Athan Iannucci (far right) a member of the National Lacrosse League's Vancouver Stealth

‘Opening night can’t get here quick enough’

Langley's professional lacrosse team holds its introductory press conference

The arena may be smaller than that of some of their competitors, but that makes little difference to the players as they get set to call the 5,200-seat Langley Events Centre home for the foreseeable future.

“Whether there is 5,000 seats or 10,000 seats, the floor is still the same size,” said Vancouver Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen.

“There are two benches and 10 guys playing the game, so we still do our job as lacrosse players to get wins and that is what we are committed to doing.”

Sorensen was speaking in a media scrum following the Stealth’s official press conference announcing their move across the border, from Everett, Wash. to the Langley Events Centre.

The Stealth averaged just under 4,200 fans per game this past season, while the NLL average attendance was 9,662 per game.

The move to Langley was announced last week (June 27).

The Stealth, under the same ownership group, management team and with the bulk of the same players, will begin the 2014 National Lacrosse League season at the LEC in January.

The team has signed a five-year agreement to call the LEC home with the option of two five-year extensions.

“This is a historic and exciting day, the NLL is back in British Columbia,” said league commissioner George Daniel, who was joined at the podium by Township Mayor Jack Froese, Stealth owner Denise Watkins, general manager and president Doug Locker, head coach Chris Hall and Sorensen.

“B.C. is one of the great hotbeds of lacrosse in the world,” Daniel said, adding that the energy and spectacle of an NLL game is quite the event.

“Opening night can’t get here quick enough.”

Froese said having pro lacrosse in town will be a great benefit.

“Not only will it provide some exciting sport, but restaurants, hotels and other local destinations will be the benefactor,” he said.

The nine-team league plays an 18-game schedule that starts in January.

The Stealth become the fourth Canadian team, joining Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

Watkins, who has owned the team since 2007 with her husband Bill, said she is looking forward to a new era of lacrosse.

While the team had a hardcore group of fans in Everett, that wasn’t enough to save the team.

“It is great to come to a facility and an area where everyone clearly knows their lacrosse,” she said.

“It will be great to have (full) houses and fans who have played lacrosse since sticks were put into their cradles at birth.”

Head coach Chris Hall said the team has phenomenal opportunities in their new home, especially since they will be just one of two teams in the league with their own dedicated practice facility so close to their home arena. It is currently under construction just behind the LEC.

“(This) is going to present phenomenal opportunities for us a great base to train for all the players,” he said. “That is a very special thing.”

He also said the organization is looking forward to working with community groups and the B.C. Lacrosse Association.

“To help grow the game at the minor levels so we can continue to produce some of the best lacrosse players in the world,” Hall said.

Two-thirds of the Stealth roster are from B.C. so the players are excited to play and practice closer to home.

“I know it is going to make a lot of guys’ lives a lot easier, not to mention all the travel costs associated with reimbursing people for gas and all that,” said Athan Iannucci, who plays in the winter for the Stealth and in the summer with another LEC team, the Western Lacrosse Association’s Langley Thunder.

“(This move) just makes sense.”

Players in the league hold down full-time jobs as well and most are forced to travel back and forth between where their jobs are and wherever they play in the NLL.

Iannucci, who has also played for Philadelphia in the NLL, said it can be a challenge for players as they travel weekly to get to and from their home base, which he called both physically and mentally draining.

•••••

Season tickets are now on sale for the Stealth and range from $21.56 per game to $41.56, which includes all taxes and service fees. Single games prices will be from $27 to $55.

For tickets, call 604-455-8888.

Gary Ahuja Langley Times

Right to left: Township Mayor Jack Froese, NLL commissioner George Daniel, Vancouver Stealth owner Denise Watkins, general manager Doug Locker, head coach Chris Hall and captain Kyle Sorensen at a press conference at the Langley Events Centre on July 2. The Stealth are moving from Everett, Wash. to Langley.

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