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New York Riptide Want Their Bite Out of the Big Apple

The New York Riptide hold the distinction of playing in both the most populated metropolitan area in North America, which is also, perhaps, the most active lacrosse region in the United States. While having these two factors in their back pocket would appear to be an inimitable marketing advantage, as Riptide Executive Vice President Rich Lisk is quick to point out, living life in the shadow of New York City comes with its own unique set of challenges.

“It’s different than other marketplaces that don’t have so many other entertainment options. It’s a hard market to break into,” explained Lisk. “We are out on Long Island. You’re not in New York, but you’re in New York. Long Island is its own community. We have tried to imbed ourselves into the fabric of Long Island and still play off that we are in New York, but we are a Long Island-based team and I’m going after those families that are here.”

While the Riptide’s plan to gain fans and ticket buyers stretches through the vast geography of the 20 million resident Tri-State Area, the organization reserves the lion’s share of its resources for the 50-mile radius that surrounds the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the franchise’s historic home venue.

“We do outreach to other areas. One of our owners owns Centercourt Club & Sports in Northern New Jersey. We do a tie in with CityLax in New York City and Bronx Lacrosse, while doing clinics in Queens. But our market is really Citi Field (located in the Flushing Meadows neighborhood of Queens) east to Western Suffolk County and then back around in a circle through Nassau County,” explained Lisk.

Now in his third season running the Riptide, the former New England Black Wolves executive also notes the difficulty that comes with establishing a box lacrosse identity in a region so dominated by the outdoor field game.

“We have a lot of lacrosse here. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing. People think you open the doors and people are just going to flock in. We’re trying to introduce a different version of [lacrosse than] Americans are used to seeing. We’re introducing box lacrosse,” said Lisk.

Expanding on his efforts to counter Long Island’s traditional view of the sport, Lisk is determined to educate the public on the complementary aspects of the box game, and how the Riptide’s inroads are not intended to intrude on the decades of field lacrosse tradition that remains as strong as ever.

“I’m trying to convince the outdoor lacrosse community that box is a good training tool. A good mechanism for players to get better at outdoor lacrosse. I don’t want to infiltrate outdoor lacrosse. I’m not starting an outdoor lacrosse organization. I want to teach box lacrosse skills to outdoor kids so they can become better.”

The Riptide’s ability to grow both sport and brand is greatly aided by the presence of the astonishing Jeff Teat. Rated the second-best forward in the NLL by League coaches and GMs, the Brampton, ON native is the perfect proof of concept regarding Lisk’s ability to educate the lacrosse community on the benefits of participating in both box and field. Teat, the 2020 first overall pick, starred at Cornell, before becoming an all-world performer in both the NLL and PLL.

The path taken by Teat is a common one for Canadian lacrosse players, who grow up playing both box and field, and then excel at US universities, before playing professionally. It’s all about showcasing box as a benefit, as opposed to a hinderance, with Lisk believing this conversation ranks as one of the principal aspects of his job.

Lisk also firmly believes that Teat’s greatness holds the key to establishing the Riptide as a signature player in the New York landscape, comparing the 2022 Rookie of the Year’s talent to present-day icons Aaron Judge and Connor McDavid, as well as all-time historical figures like the late Kobe Bryant and Wayne Gretzky.

“He is the greatest lacrosse player in the world,” proclaimed Lisk. “What also excites me is the type of person he is. I want men with character, not characters. I want people to represent us the right way. If you wanted to make a prototype of the guy you want to represent your organization, he is it. He is the straw that stirs this drink. It’s his team and he is the face of this team. He is slowly becoming the face of the league and he should be.”

The Riptide front office boss is nothing less than infatuated with Teat, whether it’s his skill, competitiveness, or willingness to sign as many as 100 or more autographs after games, win or lose. Teat and his teammates see this outreach as an honor and not that of a chore.

Season ticket holders were even treated to a Jeff Teat bobblehead doll, as a thank you for their loyalty to the franchise.

Lisk resolutely believes that his third season with the Riptide will serve as a springboard, both on the field and in the business office.

“We’re in the third year of a five-year plan and this is our big year,” said Lisk. “We made great strides last year off the field, putting fans in the seats. We were third in the league in group sales. We raised our season tickets to 1,000. It was at 200 when we started. We want to take that momentum from last year and build that up. Part of our three-year plan is making the playoffs this year.”

Seventeen Riptide players are working under multi-year contracts. In addition, the team is invoking a new strategy of conducting practices in suburban Toronto on Wednesday nights (as the majority of the team resides in that area), as opposed to the previous tactic of holding a Friday night workout 30 miles east of their home arena, in the Long Island hamlet of Kings Park.

Lisk and head coach Dan Ladouceur believe that a stable roster and enhanced player performance model will deliver big results. Because, at the end of the lacrosse day, Riptide brass know the absolute most important factor in building and maintaining a fan-base.

“In this market, more than anywhere, they want a winner. They are used to a winner.”

NLL