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New National Lacrosse League commissioner becomes a fan on the fly

The National Lacrosse League had a typically busy season when it came to changes. The biggest one was a surprise to almost everyone – including the person involved.

Nick Sakiewicz was named the new commissioner of the NLL earlier this week. He took over for George Daniel, who will start his own law firm but who will remain the league’s counsel.

Sakiewicz’s sports career had been completely connected with the sport of soccer in the past. Not only was he a professional player, playing in the United States and Europe, but he was an executive in Major League Soccer. Sakiewicz put together a group to form an expansion team in the MLS, the Philadelphia Union. However, that relationship fell apart last year and he left the organization in October.

The NLL started its search for a new commissioner after that, and Sakiewicz seemed like an unlikely candidate for the job. After all, he didn’t know anything about indoor lacrosse.

“When it was first brought to my attention, candidly I said, ‘I like the sport but I don’t understand it,’ ” Sakiewicz said Thursday via conference call. “I had never seen an NLL game.

“When this opportunity presented itself, I spent a day and a half watching highlights and researching lacrosse.”

After a brief period of time, he realized that he liked the game.

“I’m a pretty big hockey fan, and it’s every bit as exciting as a hockey game for me personally,” Sakiewicz said. “I got caught up in it quickly. I got to know personalities, the owners in the league. That had a big influence on me.”

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The league had some other developments in the offseason as well:

Television: A majority of the league’s games will be shown on Fox Sports Go, an Internet outlet. There is no charge to watch the broadcast. Other games will be shown on ESPN3.

New home for MVP: It’s unusual for a league’s Most Valuable Player to be traded immediately after his big season, but it happened in the NLL. Calgary sent forward Shawn Evans and a draft choice to New England for Tyler Digby and two first-round picks. Evans had requested a deal to an East Coast team, and the Roughnecks worked it out.

Digby had three goals for Calgary in Saturday’s loss to Buffalo.

New home for teams: The fans in Edmonton didn’t get much time to enjoy the Rush’s championship season. The team moved to Saskatchewan in the offseason. Meanwhile, the Swarm finally decided to give up on the Minnesota market, and packed up for suburban Atlanta. The franchise is now called the Georgia Swarm.

Thompson update: The fourth Thompson brother entered the league when Lyle Thompson was taken by Georgia with the first pick overall. There he joins brother Miles. Jerome Thompson is back with the Bandits this season, while Jeremy Thompson remains with Saskatchewan.

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Buffalo coach Troy Cordingley is used to sending out John Tavares to play for him. On Saturday, Tavares stood next to him in his new role as an assistant coach.

“He won’t tell you this, but he got a little frustrated calling plays that didn’t work out,” Cordingley said.

“He just sees the game at a different level than everyone else. He’s such a calming influence on everyone. How can you not go through the middle and take a stray stick with what he’s gone through for this organization and this league. He’s simply the greatest. He’s a great addition to our bench.”

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The NLL announced Saturday afternoon that Buffalo’s Alex Kedoh Hill has been suspended for two games, due to an infraction in a preseason game against Calgary. Hill sat out Saturday’s game with the Roughnecks. Mitch Wilde took Hill’s place in the lineup and scored a goal.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com