A wolf howls, the crowd roars, a goal hits the net and the bonding between the fans and Connecticut’s first National Lacrosse League in New England begins.
The Mohegan’s new lacrosse team, formerly known as the Philadelphia Wings, debuted as the New England Black Wolves at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday. The tribe’s team gave the audience their money’s worth in entertainment value and chewed up their rival team, the Buffalo Bandits with a solid 12-8 win; killing the Bandits’s hopes for a three-win streak.
Black Wolves vice president and GM Chris Sienko beamed as he swept his hands towards the stands, saying he was thrilled with the turn-out and the team’s performance. A crowd of almost 6,000 fans cheered the fast and furious game, while the crash, bash, and slash plays sent players to the ground and far flung balls into the net.
The game’s Native roots were appropriately honored by traditional songs from the Iron Boy Drum of Red Lake, Minneapolis, with drum members coming from as far away as Wisconsin and the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. Dancers representing several nations including Mohegan, Nipmucs, Narragansett, Mashpee Wampanoag, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Cheyenne River, Ojibwe, Mohawk, Delaware, and Narragansett/Navajo joined the drum group to lead the stunning opening events. Justin Scott and Shane Long of the Mohegan Tribal Nation were among the dancers on their home turf. Chairman Kevin Brown was presented with a stick by tribal member and lacrosse player Ashley Murtha during the Black Hawks opening ceremonies.
Iron Boy, the World Class Drum group from Red Lake, MN, and dancers from nations all over Turtle Island welcomed the New England Black Wolves during the opening ceremonies. (Christina Rose)
The Bandits led the score through some of the first quarter, but once the Wolves took back the lead, they held it throughout the game. The Wolves’ Kyle Buchanan led the scoring with four goals, including two in the final quarter. Kevin Crowley also made his mark with two goals as well.
The Mohegan tribe announced the purchase of the Philadelphia team in August 2014, as part of the tribe’s business diversification efforts. The Native backbone of the sport seemed a perfect fit for the tribe, and the team shared the tribe’s excitement with the Connecticut move.
Friday’s game brought additional revenue into the casino and shops on an already busy New Year’s holiday weekend. Crowds flooded the casino, shops and restaurants at game’s end, leaving some areas close to standing-room-only.
This was the first of the Black Wolves fifteen home games planned for the Mohegan Arena. The game was played on a newly purchased surface, unpacked and installed for the first time only days before the game. The 1 1/2 inch thick flooring material is comparable to surfaces used for professional indoor football. Following the end of the lacrosse season in May, the Mohegan Sun women’s basketball season will begin in June.