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NLL Quick Hits: Can anyone beat the Rush?

Defending champion: Saskatchewan Rush. They defeated the Buffalo Bandits, two games to none, in the NLL Final. The two teams will play their only regular-season game of 2017 on April 1 in Buffalo.

Change of scenery I: Only a few of the league's best players have a new address. The biggest deal sent Adam Jones, a Canisius College graduate, from Colorado to Saskatchewan for Zack Greer. Jones had trouble attending all of Colorado's games because of his Monday-to-Friday teaching job in Ontario, so travel should be easier for him now. Rochester acquired Andrew Suitor from New England for Derek Searle and two draft choices.

Toronto's Colin Doyle and Josh Sanderson head the list of players who retired in the offseason, a list that also includes Mike Kirk of Rochester and Jeff Moleski of Vancouver.

Change in scenery II: The league's office has moved from New York City to suburban Philadelphia.

Rich get richer: Saskatchewan had the first pick in the NLL draft in the fall. The Rush picked Ryan Keenan with that selection. He's the son of Saskatchewan general manager and coach Derek Keenan.

The lineup: The same nine teams are back for the 2016-17 season, and they are in the same cities. That's a step forward for the NLL, which hasn't had the same roster of teams in back-to-back years since 2012-13.

The schedule: The action begins in the 2016 calendar year. Toronto is in Rochester on Thursday, Dec. 29, while Buffalo hosts Colorado on Friday, Dec. 30. That's a week earlier than in past years. However, the regular season still goes through April 29, and the playoffs begin in May.

Television: The National Lacrosse League continues its search for the proper media vehicle to show its games. This season, the league has started Fans can buy live access to all games throughout the league for the season for $34.95. They also can purchase the chance to see the games of only one team for the season for $24.95. Discounts are available for season-ticket holders. The NLL also plans to sell one-game passes.

For those who are patient, games can be seen on the site for free 24 hours after  completion. The new site also has highlights and features.

Expansion: Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz has talked about adding teams to the NLL, which everyone agrees is necessary for the league to thrive. He's been looking for ownership groups with connections to NHL or NBA teams, a business model that has worked well in Buffalo and in other cities.

Possible targets for expansion areas are Philadelphia, Long Island, Montreal and Edmonton.

New logo: The old symbol of a lacrosse player carrying the ball down the field is gone after a couple of decades or so.

The new logo has a four-pointed star in the middle, meant to salute the four original teams in the league from the late 1980s. All of them, by the way, have folded. The symbol also represents a connection to the Native American Morning Star, and therefore represents a connection to the game's roots. A shield wraps around the star. Each team can customize the logo in its own colors.

This sort of switch isn't done without considerable thought and research. It's fair to say, however, that the new symbol's lack of any sort of obvious connection to lacrosse was a surprise to many.

Rule changes: The teams' game roster limit has gone up and down over the years, and it went back up for 2016. Rosters can include 17 players and two goalies, up a player from last season. The number of scratches for a given game will go down to one.

"I'm glad the league and the people involved had a say in it, because it will make our game a lot better," Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. "Our game was so fast at 18 and two, but 17 and two will help. The coaches complained the most because they have injuries. Last year in the first and third quarters, the pace was unbelievable. In the second and fourth quarter, it kind of tailed off. This will speed it up."

Three officials will be on the floor at all times, up from two. Another rule change is designed to offer more protection in the form of tougher penalties for players who hit an opponent in a defenseless position.


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