Growing interest in lacrosse forces expansion

By Michael Di Caro

Even though Danny Schwartz’s accidental entry into field lacrosse isn’t typical, he is still part of a growing interest in the game that has the Ottawa Lacrosse Club planning a skill development camp this spring and a new house league in the fall.

Schwartz only entered the sport after being told the helmet he bought couldn’t be used in box lacrosse.

“I thought I’d put it to good use,” said the Lisgar Collegiate student, who now prefers playing lacrosse on fields instead of the arenas of box lacrosse.

The lacrosse club is starting a new house league this year with four teams in both the under-15 and under-17 age groups.

“There’s been a lot of inquiries this year about field lacrosse,” said Bill Conlon, who is in charge of the house league expansion.

He sees many reasons for the growing interest in the game, which has caused a steady growth of about 10 per cent a year in field lacrosse registration in Ottawa.

“There’s catching, passing, running — it’s a high energy game. They call it the fastest game on two feet,” he said, adding that the equipment doesn’t cost very much and it’s a low-injury game that can be played into old age.

This burgeoning interest has helped create the need for the new house league. Teams will play seven players a side instead of the usual 10. Fewer players mean more playing time and skill development.

The house league will give new players a chance to try the game and current players another option after the high school season ends in spring.

“It’s a good opportunity for players who don’t want to play at the competitive level and just want to play around,” said Schwartz, who added that his friends may be interested in joining.

This house league is part of a larger effort to develop skills and grow interest in the game in Canada.

As part of the effort the club is trying to organize a skills development camp for the May long weekend.

Conlon expects many high school players like Schwartz to attend, but say the camp is open to everyone.

Schwartz, who plays on the under-19 competitive Ottawa Nemesis team is excited about the camp, saying without it he’d have to go to the United States to get the same training.

American coaches and college players will be recruited to run the camp because there simply aren’t enough Canadians with the necessary skill level in field lacrosse, said Conlon. Canada’s expertise is in box lacrosse.

This year’s registration isn’t expected to be effected by the demise of the National Lacrosse League’s Ottawa Rebel last summer.

When the team came in 2000, box lacrosse in particular saw a spike in registration. That increase hasn’t reached field lacrosse because any young players the Rebel brought to the game weren’t old enough to play field lacrosse, says Jim Cochrane, Ottawa Lacrosse Club president.

“Maybe that ripple will hit us five years down the line,” he added.