History of Canada's Summer National Sport


Lacrosse is one of the oldest organized sports in North America. While at one point it was a field game or ritual played by First Nations, it became popular among non-Aboriginal peoples in the mid-1800s. When the National Lacrosse Association of Canada was formed in 1867, it was the Dominion of Canadas first governing body of sport. Lacrosse was confirmed as Canadas official summer sport in 1994. The Canadian national lacrosse teams (men and women) rank highly in the world standings, both in field and box lacrosse.

Lacrosse is a team sport in which players pass, catch, and carry a rubber ball, using sticks with a netted pouch at one end. The object of lacrosse is to accumulate points by shooting the ball into the opposing team's goal. The early versions of the game involved large teams of Aboriginal warriors playing over a field that could be over a kilometre in length. Since that time, lacrosse has changed significantly, and there are now four distinct games in Canada: men's field lacrosse, women's field lacrosse, box lacrosse, and inter-crosse.


History of Lacrosse

The history of lacrosse is difficult to trace, for fact often meshes with fiction, and many aspects of the sport's history have been passed on as folklore. One of the most famous legends involving lacrosse dates from Pontiac's Rebellion of 1763, in which the Ottawa chief reportedly staged a game in order to distract British soldiers and gain entry to Fort Michilimackinac in what is now Michigan. First Nations warriors had played similar ball games for centuries before this early exhibition game.


Aboriginal Origins

Members of the various Algonquian language groups referred to early ball games as baggataway. Strong similarities among the war club, lacrosse stick, and even the drumstick, shown in photos of early Ojibwa implements, support the connection between these early ball games and the later development of lacrosse. There is also a strong link between lacrosse and the Mohawk ball game known as tewaarathon. As with other early Aboriginal ball games, tewaarathon served a number of functions; as the game was played by a large number of warriors on fields that could be over a kilometre long, it kept young men fit and strong for both war and hunting. It could also be played to strengthen diplomatic alliances, support social conformity and economic equality, and honour the gods. In general,



Lacrosse, which the Native People of North America knew under many different names such as Baggataway or Tewaarathon, played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes across the continent for untold years. Its origin lost in the antiquity of myth, Lacrosse remains a notable contribution of the Native culture to modern Canadian society. Native Lacrosse was characterized by a deeply spiritual involvement and those who took part did so with dedicated spirit and with the highest ideals of bringing glory to themselves and their tribes and honour to the participants and the tribes to which they belonged. 

In the 1840s the first games of Lacrosse were played between the townsfolk and the Native People. Though it was many years before any significant wins were logged against the Natives, the game of Lacrosse was quickly winning the loyalty and interest of the newest North Americans. Lacrosse was named Canada's National Game by Parliament in 1859. In 1867 the Montreal Lacrosse Club, headed by Dr. Beers, organized a conference in Kingston in order to create a national body whose purpose would be to govern the sport throughout the newly formed country. The National Lacrosse Association became the first national sport governing body in North America dedicated to the governance of a sport, the standardization of rules and competition, and the running of national championships to promote good fellowship and unity across the country. The unforgettable motto of the organization was, "OUR COUNTRY - OUR GAME". 

Lacrosse, because of its unique history, exists as a link between the disparate components of Canadian history, First Nations and European Settler. It remains the rare occurrence in which an element of native culture was accepted and embraced by Canadian society. To the religious and social rituals of the first North Americans, the settlers brought the European concepts of structure and rules, and together these people produced one of the first symbols of the new Canadian nation, Lacrosse. 

The advent of the 20th century saw Lacrosse as the dominant sport in Canada. There were extensive amateur and professional leagues across the country and teams routinely traveled from Quebec and Ontario to B.C. and vice versa to challenge for supremacy in the game. In 1901 Lord Minto, the Governor General of Canada, donated a silver cup to become the symbol of the championship of Canada. The Minto Cup, today the symbol of supremacy in the Junior ranks, remains one of the proudest prizes of Lacrosse. In 1910 Sir Donald Mann, chief architect of the Canadian Northern Railway, donated a gold cup to be awarded to the national amateur senior champion. Today it is the championship prize of the best Senior team in Box Lacrosse in Canada. 

The coming of the 1930s brought innovation once again to the sport. Promoters married the two most popular games, Lacrosse and Hockey, and created Indoor Lacrosse, also known as Box Lacrosse or Boxla. The game was built upon speed and action and very quickly won massive support within the organization. By the mid 30's the field game had been completely replaced by Box Lacrosse which became the official sport of the Canadian Lacrosse Association. 

The Canadian Lacrosse Association today recognizes four separate disciplines in the game of Lacrosse: Box, Men's Field, Women's Field and Inter-Lacrosse. Box Lacrosse is uniquely a Canadian game and is best described as a game of speed and reaction. Men's Field Lacrosse is a game of patience and strategy which focuses on control of the ball. The Women's Field game has stayed truest to the original sport in its play. It is a game based on the skills of passing and ball control. Inter-Lacrosse is a non-contact version of the sport designed to be adaptable to the various age and skill levels of the participants. 

Lacrosse was re-confirmed by Parliament as the National (Summer) Sport of Canada in 1994.



Origin A religious and combative event called “Baggataway” or “Tewaarathon” which was used by the North American natives. Baggataway was converted by the natives into a recreational game with 60-100 players per side. 
1840s First European-settler participation. 
1859 Parliament proclaimed lacrosse as the national game of the Dominion of Canada. 
1867 Beer’s code of rules. First major lacrosse league. Greatest popularity as a spectator sport. 
1904-16 Lacrosse was an Olympic sport. 
1930 Beginning of decline of interest in lacrosse. 
1931 Birth of Box Lacrosse 
1932-50 Rule changes to reduce roughness 
1960 Development of Minor Lacrosse 
1967 First International Lacrosse Foundation (ILF)-sanctioned Field Lacrosse World Cup (Toronto) - Canada placed third. 
1968 National Lacrosse Association formed. Teams included: Toronto, Montreal Peterborough, Detroit, Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria, and Portland. 
1969 First Pee Wee National tournament (Etobicoke). 
1974 Second ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Melbourne, Australia) - Canada placed second tied with Australia and England. National Lacrosse League formed. Teams included: 1974 - Toronto, Montreal, Syracuse, Rochester, Maryland, and Philadelphia. 1975 - Montreal, Maryland, Philadelphia, Boston, Long Island, and Quebec City. 
1978 Box Lacrosse was a demonstration sport at the Commonwealth Games (Edmonton) Third ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Manchester, England) - Canada finished first. 
1979 Birth of Inter-cross 
1980 First World Box Lacrosse Championships (Vancouver) - Canada West (Coquitlam Adanacs) finished first. 
1982 Fourth ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Baltimore, USA) - Canada placed third. First Senior Women’s World Cup (Nottingham, England) - Canada placed third. 
1984 Field Lacrosse was a demonstration sport at the Olympics (Los Angeles, USA) 
1986 Fifth ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Toronto) - Canada placed second. Second Senior Women’s World Cup (Philadelphia, USA) - Canada placed fourth. Major Indoor Lacrosse League is formed. Teams included: Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, and Baltimore. 
1988 First Junior Men’s World Cup (Philadelphia, USA) - Canada placed second. 
1989 Third Senior Women’s World Cup (Perth, Australia) - Canada placed fourth. 
1990 Sixth ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Perth, Australia) - Canada placed second. 
1992 Second Junior Men’s World Cup (New York, USA) - Canada placed third. National Lacrosse League formed. Teams included: Guelph, Brantford, Whitby, and Buffalo. 
1993 Fourth Senior Women’s World Cup (Edinburgh, Scotland) - Canada placed fourth. 
1994 Bill C-212 made Lacrosse Canada’s official summer sport. Seventh ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Manchester, England) - Canada placed third. Field Lacrosse was a demonstration sport at Commonwealth Games (Victoria). 
1995 Fifth Senior Women’s World Cup (Haverford, England) - Canada placed fourth. 
1996 Third Junior Men’s World Cup (Tokyo, Japan) - Canada placed third. 
1997 Sixth Senior Women’s World Cup (Tokyo, Japan) - Canada placed fifth. 
1998 Eighth ILF-SANCTIONED World Cup (Baltimore, USA) - Canada placed second (one goal loss in double Overtime). MILL changes its name to the National Lacrosse League, and the Ontario Raiders join the League as the first-Canadian based team. 
1999 Fourth Junior Men’s World Cup (Perth, Australia) - Canada placed second. Toronto Rock win their first NLL title. First World Cup of inter-crosse (Belgium) Canada placed second. 
2000 World Cup of inter-crosse (Czech Republic) Canada placed first 
2001 Seventh Senior Women’s World Cup (High Wycombe, England) - Canada placed fourth. World Cup of inter-crosse (Italy) Canada placed first 
2002 Ninth ILF-sanctioned World Cup (Perth, Australia) - Canada placed second. World Cup of inter-crosse (Hungary) Canada placed second 
2003 Fifth Junior Men’s World Cup (Baltimore, USA) Canada placed second. First Junior Women’s World Cup (Baltimore, USA) Canada placed third First ILF sanctioned World Indoor Lacrosse Championship (Toronto) Canada finished first. Minto Cup is altered to become a three province tournament (BC, Ontario, and Alberta) 
2004 Calgary Roughnecks win NLL title, Pee Wee Nationals are restarted (Whitby)

Aboriginal women were excluded from these games, although in some First Nations women did play ball games on their own, or with men

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