LACROSSE, the national ball game of Canada. It derives its name from the resemblance of its chief implement used, the curved netted stick, to a bishop's crozier. It wa's borrowed from the Indian tribes of North America. In the old days, according to Catlin, the warriors of two tribes in their war-paint would form the sides, often 800 or 1000 strong. The goals were placed from 500 yds. to ^ m. apart with practically no side boundaries. A solemn dance preceded the game, after which the ball was tossed into the air and the two sides rushed to catch it on ' crosses," similar to those now in use. The medicine-men acted as umpires, and the squaws urged on the men by beating them with switches. The game attracted much attention from the early French settlers in Canada. In 1763, after Canada had become British, the game was used by the aborigines to carry out an ingenious piece of treachery. On the 4th of June, when the garrison of Fort Michilimackinac (now Mackinac) was celebrating the king's birthday, it was invited by the Ottawas, under their chief Pontiac, to witness a game of " baggataway " (lacrosse). The players gradually worked their way close to the gates, when, throwing aside their crosses and seizing their tomahawks which the squaws suddenly produced from under their blankets, they rushed into the fort and massacred all the inmates except a few Frenchmen.
The game found favour among the British settlers, but it was not until 1867, the year in which Canada became a Dominion, that G. W. Beers, a prominent player, suggested that Lacrosse should be recognized as the national game, and the National Lacrosse Association of Canada was formed. From that time the game has flourished vigorously in Canada and to a less extent in the United States. In 1868 an English Lacrosse Association was formed, but, although a team of Indians visited the United Kingdom in 1867, it was not until sometime later that the game became at all popular in Great Britain. Its progress was much encouraged by visits of teams representing the Toronto Lacrosse Club in 1888 and 1902, the methods of the Canadians and their wonderful " short-passing " exciting much admiration. In 1907 the Capitals of Ottawa visited England, playing six matches, all of which were won by the Canadians. The match North v. South has been played annually in England since 1882. A county championship was inaugurated in 1905. A North of England League, embracing ten clubs, began playing league matches in 1897; and a match between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge has been played annually since 1903. A match between England and Ireland was played annually from 1 88 1 to 1904.
Implements of the Game. The ball is made of indiarubber sponge, weighs between 4^ and 42 oz., and measures 8 to 8^ in. in circumference. The " crosse " is formed of a light staff of hickory wood, the top being bent to form a kind of hook, from the tip of which a thong is drawn and made fast to the shaft about 2 ft. from the other end. The oval triangle thus formed is covered with a network of gut or rawhide, loose enough to hold the ball but not to form a bag. At no The Crosse.
part must the crosse measure more than 12 in. in breadth, and no metal must be used in its manufacture. It may be of any length to suit the player. The goals are set up not less than 100 nor more than 150 yds. apart, the goal-posts being 6 ft. high and the same distance apart. They are set up in the middle of the " goal-crease," a space of 12 ft. square marked with chalk. A net extends from the top rail and sides of the posts back to a point 6 ft. behind the middle of the line between the posts. Boundaries are agreed upon by the captains. Shoes may have indiarubber soles, but must be without spikes.
The Game. The object of the game is to send the ball, by means of the crosse, through the enemy's goal-posts as many times as possible during the two periods of play, precisely as in football and hockey. There are twelve players on each side. In every position save that of goal there are two men, one of each side, whose duties are to mark and neutralize each other's efforts. The game is opened by the act of " facing," in which the two centres, each with his left shoulder towards his opponents' goal, hold their crosses, wood downwards, on the ground, the ball being placed between them. When the signal is given the centres draw their crosses sharply inwards in order to gain possession of the b/ill. The ball may be kicked or struck with the crosse, as at hockey, but the goal-keeper alone may handle it, and then only to block and not to throw it. Although the ball may be thrown with the crosse for a long distance 220 yds. is about the limit long throws are seldom tried, it being generally more advantageous for a player to run with the ball resting on the crosse, until he can pass it to a member of his side who proceeds with the attack, either by running, passing to another, or trying to throw the ball through the opponents' goal. The crosse, usually held in both hands, is made to retain the ball by an ingenious rocking motion only acquired by practice. As there is no " off-side " in Lacrosse, a player may pass the ball to the front, side or rear. No charging is allowed, but one player may interfere with another by standing directly in front of him (" body-check "), though without holding, tripping or striking with the crosse. No one may interfere with a player who is not in possession of the ball. Fouls are penalized either by the suspension of the offender until a goal has been scored or until the end of the game; or by allowing the side offended against a " free position." When a ' free position " is awarded each player must stand in the position where he is, excepting the goal-keeper who may get back to his goal, and any opponent who may be nearer the player getting the ball than 5 yds. ; this player must retire to that distance from the one who has been given the " free position," who then proceeds with the game as he likes when the referee says " play." This penalty may not be carried out nearer than 10 yds. from the goal. If the ball crosses a boundary the referee calls " stand," and all players stop where they are, the ball being then " faced " not less than 4 yds. within the boundary line by the two nearest players.
See the official publications of the English Lacrosse Union; and Lacrosse by W. C. Schmeisser, in Spalding's " Athletic Library." Also Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians, by George Catlin.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)