NLL: Your Basic Guide to Lacrosse

A look at the game as we get ready to kick off the season

The 2014 NLL season opens on December 28.   This season there have been some changes.   So, for the lacrosse newbie, and the experienced fan, let's take a look at the sport.

Under the new CBA, the season has increased from 16 games to 18 games (9 home, 9 away), followed by the Champions Cup playoffs.   Playoff format is Conference and Champions Cup finals are both two games, with a 10 minute mini game if needed if the two games are split to determine a winner.  3 teams from each conference make the playoffs, and each team gets a home game with the lower seeded team hosting game 1.

The NLL is split into two conferences: East and West.   In the east, the teams are: Buffalo Bandits, Minnesota Swarm, Philadelphia Wings, Rochester Knighthawks, and Toronto Rock.  The west consists of: Calgary Roughnecks, Colorado Mammoth, Edmonton Rush, and Vancouver Stealth.

Rosters in the NLL consist of 20 players.   Each team has a practice squad which is made up of 4 players.   For games, teams dress 18 players (2 goalies, 16 runners).   At anytime during the game, there will be 5 runners and a goaltender on the floor.   Your runners are forwards, defensemen and transition players.   Players take shifts.

Each game consists of 4 15 minute quarters. There is a 2 minute break between each quarter, except for a 12 minute halftime. Each team has 2 45 second time outs per half.   More on these later.  Should the game be tied at the end of regulation, sudden death overtime begins.   Overtime periods are 15 minutes in length and as many periods as are necessary are played.  There is no shootout in lacrosse!

Possession at the opening of quarters and after playes is determined by the faceoff.   If the offensive team fails to advance the ball past midfield within 8 seconds of obtaining possession, an 8 second violation is called.   There is also a shot clock in lacrosse (I love the shot clock.  Seriously).  When a team has possession of the ball, the can pass it and do whatever they want with it, but they must shoot it at the goal within 30 seconds or they lose possession.   If they shoot on goal and miss, but recover possession, the shot clock begins again.

The crease is the 9 foot radius around the net.  Only the goalie can be in here with the ball.   If a goal is scored in the crease, it's disallowed.  Crease = goalie's sacred space.  Stay out.

When it comes to play, you'll find a lot of similar terms as in hockey, but enforcement of the rules is somewhat different.   There are still minor, major and match penalties, and let's take a look at how those work.  Minor penalties include delay of game, elbowing, holding, crosschecking, slashing, tripping and other similar infractions.  They are two minutes in length and the offending team plays a man down.  If a goal is scored before the end of the penalty, the player is released from the box.   Major penalties include things like high sticking, boarding, face masking, fighting, and spearing.   They are 5 minutes in length.   If two extra man goals are scored before the end of the penalty (changed from 3), the penalized team can replace the player on the floor, but the penalized player still has to serve out the duration of his penalty.    For match penalties: the player involved is sent to the dressing room for the remainder of the game and his penalty is served in the box by another player.   When three extra man goals are scored, the player is released.  Goaltenders are no longer serving their own penalties.

Game misconducts involve suspension for the remainder of the game and are subject to suspension or fine from the league.   Any player who receives 3 major penalties excluding fighting majors is assessed a game misconduct.  Once that happens every 2 major penalties after that is a game misconduct.  3 game misconducts is a suspension.  Each game misconduct after that increases the suspension 1 game.  The club is also fined 500$.   Match penalties are an automatic suspension.  As you can see the NLL doesn't mess around, although players have the right to appeal.

Lacrosse games are very fast paced, high scoring affairs.   In your average game, between the 2 teams, you will see around 25 goals scored, so don't be shocked by the high GAA the goaltenders have.

I'm going to look at a few more terms, and then class will be dismissed.   Cradling is how they keep the ball inside their sticks by rocking it back and forth.   Hidden stick plays are cradling your stick without the ball to get the other team to focus on you while your teammate with the ball passes or shoots.   Loose balls occur when no one has possession of the ball and it is bouncing around on the boards or goalie.  Players can obtain the loose ball, and they keep stats for that.   Delayed penalties are slow whistles.

I said I'd come back to time outs.   Coaches have challenges in lacrosse, for goal review only.  They can have the following reviewed: determination of the ball crossing the goal line, determination of the ball crossing the plane of the goal prior to the end of the quarter (exception: 2 minutes or less remaining in the 4th or overtime), crease violations, and determination of the ball crossing the plane of the goal prior the the expiration of the shot clock (again with the exception of 2 minutes or less remaining in the 4th or overtime, and this challenge can only be initiated by the officials).   Each head coach gets one challenge per half and signifies that they wish to use it by throwing out the challenge flag.   If they lose the challenge, they lose a timeout.   Should the challenging coach not have any time outs remaining, a bench minor is assessed.

That's about all I have for you.  Feel free to hit me up with any questions.  The Swarm kick off their season Saturday night in Rochester NY.  Hope to see you all here for that.

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