It is perhaps the craziest time of the sporting year as we head into the latter half of April.
Baseball is under way.
The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association playoffs are in full swing.
The start of the Canadian Football League is at least on the horizon, which is always good as I love the CFL.
And then there are some lesser watched sports that for me are equally interesting to follow, which means some definite time juggling when you realize fishing season is opening in about three weeks, and disc golf courses across the local Parkland Association of Disc Golf are calling as well.
So let’s take a look at a few leagues that sports fans should really take a look at since they might just find something fun to follow.
The inaugural season of the Mississauga Metro Stars has come to an end in the Major Arena Soccer League. The Metro Stars were an expansion team this season, and that meant a team with little league expansion. The MASL didn’t help in seeding the Stars roster through an expansion draft, which ultimately meant only one player with MASL experience. That lack of experience showed throughout the season as the Stars won only four of 24 games.
The team also didn’t appear to attract the fans they likely hoped for, at least when seeing a lot of empty seats when watching home games via MASLTV. It is to be hoped the team backers are willing to build the base and give the Stars another season or two to get the fan numbers up, but one never knows as teams do shift around in the MASL more than most leagues.
The arena version of soccer is certainly entertaining, more akin to box lacrosse and hockey than the tedious outdoor game of soccer, and having a Canadian team in the MASL has been a real bonus this season.
Speaking of box lacrosse, our Saskatchewan Rush have clinched a playoff spot as they look to defend their championship, and win their third title in four seasons since moving to Saskatoon.
Friday the Rush went into San Diego and thanks in large part to a six-goal performance by Ben McIntosh won the game over the expansion Seals to leap frog the newcomers into first place in the NLL west.
A flight home put them in Saskatoon midafternoon and ready to host the NLL’s other expansion team from Philadelphia. In front of more than 14,000, myself and a couple of buds included, the Rush fought back from a third quarter deficit to win 16-11 to ensure a first place finish in the west, again thanks in large part to McIntosh who had five goals to match Mark Matthews on the night.
What a great game. The trip home after from Saskatoon is a tad daunting to be sure, but the Rush are definitely worth taking the trip at least a couple of times a season.
There has also been some rather significant news on the professional rugby front in North America.
The Toronto Arrows are in the hunt for a playoff spot in Major League Rugby, but the 15s league is already looking ahead to 2020. The MLR will add Old Glory in Washington, the New England Free Jacks out of Boston and Atlanta, bringing the league to 12 teams. The team will play in two conferences next season, Toronto aligned with the three new teams plus Rugby Union New York and New Orleans.
The MLR has shown steady growth, and increasing interest, with the Arrows selling out their home opener, albeit in a modest venue of just more than 3000 seats. That is the secret for the MLR to-date, having modest expectations with a willingness to build their foundation in a deliberate fashion.
Oh, and the rugby is competitive and entertaining.
There was also some positive news last week for fans of 13s rugby. The North American beach head made by the arrival of the Toronto Wolfpack in 2017 may soon be bolstered by two new clubs.
An ownership group is looking to transfer a currently dormant franchise in England to Ottawa. Another group wants to establish an expansion team in New York.
There are certainly those in Rugby League in Britain who are not happy that their league wants to expand to North America, but at a meeting last week the two potential clubs were given what might best be described as approval in principle.
The approval, which includes a proviso the teams meet certain requirements before a full scale yes, is at least a positive first step that could see more pro 13s in Canada as early as 2020.
And one last sport to check out right now is the American Ultimate Disc League. The 2019 season kicked off a couple of weeks ago, but the three Canadian franchises; Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, hit the field the last weekend of April. All games are available through AUDLTV, accessible via the Internet for $10 US a month. It’s a reasonable fee for the number of games on the schedule, each team playing 12.