Men’s Box Lacrosse
Box Lacrosse is an indoor version of lacrosse that is particularly popular in Canada but quickly spreading its popularity across North America due to the success of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). In Europe box lacrosse is the dominant version of men’s lacrosse in the Czech Republic and other nations are picking up on the game as well. Europe’s main box lacrosse event is the Aleš Høebeský Memorial which is held in Prague every year in the spring.
Box lacrosse was developed in Canada during the early 1930s. Played in hockey rinks with six-man teams, it became very popular throughout the country and was the dominant form of the sport in Canada by the end of the decade. Today lacrosse is recognized in Canada as the country’s national summer sport – Ice hockey being the national winter sport.
Since the mid 1930s the Mann Cup has been the Senior “A” Box championship trophy in Canada. It is a gold cup valued at $25,000 and is one of the most valuable trophies in sport.
In 1986, the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (MILL) began operating with six teams in the United States, playing a form of the sport very similar to box lacrosse. The MILL had an unusual structure in that the league was owned by three partners, while teams were operated by local organizations that have no ownership position. That structure gave the MILL stability, since the failure of one or two franchises couldn’t drag the entire league down. However, it also made expansion difficult, if not impossible.
The NLL was organized in 1997 as a group of independently owned teams to begin play the following year. After much negotiation, the MILL merged into the NLL, which played its first season in 1998.
Today the NLL consists of 11 teams from which the majority are owned or co-owned by NHL teams. The NLL has turned out to be a great spectator league with average attendance above 10,000 per game and Toronto and Denver attracting more than 17,000 people for their home games.
Box lacrosse bears many similarities to ice hockey and many great ice hockey players have played lacrosse in their careers as well. Wayne Gretzky grew up playing lacrosse in Ontario and both Brendan Shanahan and Joe Nieuwendyk are great lacrosse players.