Jan 262005
 
Authors: Pete Scalia

Hockey is gone, but at this point does anybody really miss it? While hockey has given fans some great years, the recent actions by both players and league officials have shown that the fans just don't mean that much.

So me, I'm off hockey, even if by some slim chance there is some sort of short, mutant season. I have found better excitement than hockey and I didn't even have to leave the Pepsi Center to do so. The Colorado Mammoth can make people actually forget that they even miss hockey.

The Mammoth has kicked off its third season in Denver and is off to a 2-1 start. Supported by one of the best fan bases in the National Lacrosse League, Colorado broke the single-season sellout record with five last year, and after packing the Pepsi Center with the first-ever standing-room-only crowd on Saturday, the team are on their way to doing it again.

The Mammoth, like the Avalanche, were not an expansion team but an already established team that was purchased by Kroenke Sports then brought to Denver. Formerly the Washington Power, the Mammoth came loaded with one of the best teams in the league, including lacrosse legend Gary Gait.

Pick your moniker: Gretzky, Jordan, Ruth, Montana. Gait is generally accepted as the greatest lacrosse player ever. The six-time NLL MVP won three national titles at Syracuse while being named the Player of the Year twice. In 1991, as a rookie, Gait was first-team all pro, which he has continued to be every year since.

The Mammoth should be a shoe-in to make the playoffs again this year with Gait, along with all-star Gavin Prout averaging 11 points a game. With 2003-04 Goalie of the Year Gee Nash in net, the Mammoth has one of the league's best defensive units, allowing only 31 goals this season. In two of three games, the team has held opponents under 10 goals.

While the NLL is fairly new to the Colorado, it is not new to the country. The first NLL game was played Jan. 10, 1987, between New Jersey and Philadelphia with New Jersey winning 11-8. Honestly, I had never heard of the NLL until the Colorado Mammoth were announced. The average lacrosse player earns about $12,836 a year or roughly $800 a game. Nine Mammoth players split their year between NLL and Major League Lacrosse. Seven of that nine, including all star Jamie Hanford, 2003 Rookie of the Year Brian Langtry and Gait play for the same team in Baltimore.

So while the NHL Player's Association is telling its players to prepare to take the strike well into next season, lacrosse could make a move to overtake hockey while fans are still left without the latter. The fights are more intense; the scoring is more exciting and is more often than in hockey and the body checks are teeth rattling. Lacrosse players have proven that ice is not needed to make fans pound the glass in celebration.

Pete Scalia is a technical journalism major. He is a sports reporter for the Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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