"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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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