With the recent news that the Premier Lacrosse League will have its upcoming Championship Tournament Series televised and streamed on several NBC stations this Summer, the PLL and the sport of lacrosse are set to attract nationwide attention that the sport has traditionally lacked. The two-week, twenty-game tournament series, set to run from late July to early August, will be broadcast during airtime that was slated to show the now-cancelled Summer Olympics. In keeping with health regulations set to control the COVID-19 pandemic, the games will be played with the absence of physical spectators in the stands. However, as the tournament will be on a short list of professional sports events televised over the Summer season, lacrosse and its newest professional league are sure to attract a new level of viewership.
Penn Yan, a town whose long history with the sport of lacrosse is well-known, will have two hometown players participating in the tournament. Brett Queener (PYA Class of ‘03) and Mike Manley (PYA Class of ‘07), both currently play for the PLL’s Chrome Lacrosse Club, one of the league’s six founding teams.
Brett Queener, currently Chrome’s starting goalie, graduated from the University of Albany in 2008, where he was named an All-American. Playing with Major League Lacrosse from ‘08 until the PLL’s formation in 2018, Queener was a five-time Professional Lacrosse All-Star and a two-time Professional Lacrosse Champion.
Mike Manley attended Duke University, where he was named the 2007 ACC Rookie of the Year and would go on to be a three-time USILA All-American. Manley played in both the MLL and the National Lacrosse League from 2012–2018 where he was 2014 and 2016 Warrior Defensive Player of the Year, before joining the PLL in its inaugural season.
Both players expressed their excitement at the opportunity to play their sport in a time when nearly all live professional sporting events have been cancelled and most leagues still look to the future with uncertainty.
“[I’m] very excited to have a chance to play, as well as take advantage of national television time that was allocated for the Olympics,” said Queener. “It’ll be a great opportunity to showcase the sport and also give me the opportunity to play again, which I like to do.”
Manley and Queener were also optimistic about the exposure the televised series would give the sport and the PLL in the current landscape of broadcast sports.
“It’s definitely a change from last year,” said Manley. “It’s tough; fans are missing out. Sports are a big part of people’s lives. They just want to watch some sporting event and this could be remarkable for the game of lacrosse.”
“I think… this event gives everyone in the lacrosse world something to look forward to,” said Queener. “We didn’t have anything to watch forever and now we’re going to get the best players in the world playing in a two week period, on [television] everyday. Growing up, I think there were about two games on a year...maybe with no one having anything to watch, they’ll tune-in to lacrosse and we’ll gain some more fans that way.”
For those fans already familiar with lacrosse, the PLL offers a similar format to that used by the MLL, with a few changes. A slightly smaller field and shorter shot clock creates a faster game that lends itself to shorter and more action-packed matches between teams.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the PLL and Major League Lacrosse is their business models. PLL founder Paul Rabil was a highly-skilled and highly-honored player with both the MLL and National Lacrosse League, but found the leagues to be lacking in opportunity and support of their players. Rabil created the Premier Lacrosse League to offer players higher wages, medical benefits and stock in the league so players could try to make professional lacrosse their full-time job. The PLL also operates on a touring business model, with all of the league’s teams travelling around the country to play, rather than having individual teams locked into specific markets.
“The PLL is a superior league, in my opinion,” said Queener. “I played in the MLL for over a decade and I think the PLL has done a better job...they pay us more, they market us better and they treat us better. It’s been a better experience in the PLL.”
“The PLL does a better job at communicating with everybody, from players to [in this situation] doctors and health organizations,” said Manley. “They really do have the players’ best interest in mind.
“It’s a better business model. The tour-based model brings in more fans. It offers an opportunity to grow the game in places that haven’t seen lacrosse.The PLL has done a great job at reaching new fans.”
The lack of a physical crowd and how that absence will affect the game and the players’ experience is something that most if not all professional sports leagues have had to consider this year, but neither Queener or Manley seemed concerned with it.
“We’re used to it,” laughed Manley.
“It’ll be a little different,” added Queener. “Playing in the MLL for ten years, I played a lot of games in front of no fans… but, never completely empty.
“Never in a game was I ever looking at the crowd anyway. They shoot the ball at 110 miles an hour, so I need to pay attention to that thing rather than how many people are in the stands.”
“I’m just out there for the love of the game,” stated Manley.
When asked how they felt about the upcoming tournament series, both Manley and Queener were quick to praise all seven of the league’s teams, but also optimistic about Chrome’s chances.
“Every team is very good,” remarked Manley. “It’s a statement about how competitive the league is and how good all the players are. Overall competitiveness in the league is top-notch.”
“Everybody is loaded in talent,” added Queener. “Everybody is extremely talented… you respect everybody because they are the best players in the world.”
“Even though we didn’t finish well, we had the highest scoring offense in the league last year,” stated Manley.
Said Queener, “We’re gonna win this thing...let’s go!”
The Premier Lacrosse League’s Championship Tournament Series will be broadcast across NBC affiliates from July 25th to August 9th.