Major League Lacrosse is about to find out what happens when a contact sport runs into a pandemic.
After deliberations, and calls with other leagues including the NBA and MLS, the league’s season that normally lasts about four months is being condensed into 11 days. That includes two days of training, a seven-day regular season, and a two-day championship tournament.
“You kind of have to gel as a team fast, and whatever team does that and whichever guys can get off the rust the fastest and mold as a group, that team is probably going to be victorious here,” said William Sands, a Connecticut Hammerheads attacker.
The league has six teams around the country, although they’re mainly based on the East Coast.
Arriving by plane, train and automobile, the players were all tested, and put into what can be described as a bubble.
They are limited to their hotel and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium down the street.
“All of our players are in the hotel, all their meals are there, the only time they’re allowed to leave the hotel is to go for runs or to come to the stadium. And so it’s really a self contained environment,” said Alexander “Sandy” Brown, MLL’s Commissioner.
Brown spoke with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for advice, which helped lead the MLL to take a similar approach to the Disney campus quarantine being used for basketball players.
Every day, player’s temperatures are checked when they arrive for practice or a game. They’re not using locker rooms so they carry their equipment into the stadium, quickly dress and head directly onto the field.
The only people inside the 34,000 seat stadium are coaches, players and staff; there will be no family or fans.
“I think everyone plays this game for their friends and family, not just about themselves. And You not having people here to support you, but we’ve, you know, we kind of hunkered down at this hotel and we’re a family now,” said John Grant Jr, a Denver Outlaws attacker.
Grant is the league’s all time leading scorer. As the team’s offensive coordinator, he’s both a player and coach. The 45-year-old lacrosse player was once told he’ll never play again after multiple serious injuries and a staph infection, he now uses extraordinary stick handling to play with athletes half his age.
With an ongoing pandemic, players and coaches say they’re grateful to compete.
“There’s a lot going on in the world and we feel you know we’re really fortunate that you know lacrosse is a game that brings people together,” said Bill Warder, the Connecticut Hammerheads Head Coach.
The regular season begins July 28th. Each of the six teams will play each other once. That will be followed by a final four and championship game July 25th and 26th.