For MLL Execs and Players, There's Still Value in the Home Team Model


Max Adler, the faceoff specialist for Denver's MLL championship team, says he chose to remain with the Outlaws in part to repay the faith they showed him as a Division II product.

The official announcement of the creation of Premier Lacrosse League, led by former Major League Lacrosse MVP Paul Rabil, came Monday morning, and it generated a lot of buzz. One of the items that caught a lot of attention was the list of 140 players that reportedly were joining the new professional field lacrosse league, including Tom Schreiber, Kyle Harrison and Matt Danowski.

For those staying put in Major League Lacrosse, however, it is business as usual.

“We’ve got incredibly strong partners. We feel like we’re executing on a plan we laid out,” MLL commissioner Sandy Brown said. “We have a business to run. I can’t worry about things I can’t control. I feel very good about where we are. Our owners feel very good about where we are.”

A statement issued by the league office Tuesday said the combined assets of the league’s ownership group “are in excess of $9 billion,” and it lists corporate partnerships that include the Walt Disney Company, New Balance/Warrior, the Coca-Cola Company, Anhheuser Busch, Nissan, JW Marriot, Cascade/Maverik and Chick-fil-A.

The statement also reminded fans that several high-profile players will still be playing in MLL, including Lyle Thompson, Colin Heacock, Zach Currier, Max Adler, Liam Byrnes and 2018 MLL MVP Rob Pannell.

Just like Brown, Adler said he is preparing for the 2019 season the same whether others are in the MLL or PLL.

“My motivation comes from winning a championship,” he said. “That’s what I step out to do when I step on any field. I play for my teammates and my coaches.”

Adler, a faceoff specialist, helped the Denver Outlaws win the 2018 MLL championship, going 15-for-29 in the championship game and picking up nine ground balls. He said respects the decision of his peers to play in the PLL.

“Everyone has to make the decision that’s best for them,” Adler said.

Adler, lightly regarded as a Division II product out of Bentley, said he decided to remain with the Outlaws to show his loyalty to the organization in return for the doors he said they opened for him.

“Denver was the team that drafted me out of college when no other MLL team was going to draft me,” he said. “Then they gave me a chance to start this year. They definitely took a risk trading away Tom Kelly. To win a championship with them, I wanted to show loyalty back.

“Last year, I was looking for jobs and I called [Outlaws president and Broncos chief commercial officer] Mac Freeman for advice in the middle of football season,” he added. “A couple days later, he set up a phone call with me and gave me great insight. That was last year, when I had played in three games, and he had no reason to do that. He said, ‘Once you’re part of the Outlaws, you’re family.’”

While the sights of players, coaches and executives are set on the future of the league and their respective teams, the migration of talent to the PLL is still significant just in terms of numbers. This leaves teams with plenty of open roster spots to fill.

The names of available players may not be as well known as Rabil, Schreiber or Harrison, but league executives still believe there is enough talent to go around.

“There are plenty of players that are more than qualified to play in our league,” Brown said. “We have got college seniors which will be available to us. Our existing player pool, I’m not concerned about it.”


MLL commissioner Sandy Brown says the league remains optimistic about its future despite the advent of the PLL.

Chesapeake Bayhawks president Mark Burdett said the team will fill out its roster in the same three ways it does every offseason: through the supplemental draft, the college draft and the open tryouts.

The supplemental draft is not new to MLL. Denver received significant contributions from Dillon Ward, Finn Sullivan, Eli Gobrecht, and Nick Tintle — all supplemental draft picks — to help win the championship in 2018. Burdett did say, however, that scouting will play an even more important role.

“There are a lot of good lacrosse players Division II or Division III who weren’t looked at very seriously who might’ve improved their games or were injured,” he said. “Scouting and recruiting is always important, but now, considering there’s a few more holes in everyone’s roster, the amount of time and attention our head coach and general manager have put into that is really important. You’re looking for that diamond in the rough.”

Burdett added that although there will be some unfamiliar faces on the sidelines, rosters in professional sports are routinely in flux.

“I don’t think it’s well understood in the MLL, rosters turnover pretty quickly,” he said. “Every three years, you probably have 80 percent of your roster changing. The PLL will draw talent out, but it will be replaced pretty quickly. Even if the PLL didn’t exist, we’d be turning over our roster based on age and life commitments. That is the reality of professional lacrosse.”

In addition to the league, the individual teams issued statements responding to the announcement of the creation of the PLL. One difference between the two leagues that was emphasized by the MLL teams was their connection to the communities in which they play. While the PLL will be a touring league, with all teams playing at one site, in one city, at a time, MLL teams represent various communities that they not only play in front of, but also are involved in.

The MLL fans, specifically the ones in Denver, were an additional reason for Adler to stick around.

“Playing for Denver is such an incredible experience with the Fourth of July game,” he said. “Playing in front of 30,000 people, in all my college athletics if you combine it and multiply it by five, it’s probably still not as much.

“I want to play for a fan base, for a home team,” he added. “That makes winning a championship more special. We’re not just representing a team; we’re representing a city. That’s a factor for me.”

MLL has undergone several changes in recent weeks: the start of the season was pushed back to June, two games were added to each team’s schedule, game day rosters expanded by one and the salary cap increased.

A large turnover of players is not one of the changes the league was hoping to go through, but executives knew the PLL was coming. The new league will not stop those involved in MLL from continuing to work to improve it.

“We made a lot of changes in a short period of time,” Brown said. “We can’t change everything as fast as people would like. There’s a lot more on the way. I have to focus on my business.

“We know we have a job to do,” Brown added. “We’re just scratching the surface. We’re just getting started.”

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