San Diego Seals Soon to Surface
In August 2017, the city of San Diego welcomed a new professional sports franchise to America's Finest City.
Joseph Tsai, La Jolla resident and co-founder of the Chinese e-commerce platform Alibaba brought his passion for the game of Lacrosse to San Diego as a part of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). According to Forbes Magazine, Tsai is worth $9.4 billion dollars. The NLL finished up its 2017-18 season with just nine teams across the U.S. and Canada.
"We probably couldn't have picked a better (owner) to start off our expansion run," said league commissioner Nick Sakiewicz.
San Diego became the tenth franchise to enter the NLL. As the franchise began to get itself off the ground during its early stages, fans were encouraged to participate in a "Name the Team" Contest. On a sunny day in late October of 2017, a formal press conference was held while the franchise officially showed off its team logo, colors, and name.
"The Seals name acknowledges the marine mammals that live along our coastline, and it pays tribute to the brave men and women who help keep us safe and protect our freedom," explained team president Steve Govett. "We wanted a name that was inherent to San Diego."
Following the announcement and unveiling of the team's identity, the Seals rolled out the runway for a fashion show to present the first look at the team jerseys along with other team branded clothing and explain the meaning behind the team logo and colors.
Purple was chosen since its the primary color of Iroquois, a nod to the sports' Native American roots. Gold was selected to bring to mind images of the sunshine in San Diego. The team logo consists of a black shield that is reminiscent of a Lacrosse stick with a forward facing Seal head wearing a Gold crown that is in the shape of a trident.
The Seals won't be alone as the new kids on the NLL block this upcoming season. On September 14, 2017, the NLL and Comcast Spectacor, a Philadelphia-based American sports and entertainment company, struck a deal to found the eleventh team in the league. Philadelphia and San Diego make up the first two expansion teams under Commissioner Sakiewicz. The hope is for the NLL to expand to become a thirty team league in the next decade.
With a team name, logo and colors in place, it was time for the Seals to begin the task of constructing their on-field product. The first act of business was finding a Head Coach. On April 3, 2018, the team announced it had hired Patrick Merill to assume the roles of both Head Coach and General Manager. Merill is a retired professional player who spent his fifteen-year playing career with the Toronto Rock, New York Titans and Orlando Titans, winning three NLL Championships (2003, 2005 & 2011 with Toronto).
Joining Merill on the bench this season will be Bill Greer and Josh Sanderson. Sanderson worked as the Assistant General Manager for Toronto the past two seasons and now will assume the role and responsibilities of the Seals Director of Player Personnel and Offensive Coordinator. Sanderson spent 19 years in the NLL and won two NLL Championships (2005 with Toronto & 2009 with Calgary) while holding the record for most assists in a single season. Greer comes to San Diego and into the Defensive Coordinator post after a fifteen-year career in the NLL and a 2007 NLL Championship with the Rochester Knighthawks.
The organization filled out other important team positions with the hirings of Ryan Boyle as a U.S. scout, Travis Gillespie heading abroad as the International Scout and Simon Merand being named the Assistant to the General Manager.
After confirming the coaching staff, it was time to assemble a roster. The league announced that a coin toss would take place during the 2018 NLL Finals between the Seals and their expansion partners, the Philadelphia Wings, to determine who would earn the first overall pick in either the Expansion Draft or the Entry Draft. There a few minor differences that should be noted between the two drafts.
San Diego and Philadelphia will make alternating selections in the Expansion Draft and select up nine players from the NLL's other nine teams. The Seals or Wings will then take part in the Entry Draft, where all eleven NLL teams will draft-eligible amateur players. The coin toss took place on June 2, 2018, at halftime of the Rochester vs. Saskatchewan game with representatives of both teams plus the commissioner.
San Diego notched the first what will presumably be many victories over their expansion counterparts by winning the coin toss and selecting the benefit of picking first in the Entry Draft, allowing Philadelphia to decide first in the Expansion Draft.
While the Seals were busy under the sea assembling their coaching staff and which draft they'd want to use their coin toss victory for, the organization doubled down to do its part to dive into the San Diego community at many local events to begin the process of engaging with the San Diego sports fan base. Community appearances ranged from merchandise, season ticket inquiries to setting up a goal and letting kids give Lacrosse a try.
A strong social media presence is also valuable, especially in 2018. Throughout the span of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the Seals had some joy in recreating Winter Olympic events, such as figure skating and the biathlon all with a San Diego twist with roller blades and super soakers.
To further branch out to the local community, the Seals also gave select members of the media and even some important San Diego sports figures their own custom jerseys, including longtime SDSU Men's Basketball Coach Steve Fisher, and of course the newest member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, with the letters "HOF" in Gold to signify his Hall of Fame induction.
The San Diego Seals may still just be scratching the surface, but they'll be surfacing soon on December 8th in their 2018-2019 NLL Home Opener at the Valley View Casino Center at 7:00 pm. To find out more about the San Diego Seals, please visit sealslax.com.