The Halifax Thunderbirds will step onto the floor of the Scotiabank Centre this weekend to play their first professional lacrosse game in nearly two years.
To say the team is excited for its homecoming would be an understatement.
“So pumped,” said goaltender Warren Hill when asked about his excitement level for the upcoming season. “We had that orange and purple scrimmage and honestly it was like we never left.”
The orange and purple intrasquad game on Oct. 30 was the first time the Thunderbirds had played at home in 601 days. By the time the Thunderbirds hit the turf for their season opener this Saturday, it will have been 636 days since they played a regular season game.
The Thunderbirds are hoping to build from the success of the inaugural season. When the National Lacrosse League (NLL) was forced to shut down in March 2020, the team was sitting atop the North division.
“I think you’re going to expect to see the guys’ best lacrosse they’ve ever played,” Hill said.
“Everyone’s chomping at the bit and I’m excited for this whole year in general, and I think the league is going to be very competitive and guys are just itching to get back out there.”
Harry Baker Jr. moderates a Thunderbirds fan page with over 400 members on Facebook. He said the Thunderbirds are more than just a lacrosse team, but a source of pride and passion.
“To have an NLL team here in Halifax is, no exaggeration, a dream come true for me and many of us who grew up playing lacrosse in Nova Scotia,” he said in a Facebook message. “It’s more than just a sporting event.”
Fellow super fan Isaac Crossman agreed.
“This team means a lot to me,” he said via Facebook. “I am so excited to be able to watch and cheer on the most electrifying team in the NLL.”
In Year 1, the Thunderbirds averaged about 7,600 fans per game, exceeding internal projections by more than 2,000 attendees.
Reilly Simmonds, vice-president of ticketing for the Thunderbirds, said the team had one of the highest attendance records in the league, and improved as the first season went on.
The Thunderbirds attendance peak in Year 1 was a game against the Toronto Rock, which drew over 9,300 fans to Scotiabank Centre. Simmonds said advanced ticket sales have doubled from the prior season, and that the Thunderbirds are one of a few NLL teams that increased its season ticket memberships.
“It’s not just the Torontos, the Saskatchewans and the Vancouvers that are getting the tickets, it’s spread out pretty even, which is promising to see,” Simmonds said. “People have really invested in our success on and off the turf pretty immediately.”