02/08/2019 11:51 AM -
By Peter Schwartz
In just his second year as the Commissioner of the National Arena League, Chris Siegfried has already accomplished a lot. This off-season, the legendary Orlando Predators joined the NAL as well as the expansion New York Streets as Arena Football returns to New York for the first time since the New York Dragons folded after the 2008 season.
After veteran Arena Football coach John Gregory served as Commissioner for the NAL’s first season in 2017, Siegfried took over prior to last season after spending the league’s inaugural season as Director of Football Operations. Now he has both titles and on his watch the league has been able to grow, especially with the arrival of the Streets in New York.
“We’re extremely excited to have New York City,” said Siegfried during a recent phone conversation with nystreetsfootball.com. (Streets owner) Corey (Galloway) and his group have been very impressive and we can’t be more excited than to add the Big Apple to our league’s footprint.”
Galloway has worked hard to get the Streets off the ground and into the National Arena League and Siegfried played a big role in helping Galloway navigate his way through the expansion process and bring the project across the finish line.
“Chris was quite helpful in getting us to understand the rules of the NAL and their future goals,” said Galloway.
Siegfried is an Arena Football “lifer” so to speak.
He played in af2 which was the developmental league for the Arena Football League and then went on to become the first af2 player to be named a Head Coach in the league when he took over Cape Fear in 2002. Siegfried compiled 12 years of coaching experience in the AFL and af2 with a 90-59 record over nine seasons.
Siegfried was the 2006 af2 Coach of the Year and guided the Spokane Shock to a 14-2 regular season record and the Arena Cup championship that year becoming the only expansion team in league history to play in the title game. He went on to coach the Arkansas Twisters and then joined the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL (they are now in the NAL) where he served as Offensive Coordinator for the 2010 season.
Now Siegfried is running the NAL and he believes that New York Arena Football fans will see a similar game to what they experienced years ago in the AFL.
“We play the same game in-between the walls,” said Siegfried who performed football related stunts in the Adam Sandler move “The Waterboy”.
“I think that our talent level stacks up with any of the leagues out there and I do believe we stack up well with the Arena Football League. The only difference in our game is that we don’t have the rebound nets. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same game.”
To compensate for not having the rebound nets, the NAL came up with a rule to make the kickers a very important part of the game. On kickoffs, if the kicker puts the ball through the goalposts at the other end of the field, that’s a “deuce” and two points for the kicking team. If the kicker boots the ball wide of the goal posts, the receiving team gets the ball at their own twenty yard line.
“It’s very penalizing if he misses it,” said Siegfried. “But we find that the fans are really starting to cheer for these kickers. I think that the kickers in our league are probably more important than in any other league out there.”
What has been extremely important to the NAL has been adding the number one market to the league. With the addition of the Streets, it solidifies the league’s presence along the East Coast and also sends out a big message to all of Arena Football around the country that this is a league to be reckoned with. With New York on board as well as Orlando, Siegfried has the NAL making plenty of noise.
It also sets the scene for future expansion.
“It definitely puts us on the map nationwide,” said Siegfried who played college football at Division II Millersville University (PA) where he earned a degree in business administration. “It gives us a lot of credibility in the sport around the nation. We’ve already been getting interest from some other cities for 2020 so we really feel like 2020 will take this league into the double digits as far as teams. We’ll continue to expand smart and with the right people and the right operating groups.”
As the Streets prepare for their first season, Siegfried is in constant communication with Head Coach Rick Marsilio as the roster continues to take shape. Although they just recently met when Marsilio was named Head Coach, the two Arena Football veterans share a common bond. While they’ve known of each other for quite some time, they just realized that they grew up in the same town of Hazelton.
Marsilio and his family moved fifteen miles south to Hometown when he was five years old and went to Marian Catholic High School while Siegfried went to Hazleton High School.
“He went to a rival school,” said Siegfried. “We know a lot of the same mutual people so I’m rooting for him to do a great job. He expressed to me that he knows the competition in this league is very good and he’s ready and prepared for it. I’m excited for him and I hope he does well in his first year.”
Siegfried is paying close attention to how the Streets are growing both on and off the field leading up to their inaugural season. He’s excited about the ownership group, what they’ve done with the logo and branding, the practice facility at PACPLEX in Brooklyn and playing home games at the Westchester County Center.
And he believes the fans should be pumped up as well, even those who haven never been to an Arena Football game before.
“They should be really excited,” said Siegfried. “I love everything about what Corey is doing. I just think it’s a super exciting time for the New York Streets and the New York football scene. Obviously we want to have a winning franchise in New York City. The fans have to be really excited and the ones that have never experienced Arena Football in person before need to come out and check out a New York Streets game in the NAL. I think they’re going to be pleasantly surprised.”
Especially those families with children.
Speaking from experience, my older son Bradley was born during my time as the play by play announcer for the New York Dragons of the AFL. I brought him to practice everyday from the time he was in a baby carrier to the point where he was running around with the players after practice. My younger son Jared never had the chance to experience what this sport is all about and now both of my sons will get that chance with the arrival of the Streets.
Siegfried has shared the same experiences in this great sport and he’s hoping that there will be a lot of young Streets fans in the seats at Westchester County Center.
“I tell everybody to bring their kids,” said Siegfried. “We want to have the kids out there because I can speak from experience that my two kids grew up in Arena Football when I was playing and coaching and you ask them about football and the first thing they talk about is Arena Football. They love it and I can’t say enough about the game and this league and I’m excited for the New York Streets.”
And what’s not to be excited about?
The Streets are ready to hit the gridiron for their first season in the NAL, a league that has tremendous leadership in Commissioner Chris Siegfried. He has big plans for this league and the Streets are set to play a big role in taking the NAL to a new level.