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Canadian Lacrosse Foundation

Did You Know?

Native heritage


"There is a long history of speculation about where the game of Lacrosse originated, but as Natives of North America, this question has little significance. We do not wonder who invented Lacrosse, or when and where; our ancestors have been playing the game for centuries B for the Creator." (from Tewaarathon, Akwesasne's Story of Our Indian National Game)

Earliest reports

The earliest European record of Lacrosse dates back to 1863, when the French missionary, Jean-de-Brébeuf wrote of seeing Native people playing a game with sticks and a ball. He called it "la crosse" because the sticks reminded him of the Bishop's crozier or Acrosse".

Roots in Aboriginal Culture

Virtually every nation in North America had some form of ball and stick game and each had its own name for the game. The Ojibway played Baggataway while the Mohawk played Tewaarathon. The sport of Lacrosse is a direct descendent of the Mohawk game played outside Montreal. It was there that the first Europeans became involved in the sport, and it was from that form of the game that Dr. George Beers codified the rules of Lacrosse.

Growth in the 1800s

By the end of 1867 there were 80 clubs across Canada. By 1877 there were 11 clubs in Montreal, 7 in Toronto, and more than 100 clubs in towns and communities across Ontario. By 1893 every province of Canada had clubs playing Lacrosse.

Electric innovation

One of the first night games to be played under the new "Electric Light" was in August of 1880 at the Shamrock Lacrosse Field in Montreal. This was fully 3 years before the same feat was attained by baseball in the USA. In order to help the fans follow the play, the ball and the players' numbers were coated with phosphorous.

Olympics

The Olympic Games of 1904 and 1908 included Lacrosse, a very popular sport in Canada, the USA, and England, as part of the program. The Olympics of 1904 was the first Games to which Canada sent a delegation. Records indicate that the first Olympic medal won by Canada was a gold medal in Lacrosse.

Fans

Games in the 1880s were commonly attended by 5,000 or more fans, and it was not unusual to see as many as 10,000 at games in the larger cities. In 1910 a Montreal team travelled to New Westminster, BC to challenge for the championship of Canada. The game was attended by more than 15,000 fans. The total population of New Westminster at the time was less than 12,000.

Trophies

In 1901 Lord Minto, Governor General of Canada, donated to the CLA a silver cup to be the symbol of Lacrosse supremacy in the country. In 1910 Sir Donald Mann, chief architect of the Canadian Northern Railway, donated a solid gold cup for the senior amateur championship of Canada. Both of these trophies remain the pinnacle of success in Canadian Lacrosse. The Mann is the Senior "A" Box championship trophy and the Minto Cup is the Junior "A" Box championship trophy.

Hockey Connection

Many greats of the golden era of Hockey were also stars and organizers of Lacrosse. In 1908 Cyclone Taylor was paid almost $2,000 to play Lacrosse for the summer with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. In 1917 Newsy Lalonde made more than $3,000 while playing for Vancouver. In WWII, Conn Smythe's 30th Light Anti-aircraft Battery, dubbed "The Sportsmen's Battery" included every member of the Mimico Mountaineers who won the 1941 Mann Cup. Box Lacrosse was created largely at the instigation of Hockey promoters who did not want their arenas to sit idle during the summer months.

Prime Ministerial Players

Two of Canada's most famous Prime Ministers were also well known for their Lacrosse backgrounds. Pierre Trudeau played the game during his school days in Quebec. Lester Pearson played and starred with the Oxford team. Later Mr. Pearson was to become the Honourary Chairman of the Canadian Lacrosse Association, and the lifetime achievement award for the CLA is the Lester Pearson Plaque.

World Championships

In 1978 a mixture of very experienced Box players and a scattering of experienced Field players represented Canada at the World Championships in England. After suffering a heavy defeat against the US (24-3) in the round robin portion of the tournament, the never-say-die Canadian team defeated the US in overtime in the championship game to become the only country to defeat the US for the World Championship since its reinstatement in the 1960s

Wayne Gretzky about Lacrosse

"If a sport has a high point of the year, it must be the first week of spring. When I was growing up, I used to love this time of year. It was when I put my hockey equipment away and I was absolutely ecstatic to see the end of the hockey season. One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey. All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out sports they should be doing in the warmer weather. I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball against the walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey. All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and everyone of them learned something from the game to carry over to the other - things athletes can only learn by mixing up the games they play when they are young."
— Wayne Gretzky, National Post, March 2000


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