Lacrosse: Canada’s national summer sport

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The exact origins of lacrosse are unknown, but Canada’s national sport is considered a significant contribution of First Nations culture to modern Canadian society.

It was first played as a method to settle tribal disputes, during religious rituals and in training for battle. The Cherokee Indians called it Tewaaraton which means “little brother of war” and the Iroquois named it Baggataway, a verb which means “to hit something.”

Traditionally, the game consisted of hundreds of players on a field ranging from 500 metres to three kilometers in length and could last for two to three days straight.

Parliament named the more modern version we know today as Canada’s offical game in 1859. The Montreal Lacrosse Club formed in 1867 and put together the National Lacrosse Association, the first organizing body in North America dedicated to a sport.

In 1901, Governor General Lord Minto donated the silver cup which today is one of the most coveted prizes in junior lacrosse. Nine years later, Canadian Northern Railway chief architect Sir Donald Mann donated a gold cup to be awarded to the national amateur senior champion.

Innovations to the game saw the advent of indoor lacrosse in the 1930s. Box Lacrosse, as it was sometimes called, quickly eclipsed field lacrosse and became the official sport of the Canadian Lacrosse Association.

The local club Windsor Clippers made their debut in the Ontario Lacrosse Association’s junior B league in 2003. The team plays the indoor version and bids for the Founders Cup, first awarded to a junior B team in 1964.

And, while modern indoor lacrosse bears a first-blush resemblance to hockey– perhaps only due to it being played in a hockey arena– Clippers general manager Mike Soulliere points out that the game, in fact, much more resembles basketball.

“As far as the offence and defense, it’s very similar to basketball,” Soulliere said. “The pick-and-roll, the five-on-five, the man-on-man defence, lacrosse and basketball are virtually identical in that sense. Obviously there’s no goaltender in basketball but as far as offensive and defensive strategies, it’s very similar.”

What lacrosse does share with hockey, however, is the number of hockey players who gravitate towards it in the summer months.

“Lacrosse is a great way to stay is shape for hockey players that don’t want to play hockey year round,” Soulliere said. “It’s is a great for conditioning and it certainly improves hand-eye coordination. Any hockey player who plays lacrosse will tell you that.”

Sounds interesting? Soulliere states that there are many avenues for lacrosse players, both potential and seasoned. He points to the Windsor Warlocks minor lacrosse system as the best place for interested young players to explore.

“That’s the best place to start because (the Warlocks) are a grassroots program,” Soulliere said. “And then people who have some experience who want to play junior lacrosse or guys that are playing college in the US who want to come over and play, if they have eligibility they can certainly tryout for our team.”

If you want to check out the Clippers, they play their home games at Forest Glade Arena. They’ll host a two-game homestand this coming weekend– Friday against Wallaceburg at 8 p.m. and Saturday against Welland at 7 p.m. Their final regular season game is at home June 19 against London at 8 p.m.

Kids 12 and under are free, seniors and students are $5 and adults are $7.

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