Lacrosse? Why not?
The Islanders' season is over for MSG Networks play-by-play man Brendan Burke, and it will not resume until October. So when NBC came calling about him calling the Premier Lacrosse League’s inaugural season, he signed up.
The challenge: He has not called a lacrosse game since he was at Ithaca College in the mid-2000s, when the student TV station would head to the next hill over to work Cornell men’s games.
So after agreeing to the PLL job, Burke “immersed” himself in the sport, to the point that he “had to fight myself during some hockey broadcasts to not throw out lacrosse terminology. I had those two things battling inside of me during some hockey games late in the season.”
Now he can focus on lax. He will call all 39 PLL events in a season that runs from June 1 through Sept. 21, with Ryan Boyle as his analyst. Paul Burmeister will be the host and sideline reporter.
The season begins at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, with a six-team format in which the teams of lacrosse pros will travel to 13 cities over 14 weekends – 10 regular season, one All-Star and three playoffs.
All games are to be streamed live on NBC Sports Gold, with 20 exclusive to that service. Sixteen will be carried by NBCSN and three on NBC, including a Week 2 game at Red Bull Arena on June 9.
Burke has been studying up, but he said, “It’s a tough sport to do, just because there’s not a whole lot of it on television.”
He expects that the fast-paced version of the game the PLL hopes to foster will create similarities to the way he calls a hockey game.
Beyond that, being a part of hockey culture should help. Both sports have Canadian roots, and many hockey players played lacrosse growing up.
“Once you start talking about lacrosse with hockey guys, it starts to come out in their background and their love for it,” Burke said.
This will not be the first time Burke used his Ithaca College experience in his pro career. The school did not have a hockey team, so students would call games at Cornell for the student radio station.
“Cornell wouldn’t let us anywhere near the men’s program, but they let Ithaca College students broadcast their women’s games for the radio,” he said. “Until I started calling pro hockey games [in the minor leagues], my only experience calling hockey was Cornell women’s hockey.”
When he is not calling lacrosse, Burke will spend the summer doing the same thing as Islanders fans: Waiting and watching to see what moves the team makes and which free agents come and go.
“I think it took a few days for the fans to not let the way it ended spoil what a great season it was,” he said of the Islanders’ second-round playoff sweep by the Hurricanes.
“It leaves you with that hollow feeling, even though it shouldn’t, because of what a year it was. Success is awesome, but it’s even sweeter when it’s unexpected . . . It was fun to watch.”