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WK
1
Fri, Dec 2
FINAL
Philadelphia
8
Halifax
18
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Vancouver
8
Toronto
19
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
San Diego
15
New York
14
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Albany
11
Buffalo
10
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Rochester
16
Georgia
11
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Colorado
6
Saskatchewan
18
WK
2
Fri, Dec 9
20:30:00
Las Vegas
Panther City
Fri, Dec 9
22:00:00
Saskatchewan
San Diego
Sat, Dec 10
19:00:00
Toronto
Rochester
Sat, Dec 10
21:30:00
Vancouver
Calgary
WK
3
Fri, Dec 16
22:00:00
Calgary
Vancouver
Fri, Dec 16
22:30:00
Panther City
Las Vegas
Sat, Dec 17
19:00:00
Buffalo
Toronto
Sat, Dec 17
19:00:00
Rochester
Albany
Sat, Dec 17
19:00:00
Philadelphia
Georgia
Sat, Dec 17
19:30:00
Halifax
New York
Sat, Dec 17
20:00:00
Colorado
Panther City
WK
5
Fri, Dec 30
19:30:00
Halifax
Buffalo
Fri, Dec 30
21:00:00
San Diego
Calgary
Sat, Dec 31
21:00:00
Panther City
Saskatchewan
WK
6
Fri, Jan 6
22:30:00
Philadelphia
Las Vegas
Sat, Jan 7
19:00:00
Panther City
Rochester
Sat, Jan 7
19:00:00
Halifax
Albany
Sat, Jan 7
19:00:00
Buffalo
Georgia
Sat, Jan 7
19:30:00
Toronto
New York
Sat, Jan 7
22:00:00
Calgary
Colorado
Sat, Jan 7
22:00:00
Vancouver
San Diego
WK
7
Fri, Jan 13
18:30:00
Albany
Halifax
Fri, Jan 13
21:00:00
Saskatchewan
Colorado
Sat, Jan 14
19:00:00
Halifax
Toronto
Sat, Jan 14
19:00:00
Panther City
Philadelphia
Sat, Jan 14
19:30:00
Georgia
Buffalo
Sat, Jan 14
21:00:00
San Diego
Calgary
Sat, Jan 14
22:00:00
Las Vegas
Vancouver
Sun, Jan 15
15:00:00
Rochester
New York
WK
8
Fri, Jan 20
19:30:00
Buffalo
Rochester
Fri, Jan 20
22:30:00
Vancouver
Las Vegas
Sat, Jan 21
19:00:00
New York
Albany
Sat, Jan 21
19:00:00
Toronto
Philadelphia
WK
9
Fri, Jan 27
18:00:00
Rochester
Halifax
Fri, Jan 27
19:00:00
Buffalo
Philadelphia
Sat, Jan 28
19:30:00
Buffalo
New York
Sat, Jan 28
20:30:00
Las Vegas
Saskatchewan
Sat, Jan 28
21:00:00
Toronto
Calgary
Sat, Jan 28
21:00:00
San Diego
Colorado
Sat, Jan 28
22:00:00
Panther City
Vancouver
WK
10
Fri, Feb 3
21:00:00
Georgia
Colorado
Sat, Feb 4
18:00:00
Calgary
Halifax
Sat, Feb 4
19:00:00
New York
Toronto
Sat, Feb 4
19:00:00
Albany
Philadelphia
Sat, Feb 4
19:30:00
Rochester
Buffalo
Sat, Feb 4
22:00:00
Panther City
San Diego
Sat, Feb 4
22:00:00
Saskatchewan
Vancouver
Sat, Feb 4
22:30:00
Colorado
Las Vegas
WK
11
Fri, Feb 10
19:30:00
Toronto
Georgia
Fri, Feb 10
21:00:00
Saskatchewan
Calgary
Sat, Feb 11
19:00:00
Halifax
Rochester
Sat, Feb 11
19:30:00
Albany
New York
Sat, Feb 11
20:00:00
Vancouver
Panther City
Sat, Feb 11
21:00:00
Colorado
Calgary
WK
12
Fri, Feb 17
22:00:00
Saskatchewan
San Diego
Fri, Feb 17
22:00:00
Calgary
Vancouver
Sat, Feb 18
19:00:00
Georgia
Toronto
Sat, Feb 18
19:00:00
Las Vegas
Albany
Sat, Feb 18
19:30:00
Philadelphia
Buffalo
Sat, Feb 18
20:00:00
Colorado
Panther City
Sun, Feb 19
13:00:00
New York
Halifax
WK
13
Fri, Feb 24
21:00:00
Panther City
Colorado
Fri, Feb 24
22:30:00
Calgary
Las Vegas
Sat, Feb 25
19:00:00
New York
Rochester
Sat, Feb 25
19:00:00
Albany
Georgia
Sat, Feb 25
20:00:00
Vancouver
Saskatchewan
WK
14
Fri, Mar 3
18:30:00
Buffalo
Halifax
Sat, Mar 4
11:30:00
New York
Philadelphia
Sat, Mar 4
16:00:00
Las Vegas
San Diego
Sat, Mar 4
19:00:00
Rochester
Toronto
Sat, Mar 4
19:00:00
Georgia
Albany
Sat, Mar 4
20:00:00
Saskatchewan
Panther City
Mon, Mar 6
19:00:00
Toronto
Philadelphia
WK
15
Fri, Mar 10
19:30:00
Halifax
Buffalo
Fri, Mar 10
21:00:00
Calgary
Colorado
Sat, Mar 11
19:00:00
Albany
Toronto
Sat, Mar 11
19:30:00
Philadelphia
New York
Sat, Mar 11
20:30:00
San Diego
Saskatchewan
Sat, Mar 11
22:30:00
Vancouver
Las Vegas
Sun, Mar 12
16:00:00
Rochester
Georgia
WK
16
Fri, Mar 17
21:00:00
Saskatchewan
Calgary
Fri, Mar 17
22:00:00
San Diego
Vancouver
Sat, Mar 18
11:00:00
Georgia
Philadelphia
Sat, Mar 18
18:00:00
Toronto
Halifax
Sat, Mar 18
19:30:00
Albany
New York
Sat, Mar 18
19:30:00
Colorado
Buffalo
Sat, Mar 18
20:00:00
Las Vegas
Panther City
Sun, Mar 19
15:00:00
Philadelphia
Rochester
WK
17
Fri, Mar 24
20:30:00
San Diego
Panther City
Sat, Mar 25
19:00:00
Toronto
Albany
Sat, Mar 25
19:00:00
Halifax
Philadelphia
Sat, Mar 25
19:30:00
Georgia
New York
Sat, Mar 25
21:30:00
Calgary
Saskatchewan
Sat, Mar 25
22:00:00
Buffalo
San Diego
Sat, Mar 25
22:00:00
Colorado
Vancouver
Sat, Mar 25
22:30:00
Rochester
Las Vegas
WK
18
Fri, Mar 31
20:00:00
New York
Georgia
Fri, Mar 31
21:00:00
Las Vegas
Colorado
Fri, Mar 31
22:00:00
Calgary
San Diego
Sat, Apr 1
19:00:00
Buffalo
Toronto
Sat, Apr 1
20:00:00
Albany
Panther City
Sat, Apr 1
21:30:00
Vancouver
Saskatchewan
Sun, Apr 2
13:00:00
Georgia
Halifax
Sun, Apr 2
18:00:00
Rochester
Philadelphia
WK
19
Sat, Apr 8
19:00:00
Albany
Rochester
Sat, Apr 8
19:00:00
Saskatchewan
Georgia
Sat, Apr 8
21:00:00
Panther City
Calgary
Sat, Apr 8
21:00:00
Vancouver
Colorado
Sat, Apr 8
22:30:00
San Diego
Las Vegas
WK
20
Fri, Apr 14
21:00:00
Las Vegas
Calgary
Fri, Apr 14
21:00:00
San Diego
Colorado
Sat, Apr 15
19:00:00
Philadelphia
Toronto
Sat, Apr 15
19:00:00
Georgia
Albany
Sat, Apr 15
19:30:00
New York
Buffalo
Sat, Apr 15
21:30:00
Halifax
Saskatchewan
Sat, Apr 15
22:00:00
Panther City
Vancouver
WK
21
Fri, Apr 21
20:30:00
Calgary
Panther City
Sat, Apr 22
18:00:00
New York
Halifax
Sat, Apr 22
19:00:00
Georgia
Rochester
Sat, Apr 22
20:00:00
Toronto
Buffalo
Sat, Apr 22
21:30:00
Colorado
Saskatchewan
Sat, Apr 22
22:00:00
Las Vegas
San Diego
Sun, Apr 23
15:00:00
Philadelphia
Albany
WK
22
Sat, Apr 29
19:00:00
Philadelphia
Rochester
Sat, Apr 29
19:00:00
Buffalo
Albany
Sat, Apr 29
19:00:00
Halifax
Georgia
Sat, Apr 29
22:00:00
Colorado
San Diego
Sat, Apr 29
22:00:00
New York
Vancouver
Sat, Apr 29
22:30:00
Saskatchewan
Las Vegas
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Stories/Op-Ed

The NLL Unstrung: An American Perspective on the EPBLL

Welcome back to another edition of The NLL Unstrung! In the first article, The Start of a New Series, we discussed the birth of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League, which today is known as the National Lacrosse League. The second article, The Start of an All-American League, discusses the league’s start with four teams made up solely of American born players.

Thanks again to Brian Shanahan, former NLL player and current NLL analyst, on sharing his perspective on the league, with his background growing up in Canada playing box lacrosse with his brothers and well-known players like John Tavares.


This article gives you firsthand stories from an American born field lacrosse player that played in the EPBLL in its early years.


I had the chance to talk to Todd Esposito, who shared some stories on his years playing for the New York Saints. Esposito grew up playing field lacrosse on Long Island before his All-American career at Nassau Community College and the University of Virginia.


Following graduation, Esposito said, “Some guys were called to a meeting to start an outdoor pro league. I played club for the Long Island squad, but it didn’t last long. There was not a whole lot of money to travel so everything was by bus. That league only lasted six games before going bankrupt. Teams didn’t even have enough money to pay players.”


There weren’t many playing opportunities in the 1980’s. Esposito has many stories of playing club ball because that is all that the guys knew at that time. “You’d go home from college and play in the league. Everyone knew each other because they had grown up together,” said Esposito.

That was the norm.

Players like Esposito were trying to figure out where to play after college graduation, but then box came around. Yes, at this time in 1986, the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League was being formed.

“I was in DC at the time and was going to play for the DC team, but the coaches knew I was going back to New York. They weren’t going to pay for me to travel back and forth so I played with the New York Saints,” said Esposito.

Let’s rewind. Remember in my last article, I told you how the league tried to get local players on each of its four original teams to cut down on expenses? Esposito was one of those local talents, and he spoke about his experiences firsthand.

Let’s talk salary, just to fully paint the picture for you. Esposito told me that each player got an estimated $350 per game during their first season, but that was only if you played. If you didn’t play, you didn’t get paid. Practice players played for the love of the game because they didn’t receive a paycheck.

He also said, “It was the same price for everyone that played. $350 for first year guys and then players got a $100-$200 raise every year after that. If players were in the league too long and started to get $1000-$1200 per game, the teams would only play you a couple of games so they did not have to pay you as much. Then they’d have a ‘special night’, which ended up being your final game in the league.”

In other words, when players salaries would reach four figures after being in the league for too long, the team would organize a special game honoring their last game in the league. That would be the end of their time playing in the EPBLL.

So at that time, between financial boundaries and injuries (which we will talk about more in a later article), players rarely stayed in the league for more than a few years.

This helps explain why teams could not afford to pay players to relocate to a new team or to fly in for games. Esposito claims this was all well known throughout the league. But the players didn’t care because everyone was playing for the love of the game, not for a check.

Esposito knew the general manager for the Saints, which is how he ended up joining the team. Esposito told me there was no draft back then. “Teams had open tryouts they invited everyone to, but they weren’t really for everyone. You knew who the coaches were and they knew you. They would call you and give you a roster spot, so some didn’t need to tryout,” said Esposito.

“Teams also needed practice players so unfortunately open tryouts were basically for practice players. They weren’t going to see the field but they just wanted to be part of the team.”

Since practice players weren’t paid, teams would pick up local guys to fill those spots.

“We played back then for the game, not the money,” said Esposito. “There were no summer club teams. Nobody thought of starting a summer team for fifth or sixth graders and make money through coaching like now. It was all about playing. We did it because we loved the game. We just wanted to play. You thought you were better than the guy next to you. Then afterwards everyone met up for a beer and were friends.”

Let’s take a look at practice. Back in 1986, teams didn’t have their own practice facility, so they had to share practice times with other local teams in different sports. The New York Cosmos, a professional men’s soccer team at the time, opened up an indoor soccer facility and were kind enough to let the Saints practice there twice a week. The hard part was that the indoor 5v5 soccer field was not the same size as the floor for a box game. So even though they were able to practice, they still couldn’t work on their offensive and defensive plays.

Esposito also shared a great story about traveling to games on little to no money. Back in the 80s, there was a low-cost airline called the People Express.“The flights were cheap so you could fly from New York to Dallas for $49 and they always overbooked so if you were willing to give up your seat you’d fly anywhere you want for free,” said Esposito. “Flights flew out every 90 minutes. So to travel we had a system. We would get tickets through People Express, go early to the airport, give up our seats, and then get tickets to fly to our game for free.

My jaw dropped when I first heard that story. I don’t know if you knew anything this airline, but I knew nothing about it.

More importantly, I hope this gives you a better sense of the start of the EPBLL. There was no funding back then like there is now. But it didn’t matter for the players – they just enjoyed playing lacrosse.

I have more stories including the adjustment to box after playing field, rules, injuries, and more but you will have to wait for the next edition of The NLL Unstrung for those.

Thanks to Jason for reaching out to me on Twitter about your uncle Esposito! I also have to give a shout out to Todd Esposito for sharing stories of his NLL playing days.  

Don’t forget you guys can message me on twitter @ReneePWash or tag me using #NLLUnstrung to share your stories with me. Let’s continue to uncover the history of the NLL one string at a time!

NLL