2002 was a year of expansion for the NLL, particularly north of the border. No less than four teams were added, three of them Canadian: the New Jersey Storm, Montreal Express, Vancouver Ravens, and Calgary Roughnecks all made their NLL debuts. The expansion caused the NLL to return to a divisional format for the first time since 1994. The teams were split into the Eastern, Central, and Northern divisions; the winners of each division would make the playoffs, as well as the top three ranked non-division-winners. The Eastern division consisted of Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey, the Central division had Albany, Rochester, Montreal, Buffalo, and Columbus, while the remaining Canadian teams (Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Calgary) were in the Northern division.
Early in the morning of February 14, limousine driver Costas Christofi was found shot to death at the home of New Jersey Storm owner Jayson Williams. Williams was later arrested and charged with manslaughter. Williams was acquitted of most charges, but was to be retried for reckless manslaughter. However, the case was delayed several times. On Monday, January 11, 2010, Williams plead guilty to aggravated assault in the case, and was sentenced on February 23, 2010. Williams would remain owner of the Storm until the franchise folded after the 2005 season.
November 23, 2001: The first ever game for both the Montreal Express and Calgary Roughnecks was a record-setting affair. Montreal set an NLL record for goals by one team in a game by defeating the Roughnecks 32–17 in Calgary. The records for most goals by in a game by both teams (49) and most penalty minutes in a game by both teams (155) were also broken in this game.
x: Clinched playoff berth; c: Clinched playoff berth by crossing over to another division; y: Clinched division; z: Clinched best regular season record; GP: Games Played W: Wins; L: Losses; GB: Games back; PCT: Win percentage; Home: Record at Home; Road: Record on the Road; GF: Goals scored; GA: Goals allowed Differential: Difference between goals scored and allowed; GF/GP: Average number of goals scored per game; GA/GP: Average number of goals allowed per game
The 2002 All-Star Game was held on April 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, where the North team (all of the Canadian teams plus Rochester) beat the South 14–10. The MVP was Toronto's Steve Toll, who scored three goals. At the time, this also marked Paul Gait's final professional lacrosse game, as he retired after this season. However, Gait was convinced by his brother Gary to come out of retirement during the 2005 season, and played four games for the Colorado Mammoth before retiring once again.