WINNIPEG, MB - For Richard DeLaRonde, the assistant coach of Manitoba’s National B-Side Champion Pee Wee lacrosse team, Canada’s game is in his blood.
Not only did he play lacrosse while growing up in Thompson, but he now has five kids who either played the game or still play – 18-year-old daughter Kyra played until novice; 13-year-old twins Alexander and Seth played on Manitoba’s National B-Side Pee Wee champions two years ago; while 11-year-old son Parker played on this past year’s national championship squad; and nine-year-old Hudson is also a player.
“And every one played hockey,” he said proudly. “All my boys still play hockey while my daughter played high school hockey right up until she graduated last year. For them, playing both lacrosse and hockey makes sense.”
This year, DeLaRonde will be the head coach of Team Manitoba’s highly-successful Pee Wee lacrosse team, but right now he’s a hockey dad spending much of his time driving to his kids’ games. However, he clearly sees the importance of playing both hockey and lacrosse.
“Getting involved in lacrosse is fairly simple,” he said. “We have a short season for most players from April to June. For those who want to play at the provincial level, it can go on until August, but I’ve always believed it’s a great complementary sport to hockey.
“It definitely helps players with their hand-eye co-ordination and it’s a physical game so the body positioning is very much the same as it is in hockey. And, of course, we play box lacrosse in the same rinks as hockey so the surroundings are very familiar to any hockey player in the region. My kids play lacrosse in the same rinks that they use for hockey.”
Make no mistake, box lacrosse is Canada’s game. In fact, the original field lacrosse was played by Canadian aboriginal peoples for hundreds of years before the Europeans invaded America. Box lacrosse itself was created in Canada in the 1930s to keep private hockey arenas busy during the summer.
Hockey players have certainly taken advantage of the opportunity to play lacrosse in the summer. Winnipeg’s own Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares were lacrosse players, as were Kyle Turris and Cody Hodgson. On the list of the former players who played lacrosse you’ll find Wayne Gretzky, Brendan Shanahan, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Joe Sakic, Doug Gilmour, Paul Coffey, Adam Oates, Paul Kariya, Joe Nieuwendyk and former five-time Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup winner and Winnipeg Jets general manager, John Ferguson not only played box lacrosse, he coached the game at the professional level.
If any young hockey players would like to take up the game, it’s quite simple get involved. There are club teams in all areas of Winnipeg and the surrounding region and at all age groups. It’s never too early or too late to join a club and you can do it all on-line at redriverlacrosse.com.
“There are some community clubs that still have face-to-face registration for lacrosse,” said Coach DeLaRonde. “However, we essentially go on line and simply complete the registration for you. So get on-line and get registered. We’d love to have any young hockey player get involved with lacrosse.”
Lacrosse also has a reputation as a rough sport which can often hold parents back from registering their kids. Fact is, the game, when played well, is not rough and kids learn skills that will benefit them in any other sport they may choose, especially hockey. It is also a fact that US Colleges actively recruit Canadian lacrosse players because of the skills these players learn. So if parents dream of their kids playing at a big US college, lacrosse is an avenue that they should definitely look at seriously.
“I really believe that the most important thing for us to recruit new athletes and there are no better lacrosse players than kids with hockey experience,” said Team Manitoba assistant coach Wade Garriock. “We do get good athletes coming into lacrosse because kids who aren’t good athletes generally don’t pick up a lacrosse stick and give it a try, but that means our numbers are quite low. We need more young players and hopefully we can get the word out, especially to young hockey players, that lacrosse is a great off-season training activity and can really help you become a better hockey player.”
The man who was the head coach of Team Manitoba’s National Championship Pee Wee team last summer, Len Chabluk, agreed. Of course, Chabluk was once a forward for the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League’s River East Royal Knights.
“Most of us involved in lacrosse have all been involved in hockey,” he said. “I know first-hand as a player myself and the father of a player that hockey is No. 1 in Manitoba. We want every young person playing hockey who is looking to play a great sport in the off-season to give lacrosse a try.”
WHY HOCKEY PLAYERS SHOULD PLAY LACROSSE
Lacrosse and hockey are very similar sports.
U.S. College scholarship opportunities in lacrosse are available.
Hockey players excel at lacrosse.
It’s a great method to increase physical fitness in hockey’s off-season.
Team sports build self-esteem, respect, integrity and fairness.
Lacrosse teaches leadership skills.
It helps prevent sport burn-out by playing a different yet fast-paced sport.
Players of all fitness levels and abilities can compete in lacrosse.
A player can learn basic plays and strategies quickly.
A player can learn to play both offensive and defensive positions and make a quick transition from defense to offense and vice versa.
It reinforces the importance of quickness and agility around the net.
Lacrosse increases hand-eye co-ordination when stick handling.
It teaches players to play with their head up and to be more aware of their surroundings.
Offensive scoring skills are honed by shooting at smaller targets and picking corners.
Defensive skills are taught with individual and team concepts.
Lacrosse teaches the creativity of fakes, back passes and shots.
Lacrosse is run in five-player units and helps the hockey player practice playing a team concept.
It is inexpensive to equip lacrosse players as most hockey equipment can be used in lacrosse.
Scott Taylor, Manitoba Post
Photos by James Carey Lauder