The National Lacrosse League has announced three finalists for the 2016 NLL Executive of the Year award. Mike French from the New England Black Wolves, Lee Genier of the Saskatchewan Rush and Scott Loffler from the Buffalo Bandits were the top vote recipients for their roles as executives with their respective teams.
Mike French, Co-Owner, New England Black Wolves
The value of Mike’s insight and longevity to the NLL is well known. He remains the only team owner to have ever played in the league. His involvement with the league in some form (he also served as a coach/GM) over the past 30 years is remarkable and unique. Most recently, he has been the lead architect in the transition of the former Philadelphia Wings to the New England Black Wolves, as well as, the transformation of the team’s significant turnaround in 2016 – both on and off the field. More specifically Mike has:
Led the effort in developing a very unique partnership and relationship between the Mohegan Sun Tribal Authority and our original ownership group thereby helping create the long-term foundation for a stable and successful franchise.
Identified and hired a new coaching staff and provided necessary support and resources to enable the transformation of the team’s philosophy, culture and performance goals.
Managed the strategic development of team’s recent “turnaround” plan – along with our coaches and team GM – to successfully remake the team’s roster and personnel decision-making process. This was accomplished via a series of trades, roster moves, free agent acquisitions and draft picks resulting in the addition of several new impact players and a vastly improved on-field record.
At the Board level, he was active in recommending the need for new leadership and change in the league structure; and, as an active member of the five-man Commissioner search committee, he identified potential candidates and helped lead the search process to a successful conclusion. He also serves as a standing member on the NLL finance committee.
Lee Genier, President, Saskatchewan Rush
Saskatchewan Rush President Lee Genier has overseen arguably the biggest Canadian Sports Story in 2016.
Genier was instrumental on the strategic business plan surrounding the relocation from Edmonton to Saskatchewan, and the daunting task of selling a new sport in an untested market. With only four months until opening night, many moving parts needed to be executed. Met by heavy skepticism from media and business leaders alike, Genier contested from day one that the Rush would sell every seat in the building. Fast forward to April 2016 and the Saskatchewan Rush officially sold out their last two regular season games with 15,000 fans at the SaskTel Centre; and averaged the third highest overall attendance in the league, surpassed by only Colorado and Buffalo.
With a strong focus on marketing the Rush, Lee and his team attacked the business community. Strong season ticket sales, sponsorship, merchandising and a visible downtown office were part a strategic plan that have resulted in a highly successful launch for the franchise.
Other highlights include: Engaged the aboriginal community across the province where the aboriginal community is 30% of the population. Engaged several charities across the city and province including the Saskatoon Food Bank and The Children’s Hospital Foundation. Worked with minor lacrosse to build and spur registrations and funding thru 50/50 program will be in excess of $200,000. Created brisk merchandise program that will see approximately 5,000 jerseys promoting the Rush brand across the province. Engaged national, provincial and local media from across the province to build Rush and NLL brand and create excitement. Several public speaking engagements introducing the Rush and promoting the NLL. Genier credits his staff for their hard work and perseverance in making the team a huge success. The future is bright in Saskatchewan with aims of increasing the brand footprint to reach all aspects of the province.
Previously, Genier spent 19 years in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, eventually rising to the position of senior Vice President, overseeing all business operations. Genier spent the last five years with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, leading the team to the 2014 Sochi Olympics before joining the Rush in July 2015 as President.
Scott Loffler, Director of Lacrosse Operations, Buffalo Bandits
The driving force behind one of the NLL’s most successful and storied franchises which celebrated its 25th season in 2016, Scott Loffler is a great ambassador for box lacrosse and the National Lacrosse League.
Loffler oversaw the planning and execution of all 25th anniversary celebrations including Champions Night, which honored the Bandits four championship teams, and John Tavares Night where the jersey of the greatest Bandit ever was raised to the rafters. These special ceremonies helped Buffalo average 15,833 fans per game over their nine home games this season, including four games of over 17,000 fans and a sellout of 19,070 fans for the season finale vs. New England.
In its second year of existence, Scott saw his school program reach new heights with schools from all over the Western New York and Southern Ontario areas lining up to be a part of it. The school program involved players going to schools and speaking about the importance of life skills such as integrity and leadership, as well as the sport of lacrosse.
As the true leader of the Bandits’ day-to-day operations and community initiatives, Scott was instrumental in coordinating the third annual Tucker Out Lymphoma Night to raise funds and awareness in helping to honor the memory of Tucker Williams, son of Bandits assistant coach Shawn Williams, who passed away from cancer. He also worked with Roswell Park Cancer Institute to coordinate a “Bald for Bucks” fundraiser and Unyts to host a successful blood drive at First Niagara Center.
Loffler also saw growth in his Bandits Youth Indoor Lacrosse League for high school, middle school and elementary-school players, the first of its kind in Western New York, in addition to organizing clinics and camps, all helping to grow the game at the youth and grassroots level. Through Scott’s leadership, the Bandits continue as an exemplary organization for the National Lacrosse League and the sport of box lacrosse.
The 2016 NLL Executive of the Year award is determined by a vote of the league’s Board of Governors at the end of the regular season. The winner will be announced at the NLL Season Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 27 in Toronto, Ont.
Schedule of finalist announcement for the remaining NLL Season Awards:
Monday, July 11: Media Person of the Year (The Tom Borrelli Award) winner
Tuesday, September 27: 2016 NLL Season Awards Ceremony