12.21.18

We made it. All the work that goes into making the holidays happen at our workplace is done and now it’s time to relax.

Sort of.

Tonight was the second consecutive night that we headed down to Rogers Arena after I finished work and hit up a sporting event.

Last night was for the Canucks.

Tonight was for the brand new Vancouver Warriors Lacrosse franchise.

For the first time in fourteen years – as you can see on the boards at the far end – lacrosse is back downtown – in Vancouver and there’s been a lot of speculation about what that means.

Back in June, it was announced that the Vancouver Canucks acquired the Vancouver Stealth and would relocate the team from Langley to the city. Location has been an issue for professional lacrosse in BC. Some didn’t want to travel across the bridge and out to the suburbs while others complained that, after the move, they wouldn’t. People complained that it was too far to go to Langley – and why were they even called Vancouver anyway? – and then they complained that it was too far to go downtown.

As with anything, there are supporters and detractors.

People argued that they’d had a team in Vancouver (the Ravens, 2002-2004), but it had failed. This time, though, it’s different. There have been plenty of good news stories from players around the league when an NHL club took over. There are resources and infrastructure that aren’t ready made for privately owned teams. They have support systems in place and they also have existing fan bases that can at least partially be converted.

They got off to a controversial start when they hired Dan Richardson as the General Manager. Dan is a polarizing character. He is strong-willed, bold and commanding. He is also willing to take a risk and doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind. He has been the GM of the New West Salmonbellies for over a decade. I know all of Dan’s strengths and I know the challenging parts of his personality because I worked very closely with him for several years.

In 2009, we met and he invited me to join the team working on promotions and community involvement. That summer, we got the team on social media in a way that hadn’t been done in lacrosse before. While hosting the 2009 Mann Cup from Queen’s Park Arena, our Facebook page and Twitter feeds were the only way to access scores and details about the game online in any commodity other than the box score. In 2010, I traveled to Peterborough with the club and I was the first social media team representative to travel with a lacrosse club. I even got the honour of voting for the Mike Kelly Award in that championship series.

I used to joke with Dan that the things he and I worked on, the ideas that we had, were too big for the small city of New West and that together we needed a canvas that was much bigger. He’s getting that now and it’s interesting to see how he’s painting it.

Tonight, after a long six months of anticipation and skepticism, in addition to a league-wide labour dispute, the home opener for the Vancouver Warriors finally got underway.

People wanted to hate on it. They really, really did. But I’d be surprised if anyone walked away from tonight’s game feeling anything less than impressed. Through their production teams and their preseason prep, they put together a great event.

The night started with a fire performer and the debut performance from the Warriors’ Dance Team. Little buggies circled the action on the floor shooting pyro from their roofs. It was fun and it was exciting.

The team took the floor to a fired up crowd and a Marilyn Manson soundtrack. The players lined up around the logo at the centre of the floor and it was nicely done.

O Canada was sung and the game was underway.

The Warriors opened the scoring and that was a nice touch. They weren’t able to pull off a win and I’m not going to write a game review, but it was mostly entertaining.

One tiny snafu: fans were given socks on the backs of their seats in the side sections of the arena. The theme was a sock trick for charity. In lacrosse, a sock trick is when a player scores six goals in a game. The intention tonight was the play on that and have fans throw their socks on the floor during halftime. The socks would be collected and donated to Union Gospel Mission, a charity “determined to transform communities by overcoming poverty, homelessness, and addiction – one life at a time.” Unfortunately, fans had a hard time following instructions and the socks were thrown earlier than they should have been and then continued to be thrown throughout the second half of the game. It was so disruptive that eventually the referees warned the team that they’d be served with a penalty the next time a pair of socks landed on the floor. I don’t have to tell you what happened next. (It wasn’t that penalty that lost the Warriors the game, but it didn’t help the momentum.)

All in all, we had a great time – way better than we’d ever imagined.

Next Warriors home game is vs the NLL Champs, the Saskatchewan Rush on January 12th. Get tickets here.

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