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Nick Sakiewicz, commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, speaks at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 13, 2018.Aly Thomson/The Canadian Press

The National Lacrosse League is coming to Halifax.

The NLL announced Thursday that the Rochester Knighthawks will be relocating to Halifax, becoming the league’s fifth Canadian franchise.

Curt Styres, the NLL’s 2017-18 general manager of the year and owner of the Knighthawks, applied to relocate his team and received approval from the league’s board of governors.

“We had been looking for a new home for the Rochester Knighthawks for awhile, but it had to be the right fit. We looked at cities across North America, and none of them compared to Halifax,” Styres told a packed sports bar in Halifax.

NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said Halifax is an ideal location for the league’s next Canadian team.

“We absolutely fell in love instantly with your passion, your warmth and your true Maritime grit – we love that about it,” said Sakiewicz, flanked by a wall of television screens flashing lacrosse game highlights.

“We firmly believe this trend is going to continue. We have more teams coming. I think over the next decade to 12 years, you’re going to see a 30-team league emerge in one of the most dynamics sports in North America.”

Sakiewicz praised Styres for being a “tremendous businessman” and for his track record as an owner – his teams have won three NLL champions.

“Curt Styres is the embodiment of blue-chip ownership and what you look for in an owner,” he said.

The Knighthawks are one of the charter franchises of the NLL.

Earlier reports suggested the Knighthawks would be purchased by Buffalo-based Pegula Sports and Entertainment, but it appears Pegula will instead establish a new team in Rochester. The company, which owns the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and the NLL’s Buffalo Bandits, had scheduled a news conference later in the day outside Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

The Knighthawks were crowned East Division champions last season and advanced to the franchise’s first NLL final since 2014. They lost to the Saskatchewan Rush in three games.

Halifax’s team will begin play during the 2019-20 season at Scotiabank Centre, with many of the players on the current Knighthawks’ roster.

Sakiewicz said a name has not yet been chosen for the team. But he acknowledged the Privateers “may be one of the options.”

The season will include nine regular-season home games, plus pre-season and playoff games.

The NLL has 11 franchises playing in the 2018-19 season including four Canadian teams in Toronto, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver. The San Diego Seals and Philadelphia Wings will start playing in their inaugural season this December.

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