The sport of box lacrosse has a rich history on Long Island at NYCB LIVE, home of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Long Island Tomahawks played one season in the National Lacrosse League back in 1975 before the league folded in 1976. The New York Saints played at the Coliseum in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (renamed National Lacrosse League in 1998) from 1989 to 2003. The sport made a part-time return to Long Island in 2007 when the New York Titans of the NLL split their home games between the Coliseum and Madison Square Garden.
After a 12 year wait, box lacrosse returns to the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night when the New York Riptide hosts the Saskatchewan Rush in the franchise’s inaugural home opener (7:30 p.m. MSG and B/R Live).
“It’s going to be exciting at the home opener,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “I know the players, the staff, the ownership group and the fans are really excited to play back at the Coliseum in front of a great crowd and passionate fans.”
On December 12th, 2018, the National Lacrosse League announced that an expansion team for New York was awarded to the GF Sports ownership group. On January 14thof this year, Regy Thorpe was named General Manager and Head Coach and then on February 17th, it was announced that the new franchise would be called the New York Riptide.
And now a little over a year after the franchise was announced, the sport of box lacrosse is set to make its return to “The Barn”.
“It feels great and very gratifying,” said Erik Baker, Co-Founder and Managing Director of GF Capital and Board Member of GF Sports. “The whole team is excited to put on a great show for our fans on Saturday night. A lot goes into all of the behind the scenes work and it seems like it was just yesterday we were choosing the name and logo.”
Forward Kieran McArdle is the lone player from Long Island on the Riptide roster. Back in the day, the Ronkonkoma native played with his youth lacrosse team on the field at halftime of a Saints game. The former star at Connetquot High School and St. John’s University is excited to be a part of the sport’s return the Coliseum.
“Being able to play in front of family, friends and old coaches is going to be a really cool experience,” said McArdle who played his first three NLL seasons with the Toronto Rock. “Once we step out there for the first time in front of our fans out here on Long Island and we grow that fan base and they become really passionate about the Riptide, it’s going to be really cool to be a part of that.”
Long Island is one of the great lacrosse hotbeds in the United States and you’ll be hard-pressed to find many blocks in any community that doesn’t have a lacrosse net in front of a house. Even before the official announcement of the franchise, team officials began an extensive grassroots marketing effort by reaching out to as many youth lacrosse organizations as possible on Long Island.
There has certainly been a buzz about the team, the logo, and the jerseys so there should be an exciting atmosphere at the Coliseum for the first home game in franchise history on Saturday.
“I think the ownership group has made a long-term commitment to the Long Island and Tri-State Area to bring box lacrosse back,” said Thorpe. “To have an opportunity to help lead this organization on the field and behind the bench is super special to me. I can’t wait for Saturday night.”
Thorpe and his staff worked hard during the off-season in putting the roster together. Life as an expansion team can be a challenge but the Riptide has assembled a mix of youth and experience with young players like first round picks Tyson Gibson and Tyson Bomberry along with established NLL veterans like captain Dan MacRae along with assistant captains John Ranagan and Tyler Digby.
After the Riptide will have played their first three games on the road, Long Island fans will finally get to cheer on their new team on Saturday.
“I know Regy and all of the guys on the team are pumped to be in front of our home fans after being on the road,” said Baker. “It will be important for our fans to come out and support the team. With indoor lacrosse, momentum is critical so we need the support. We can’t wait to see everyone on Saturday.”
Saturday will certainly be an historic night for the inaugural Riptide home opener at Nassau Coliseum. There will be thousands of excited and curious fans on hand as well as alumni from both the Saints and Titans that will help welcome the sport back to Long Island. It’s been a long time since box lacrosse has been played at the Coliseum. The long wait ends on Saturday.