As he looks to build a roster for his new men’s professional box lacrosse team, Panther City Lacrosse (PCL) General Manager Bob Hamley wants to find more than just players who can deftly handle a stick.
“We really try to encompass, obviously, their abilities on the floor, but also their characters,” said Hamley. “We want guys that want to be in the community, really build a culture that we can be proud of for years to come.”
The Sport of Box Lacrosse
Hamley’s team will begin to play in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) this December. Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena will serve as their home floor. The NLL represents the indoor game’s top level, with teams spread across North America from Saskatchewan to San Diego to Atlanta. Box lacrosse players tend to come from Canada, and both the indoor and outdoor versions of the game are charting rapid growth in non-traditional areas like Fort Worth.
“The grassroots is really growing the game of lacrosse,” Hamley said. “And we really want to take it to the next level. I think being in Fort Worth is only going to help the whole state with the game of lacrosse.”
For the team to succeed long-term in Texas, team representatives like Hamley need to communicate about more than their own squad. They also need to pass along the exciting qualities of the sport itself, just as head coach Tracey Kelusky and players Phil Caputo and Charlie Kitchen did at a recent clinic at Game On Sports in Fort Worth.
“It's really fast and really a lot of goals. We have some incredible athletes,” Hamley explained. “These guys are the best in the world at box lacrosse.”
Hamley enjoys pointing out that their game has no offside rule, meaning one can see fast-developing offensive sequences spanning the length of the up-to-200-foot-long pitch.
“We have a 30-second shot clock,” he noted. “We have to get it over half in eight seconds. So it's a very fast game. And we can average anywhere from 25 to 32 goals a game.”
The league itself began play in January 1987. Bill Cameron, Greg Bibb and their Dallas Wings WNBA group will own the new team as the NLL expands to the Fort Worth-Dallas area for the first time. Bibb wants to entrench the team in Fort Worth, energetically telling the crowd at the team’s uniform unveiling event that every PCL goal will be followed by a loud chant of “We are Fort Worth! We are Panther City!”
Building the Panther City LAX Roster
As the circuit’s only new team, PCL got to participate in an expansion draft to build an initial roster. Hamley and his staff could select one player from each of the other franchises’ rosters, with its competitors allowed to protect anywhere from 10 to 12 players to prevent them from being selected. After the expansion draft, the club continued to sign players.
“There's a lot of street-free agents, guys that haven't maybe got a chance. Or maybe they had a chance and they were a late cut, some young juniors that maybe have matured,” Hamley said. “I think some of these kids, all they need is a chance, and we want to have a competitive training camp.”
One offseason signing will intrigue fans for more reasons than one: local product Bryce Wasserman.
“I watched Bryce last summer, in the Major Lacrosse League, won a championship with the Boston Cannons,” Hamley explained about a player who had starred in an outdoor pro lacrosse league. “He was the MVP in that league. So right away, the resume sticks out. And then we got together and had lunch in March or April. He's a great young man, he has a great story.”
Wasserman hails from nearby Southlake, Texas, played college lacrosse at low-profile Monmouth, and was released once before finally experiencing success in the outdoor league. The forward will have to beat the odds again to succeed with Panther City.
“He knows he's in a battle because he really never played box lacrosse before,” Hamley said. Wasserman fits the mode of young, athletic players the team has targeted in building its roster.
PCL will fill out their training camp lineup through the NLL’s entry draft for prospects just out of college on August 28. As the new team, they get the first pick, which Hamley indicated they will likely use on an unnamed Canadian scorer.
Kelusky (who likes you to call him TK if you ever get to meet him, just FYI), an NLL Hall of Famer as a player, plans to look for players with a strong work ethic to supplement their talent. The club will eventually cull the roster to a 21-man active roster with a four-person practice squad. Games start the first weekend in December, with the first PCL home game set for Friday, December 10. They expect to be able to announce the full schedule, including opponents, shortly after Labor Day. They expect to offer a special two-pack of tickets to get you into the first two historic games for one price.
How to Catch the Action
Season and group tickets for the nine-game regular season are now on sale and you can find information at their website, panthercitylax.com, or by calling 833-467-2529. If you already have a relationship with the Wings, your account representative can help you with lacrosse needs as well. The league will show its games in Canada on TSN and U.S. broadcasting agreements should be announced soon.