While hockey is the most popular sport in
Canada, lacrosse is its official sport.
Lacrosse is a sport of Native American origin that is played using a solid rubber ball and a net attached to a long stick, called a crosse or a lacrosse stick. The goal of the game is to use the crosse to catch, pass, and throw the ball through the opponent’s goal. In order to stop the other team from doing so, the goal is to steal the ball from them through a variety of stick checks and body contact, or simply by intercepting the ball.

If someone were to ask you, “What is Canada’s national sport?” you would probably guess hockey, right? You may be surprised to hear that you would be wrong! There was once a bill suggesting making ice hockey Canada’s official national sport, but due to objection from the First Nations peoples of Canada, it was never passed. Because lacrosse began with them – in their case, it was a much larger sport with 100 to 1000 members per team and games that would last two or three days, a game called “The Creator’s Game” – it remains Canada’s official national sport.

Lacrosse is a very physically demanding sport that requires a high level of fitness and good stick work. In Canada, the most popular variation of the sport is called box lacrosse, which is played on a smaller field and with slightly altered rules. Men’s lacrosse is played with six players on each team: a goalkeeper and five runners. The entire team can generally consist of as many players as the team can handle.

The goalkeeper’s role is to defend the net and prevent the opposing team from scoring goals. They generally wear a lot of protective gear (larger than that worn by ice hockey goaltenders) including upper body gear, large shin guards, and a helmet or mask. Generally the goaltenders stands in the crease, a small area directly around the net; other players may not enter the crease or make any contact with the goaltender while he is within the crease. If he leaves the crease, however, he loses all goaltender privileges.

Defending players are one way in which box lacrosse differs from field lacrosse: in the field version, defenders are unique players who carry special defensive sticks which are longer than usual; in box lacrosse, there are no specifically defined positions on the field, only “runners.” Defenders use tactics such as cross checking, body checking, and stick checking to slow down opposing players or take the ball from them (see Terminology section for definitions).

Offensive players, as expected, play the front half of the court and try to score goals. If a player is dominant throwing with one hand, he will generally play on that side of the court. Some offensive players are specifically known as creasemen, and they do not focus on one side of the field; instead, they play close to the opposing team’s crease.

A game of lacrosse consists of three 20-minute periods, and the teams change sides at the end of each period. Overtime can be played if the score is tied at the end of third period. Depending on the league, overtime can either be sudden victory, where the first team to score wins, or it may have other rules instead.

Like in hockey, lacrosse involves faceoffs, which are held at the beginning of every period and after each goal is scored. If a ball travels outside of the court and over the boards, it is considered out of bounds and the possession of the ball is awarded to the team that did not send the ball out of bounds.

Teams can substitute players at any point during the game, referred to as on-the-fly substitution. However, this must occur within a designated area in front of the player bench in order for this to occur.

Lacrosse utilizes a shot clock that begins whenever a team takes possession of the ball – they have 30 seconds from that time to take a shot at the opposing goal. They also have only 10 seconds to make an advance into the offensive half of the field.

Also like in hockey, penalties are penalized by the offending player spending time in the penalty box, during which time his team has to play with one less player. Minor penalties last for two minutes, or until the opposing team scores a goal, while major ones can last longer. Penalties can be given for infractions such as tripping, elbowing, roughing, too many players, holding, or interference. Major infractions are generally only given for particularly violent instances of the above violations, and for fighting. The same terms are used to describe the teams as in hockey: the team with one less player is shorthanded, and the opposing team is on the power play.

Under certain circumstances, a penalty shot may be awarded, where one team is given a chance to score in the other team’s net without opposition from any team member except the goaltender.

These are some terms you might come across when talking about or watching lacrosse with your friends:

Ball down: Shouted by players whenever the ball touches the ground. Usually the first signal for the player carrying the ball that he has dropped it.

Body check: Using your body to hit an opposing player. Must be done above the waist and from the front or the side.

Coast to coast: Refers to carrying the ball from one end of the field to the opposite end by a single player.

Cradling: Players turn their wrists and arms to cradle the ball in the stick pocket while moving across the field.

Cross check: An attempt by a player to use his crosse to push an opposing player off balance.

Extra man: Another term for power play; refers to the team with an extra member in a penalty situation.

Man down: Another term for shorthanded; refers to the team with fewer players in a penalty situation.

Raking: A face-off move where a player places the head of his crosse on top of the ball and sweeps it back in an attempt to get control of the ball. Generally considered a bad habit because a raking player will often be hit legally by an opposing player.

Stick check: Any type of check where a defender jabs or swings his stick at the stick or hands of the ball carrier in an attempt to get the ball loose.

Toronto Rock is Toronto's lacrosse team.
Toronto’s official lacrosse team is the Toronto Rock, who play from the Air Canada Centre. The National Lacrosse League (NLL) has 11 teams who play in two divisions; Toronto Rock is a member of the Eastern Division. Below are the teams they are most likely to play on a regular basis. Pick your favourite team and cheer them on!

Toronto Rock

Boston Blazers

Buffalo Bandits

Philadelphia Wings

Rochester Knighthawks