Throwback Thursday: The American Lacrosse League

Photo: American Lacrosse League                                                                                              

Today in 2019, the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) just ended their inaugural season, and the  Major League Lacrosse (MLL) is in their nineteenth season and will host their championship weekend this weekend from October 4th-6th in Denver. Across the lacrosse world, many view these leagues as the first American pro field lacrosse leagues, but that is just false. 

The American Lacrosse League (ALL) was in fact the first real attempt at pro field lacrosse in America when Terry Wallace and Bruce Meierdiercks launched the league in 1988. While the league didn’t even last a full season, it laid the foundation for what we now see with the PLL and MLL in 2019. 

The short-lived ALL was comprised of six teams: Syracuse Spirit, Long Island Sachems, Baltimore Tribe, Boston Militia, Denver Rifles, and New Jersey Arrows. Each team could carry up to 23 players and the league had signed players to two-year contracts, making $4,000 in year one and $6,000 in year two. The money the players were promised was the highest in pro lacrosse at the time as many MILL (now NLL) players made $100 a game back then. 

In building the leagues, the ALL wanted to get away from the intense party and WWE feel of the MILL and be more of a family friendly league. They originally set a 15-game schedule with games only being played on Sunday and even secured a TV deal with FNN/Madison Square Garden. 

Some ruled changes were made from the college game at the time to make the ALL game much more fun, fast-paced, and exciting. Among those rule changes was a 25-second shot clock, limiting the amount of long poles on the field to three (five were allowed in college at the time), allowing on-the-fly substitution (only subs after a whistle were permitted in college at the time), not allowing penalties to stop fast breaks, and only calling delayed penalties on the offensive end of the field. 

The ALL’s season began on April 24th, 1988 with Syracuse visiting Long Island, Baltimore visiting New Jersey, and Denver visiting Boston. During opening weekend, only 600 attended the New Jersey-Baltimore game. 

While many crowds remained very small, Denver actually drew the largest crowd in ALL history when 2,700 showed up for Denver’s home opener against New Jersey on May 8th. 

By Week four and five of the season, it became apparent that the ALL may not last and the money that Terry Wallace and Bruce Meierdiercks said was in the league might be significantly less than advertised. Apparently, players for the Baltimore Tribe had their checks bounced on May 16th and their general manager stepped down shortly after. 

The Denver Rifles officially ceased operations on May 19th and the suspended operations shortly after on May 27th. All in all, the ALL is just another field pro lacrosse league of the past, but laid the foundation in which the MLL built off of 13 years later and the PLL. 

Adding the shot clock and the ALL’s emphasize on generating offense is clearly seen in the pro field game today and has even trickled into the college game with the institution of the shot clock prior to the 2019 season. 

There are a few ALL games that have been uploaded to YouTube.


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