Redwoods' Clarke Petterson runs during a Premier Lacrosse League game against the Archers on June 8, 2019 in Harrison, N.J. The co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League is open to having discussions with Canada's two leading senior leagues about how to best share players. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Steve Luciano for Premier Lacrosse League

Premier Lacrosse League ‘open’ to talks with Canada’s senior indoor leagues

Premier Lacrosse League ‘open’ to talks with Canada’s senior indoor leagues

The co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League is open to having discussions with Canada’s two leading senior leagues about how to best share players. However, Paul Rabil said that finding a resolution to their dispute will be “difficult.”

Rabil, a former professional lacrosse player who co-founded the PLL with his brother Mike in 2018, addressed the issue on Friday. His comments came after Ontario’s Major Series Lacrosse and British Columbia’s Western Lacrosse Association issued statements on Wednesday asking for “good-faith discussions” with the American-based PLL.

At issue is a clause in the PLL’s standard player contract that prohibits players from competing in other lacrosse leagues or events. Most of the Premier Lacrosse League’s season overlaps with the two indoor senior leagues’ seasons.

Rabil said that the PLL’s primary concern is insurance and workers’ compensation.

“What makes professional lacrosse work, in my opinion, is a non-competitive environment, which means no overlap,” said Rabil. “Then players who can — legally and from a health and safety standpoint, which is tied to health care and workers comp — play in multiple leagues without an overlap, earn multiple game cheques and continue to grow their skill set and their awareness.”

Doug Luey, the commissioner of Major Series Lacrosse, was encouraged that the PLL is willing to talk with the two Canadian senior leagues. Although the Mann Cup, Canada’s national senior championship, will go ahead as scheduled in September, the quality of the players involved may be affected by the dispute.

“I’m pleased to hear that they’re willing to discuss with us, because that’s really all we want in the first place, is to at least have a discussion,” said Luey.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that a waiver has been issued by the PLL to players who also play in the National Lacrosse League, North America’s professional indoor league.

Rabil said that waiver works because it allows players to complete their NLL commitments before starting their season in the PLL. Reaching an understanding with the two senior indoor leagues is more problematic because it would mean a player would be going back and forth between the PLL and either MSL or WLA.

“I think the most important thing for all of us, and even as we talked with the NLL about their overlap, is protecting the health and safety of our players and continuing to invest in our players,” said Rabil. “The overlap with the NLL into the PLL right now means that players in the NLL that play potentially three weeks into June (for the playoffs) are not going to collect their PLL game cheque. That sucks for the player.

“So we’re working on ways right now to make up for that loss through marketing addendums and things like that. We just don’t know who those players are going to be yet.”

Elite men’s lacrosse players often play in several leagues within the same calendar year. It’s common for a Canadian player to compete in the indoor professional National Lacrosse League, a senior league like MSL or WLA, and the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association within months of each other and sometimes concurrently.

Luey said solutions have been found in the past when players are in multiple indoor or field lacrosse leagues

“We have this conflict in insurance currently with other leagues that players are involved in, be it the NLL or the national team,” said Luey. “We have cases where players who’ve been injured and it affects the overlap.

“I think if you’re willing to pay the premium, whatever that is, that can be overcome.”

The Premier Lacrosse League has scheduled its bye weeks for the 2022 and 2023 seasons specifically to avoid conflicts with international competitions. The 2022 bye week is timed to line up with the World Games in Birmingham, Ala., where lacrosse is debuting as it attempts to become an Olympic sport. The PLL will also time its break in 2023 to accommodate the world field lacrosse championships.

“Our players will be getting exit physicals before playing in (the World Games) and then have to do physicals again before they come back into the PLL,” said Rabil. “So again, it’s a one-time waiver, it’s not a back and forth.”

Rabil said that the PLL’s exclusivity clause is only an issue now because Major Series Lacrosse and the Western Lacrosse Association cancelled their 2020 and 2021 seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mann Cup is one of the oldest sports trophies in North America, dating back to 1910. Only the First World War and the COVID-19 pandemic have prevented it from being contested in its 112 years of existence.

Maintaining the Mann Cup’s traditional timing is important to Luey, as it’s been held in September for more than a century.

“But we’ve had numerous issues with overlap over the years, and we’ve worked around it,” he said. “But to (the WLA’s) and my point is the PLL didn’t have that discussion prior to putting the clause in, and so we welcome the discussion.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

Lacrosse