The Canadian Lacrosse Foundation (CLF) is proud to announce that Montreal will host the 150th Anniversary of Lacrosse Celebration, June 16-18, 2017.
The festivities will feature a variety of educational and cultural activities for participants of all ages and will serve as a once-in-a-lifetime event to honour and celebrate the history and cultural significance of Canada’s national summer sport.
“The Canadian Lacrosse Foundation is very proud to take a leadership role in this celebration,” says Jim Burke, chairman of the Foundation. “We are excited to put together an event that will help us showcase the role that lacrosse has played in the development of our country over the past 150 years.”
In 1867, the year of Canadian confederation, the National Lacrosse Association, predecessor of today’s Canadian Lacrosse Association, was founded in Kingston, Ont., becoming the country’s first national sport governing body. During that conference, the organization also adopted its first set of written rules, which were created a few years earlier by Dr. William George Beers, a Montreal native who is generally referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Lacrosse’. This transitioned a folk-game into a formal sport.
While lacrosse had been played for hundreds of years by the First Nations, this development was one of the most important in the history of lacrosse.
Montreal, a city that played an important role in the evolution of many sports, will make an ideal host for the upcoming celebration. In addition to being the birthplace of the ‘Father of Modern Lacrosse’, Montreal has had many other significant impacts on the sport.
In 1834, a group of local businessmen brought lacrosse players from Kahnawake and Akwasasne to play exhibition games in front of spectators. This was the first known “contained” game as it was played within the boundaries of the Ville St. Pierre racetrack. As the sport grew in popularity, local clubs began competing against nearby First Nations in exhibition matches, some of which were observed by members of the Royal Family, including Prince Edward in 1860 and Prince Arthur in 1869.
Many of the 150th anniversary festivities will take place on the campus of McGill University, an area that is rich in lacrosse history. Some of the earliest lacrosse games in Montreal were played there and in 1925, it was recognized with a historical marker as the Hochelaga National Historic Site of Canada, recalling a former Iroquois village located to the left of the main entrance of the university on Sherbrooke Street.
Lacrosse has been played on the school’s campus by men since the early 1870s. The men’s varsity lacrosse team folded during World War I, however they relaunched in 2001 and have experienced tremendous success ever since, capturing the Baggataway Cup national championship in 2012 and 2015.
“This historic milestone is important not just to celebrate the 150th anniversary but also to reflect upon and to learn about lacrosse’s evolution over hundreds of years as The Creator’s Game, beginning with the Iroquois people who have lived in the Montreal area for thousands of years,” says Tim Murdoch, head coach of the McGill lacrosse team.
The celebrations will also be supported by First Peoples’ House, the Indigenous student service centre at McGill. They will be counted upon to help promote the event, recruit volunteers, and organize a marketplace for local Indigenous vendors and artists.
The 150th celebration will have several components, the most unique of which will be the presentation of re-created games that will showcase the transition of lacrosse from Traditional Game to Victorian Sport. These re-enactments, featuring authentic traditional sticks and wardrobe from that period, will help illustrate the evolution of the sport, the formalization of rules, and the various First Nations rituals that often occurred before and after games.
A series of lectures and presentations on a variety of lacrosse topics, featuring numerous authors and academics, will also be part of the event. This will be supplemented by an interactive exhibit of lacrosse artifacts and photos from the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Their travelling exhibition will highlight the history of the sport and the individuals that have helped shape the game.
“As far as we know, this will be the first time that such an exhibition of the history of lacrosse has been taken on the road,” says David Lancaster, chairman of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. “Our hope with the exhibition is that we can use the past to inspire people about lacrosse today.”
The Québec Lacrosse Federation, Kahnawake Lacrosse, and Westmount Lynx Lacrosse organizations will be running a variety of tournaments to help expose attendees to the different forms of the sport, including both field and box lacrosse.
The Canadian Lacrosse Foundation will use this event to educate people from around the world on the impact that Canada has had on the sport of lacrosse.
“Today, lacrosse is played in some 54 countries throughout the world. We hope this event will allow people to see how the game was developed over the past 150 years and how it has influenced Canada and the other lacrosse playing nations,” says Jim Burke, chairman of the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation.
Upon its creation in 1867, the National Lacrosse Association established the motto “Our Country – Our Game”.
“As Canadians, we should be proud of our national summer sport,” says Joey Harris, president of the Canadian Lacrosse Association. “In celebrating the 150th anniversary, we want to give lacrosse the exposure that it deserves so that a new generation of Canadians can grow up playing this sport that we all love so much.”