VICTORIA, B.C. (CUP) — It’s a big year for international sport. Canada will compete in an event that only rolls around once every four years. It’s not the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Italy.
This July, London, Ont. will host the 2006 World Lacrosse Championships, where more than 20 countries will compete for the global field lacrosse crown.
Lacrosse has been played in North America since the 15th century, beginning in what is now Ontario and Quebec, and descended from the continent’s aboriginal cultures. Lacrosse helped warriors keep fit and was even used to settle disputes between tribes. Games would often be contested on a field up to one mile long with hundreds of participants battling for each side.
European settlers were predictably fascinated by the intensity and scale of the game. Lacrosse was declared the national sport of the Dominion of Canada in 1859, eight years before Confederation. Modern field lacrosse was exported from Canada to the U.S., England, Australia and eventually, the rest of the globe.
Lacrosse was also one of the first sports to experiment with night games. In 1880 a Montreal match was contested under lights in with phosphorous added to the ball and the players’ numbers to help fans follow the play.
But sometime, after the 19th century became the 20th, hockey started to replace lacrosse as Canada’s sport.
To compete with hockey, box lacrosse was born and gained some support throughout the country. Like hockey, box lacrosse is contested in a relatively confined space surrounded by boards and glass. Box lacrosse and hockey are similarly fast and physical games that (to a certain extent) permit fighting.
The National Sport Act of 1994 acknowledged both sports when it proclaimed hockey Canada’s official winter sport and lacrosse Canada’s official summer sport.
Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal, a gold in lacrosse, came in 1904. But lacrosse is not a perennial Olympic sport. It has appeared as a demonstration sport at various summer games, but with both little consistency and an overall lack of Canadian dominance.
Since the inception of the world championship in the 1960s, Canada has won the field lacrosse title only once. The win came in 1978 with a shocking 24-3 victory in the final over the heavily favoured Americans. The Americans have won the title every other year.
With the Olympics and Paralympics over, and the World Cup of Soccer finished in early July, think of our national team as they host the World Lacrosse Championships. Just cross your fingers that the home team can put up a good fight as our neighbours to the south look to continue their dominance of our national sport.