their favorite guys on the team, their name and their kid's name. Even when we lost games, you would walk into the restaurant after (for the Black Wolves' postgame meet-and-greet events) and they were happy and cheering for you. They were totally supportive. It's a shame. It really is."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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