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Expansion not contraction is NLL goal

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman once said that he doesn't pay attention to what's going right with his business. He's busy dealing with what's going wrong.

George Daniel can relate to that.

The commissioner of the National Lacrosse League is trying to move indoor lacrosse up in the sports hierarchy in the United States and Canada.

"We want to improve the performance of our teams at the ticket gate," Daniel said. "Obviously Buffalo is a great success story. We need to have more Buffalos.

"We want to introduce the sport to people. We feel that once we do get people out to see it, they do become fans. That's always a challenge in the big markets we plan in. We've got a team in suburban Seattle. It's a new sport and new league to them. People are still learning it. We have that challenge in all of our cities."

The most obvious matter of discussion concerning the league centers on expansion, a constant topic over the years. The league shrank to nine teams for the 2012 season when the Boston Blazers dropped out.

The NLL's membership has resembled an accordion over the years, and Daniel hopes the league can start heading in the proper direction soon.

"It's never a good thing to lose a team," he said. "The nine owners that we have are the best quality ownership of the league, and it's very positive for us.

"Moving forward, our focus is quality over quantity. We want to make sure we don't re-make some of the mistakes we've made in the past. We've gone into some markets too soon. They weren't ready for the sport on the West Coast and places like that. I also think in some situations we didn't have the right arena deal, or didn't have the right ownership in place. We want to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row when we go into a new city."

Daniel said the league has focused on Canadian cities; Vancouver has been a subject of expansion speculation for some time. As for American cities, Daniel listed New York, New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Detroit as possible locations for teams at some point.

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The biggest winner on All-Star Night might have been West coach Chris Hall of Washington. The Stealth coach has been battling throat cancer and only made his return to the bench on Friday night.

"It's probably late in my career. How many All-Star games will I get?" Hall said. "It was pretty special after what I've been through to be here in my first weekend back.

"I'm truly overwhelmed by all the cards and letters and good wishes. A guy like Tracey Kelusky, who I had a long relationship with in Calgary, came down and gave me a hug. The East team All-Stars came over before the game and shook my hand. The lacrosse community, knowing what I went through, took special time in their hearts to give me those well-wishes. It's very humbling."

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It wasn't much of an All-Star break for the members of the Buffalo Bandits. Not only did six of the players take part in Saturday's game, but the entire roster took part in a two-hour practice early Saturday afternoon.

The Bandits haven't played a game in two weeks, so they remain stuck in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
"That's the worst part about it -- you have so much time to think of it," Bandits' forward Luke Wiles said. "You'd rather get out there the next night and be able to whack someone with your stick because you're mad. But sometimes it's a blessing in disguise. We have a couple of weeks off, but we don't have a week off for the rest of the season."

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Dan Dawson of Philadelphia had a goal and six assists for the East. Adam Jones of Colorado finished with five points for the West.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com