Lacrosse comes from Native American Iroquois tradition. Weather conditions limited play in Canada, so an indoor variant called box lacrosse was developed in the 1930s. Lacrosse participation has traditionally been in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, but the sport has grown through North America in recent years. There are more than 800,000 lacrosse players in the United States, according to US Lacrosse, and the sport is played in 22% of USIndoor member facilities.
Lacrosse is believed to have been developed as early as 1100 A.D. by North American natives. The game was first documented by French Jesuit missionaries in Canada in the 1600s. One missionary writing about the game called it “la crosse”, which is French for “the stick”.
William Beers, a Canadian dentist, founded a lacrosse club in Montreal in 1855. Beers and the club established the first written rules for the game in 1867, shortening the game and setting a limit of 12 players per team. He also replaced the traditional deerskin ball with a rubber ball.
The game continued to grow into the 20th century, primarily in Canada and the northeastern United States. High schools and colleges began playing lacrosse, and it was played as an Olympic sport in 1904 and 1908. It was dropped from the Olympics after that, though it appeared as a demonstration sports in the 1928 and 1932 Games. Lacrosse continued to grow in popularity at U.S. colleges and universities, and in 1971, the NCAA held its first collegiate lacrosse tournament.
In 1998, several national lacrosse groups merged to form a single governing body for the sport in the United States, US Lacrosse. Three years later, Major League Lacrosse launched as the premier men’s professional lacrosse league. The Premier Lacrosse League launched in 2019 as an alternative to the MLL, and the two merged in 2021.
Since 2000, lacrosse has grown beyond its traditional northeastern roots, working its way through the United States. According to a 2015 US Lacrosse survey, there are more than 800,000 lacrosse players in the U.S., up from 254,000 in their first survey in 2001.
In the 1930s, owners of ice hockey rinks in Canada were looking for a sport to fill their buildings when hockey wasn’t being played. With harsh winter weather limiting outdoor play, an indoor version of lacrosse, often called box lacrosse, was developed.
Box lacrosse is a 6v6 game played on the hockey rink, either with the ice removed or on turf laid on top of the ice. It is a faster game than field lacrosse and features smaller goals, more goaltender protection, and a shot clock.
The Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League was founded in 1986 as the top level of professional box lacrosse. The league renamed to the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and eventually to the National Lacrosse League, which continues to compete with 11 teams across the U.S. and Canada.
Two box lacrosse leagues operate in Canada at the Senior A (highest) level: Major Series Lacrosse and the Western Lacrosse Association. The two leagues’ champions face off each September for the Mann Cup, the Canadian national championship, which has been contested since 1926.