NLL's New York team to move to Ottawa and be renamed Black Bears starting next season

OTTAWA — The National Lacrosse League is returning to Ottawa, a move that league commissioner Brett Frood calls an "immense opportunity."

The NLL announced Wednesday that the New York Riptide will relocate to Ottawa after this season and be rebranded as the Black Bears.

Ottawa will start play in the 2024-25 season and will play out of the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL's Senators. Team owners GF Sports and Entertainment will "maintain a strong working relationship" with Senators Sports & Entertainment, according to a release announcing the move.

"Ottawa is an incredible market, with an established fan base, and a major-league arena,” Frood said in the release. “This is an immense opportunity for our league to fortify our roots in the National Capital Region and to partner with a sophisticated front office in the Senators.

"We feel this relationship will be a terrific success and are excited and confident in the short- and long-term positioning of the Ottawa Black Bears."

Ottawa previously had a brief relationship with the NLL, with the Rebel playing out of the nation's capital from 2001 to 2003. Ottawa joined the league as part of a short-lived Canadian box lacrosse boom following the league's successful addition of the Toronto Rock.

In 2002 the NLL had teams in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. By 2005 Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa had ceased operations, with the Rebel franchise eventually moving to Edmonton to start the 2006 campaign.

But the league is gaining traction in Canada again. The Black Bears will become the sixth Canadian team, joining the Toronto Rock, Vancouver Warriors, Halifax Thunderbirds, Calgary Roughnecks and Saskatchewan Rush, the current incarnation of the Ottawa Rebel franchise. The Rock and Riptide played a regular-season game at Place Bell in Laval, Que., to try to reignite interest in the Montreal area.

“We chose Ottawa for many reasons, including the strength of the Senators Sports & Entertainment brand, the demand and rapid growth of box lacrosse in the region, and the fantastic arena," Erik Baker of GF Sports and Entertainment said in the release.

While the return to Ottawa bodes well for the league's growth in Canada, this marks the third time the NLL has failed to make a go of it in the lucrative New York market.

The Riptide were preceded by the Saints (1989–2003) and Titans (2006–2009). All three teams played at Nassau Coliseum, which opened in 1972 and currently has just one other tenant, the Long Island Nets of basketball's G League.

New York is seventh among 15 NLL teams this season with a 5-5 record, but features one of the game's biggest stars in Jeff Teat, of Brampton, Ont., who leads the league with 33 goals and 68 points and is on pace to win his second straight scoring title. Five-time NLL champion Dan Ladouceur is the team's head coach.

The NLL team won't be the only Black Bears in town. Ottawa's team in Major League Quadball, based on the fictional sport Quidditch featured in the Harry Potter universe, shares the same name.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press