FIL President Foresees Continued Growth of Indoor Game
by Neil Stevens
PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Holding the world indoor lacrosse tournament outside Canada for the first time provides a springboard to expand the sport throughout Europe, said Federation of International Lacrosse president Stan Cockerton.
Most of the federation's 42 members emphasize field lacrosse and world championships have been contested every four years for more than 40 years, while indoor or box lacrosse world tournaments only began in 2003. The third, and first outside Canada, kicked off Saturday with eight entries.
''The Czech Republic is the only country besides Canada that puts box before field,'' says Cockerton, a former player from Oshawa, Ontario, who assumed the top FIL post last summer. ''They love the indoor game and I know they want to use this as a springboard to try to develop more indoor lacrosse throughout Europe.
''By being here, we're speeding that process up.''
Where did the push come from expand the realm of box lacrosse?
From Canada, of course.
''Back in 2001 or thereabouts we went to the international federation wanting to introduce box lacrosse for a couple of reasons,'' Cockerton explained. ''One was that it's still the easiest way for all of the 42 members to develop better players.
''It's no secret that Canada is good in the sport because we play box lacrosse. There is still a huge gap between No. 42 and No. 1 and No. 2 in the world and the gap is getting even bigger between Canada and U.S. field teams and some of the other countries. Our thought was, if we can get more people playing box lacrosse, that gap will narrow.''
Possibilities are endless, he said.
''I don't think there is any doubt that box lacrosse will continue to grow. Some people say to me, 'You must be disappointed you have only eight teams here instead of 10 or 12.' I look at that as a negative. We have eight teams. It is what it is.
''We had world field championships with only four teams for many years. Our patience has paid off there. We're going to have 40 countries in 2014 in Denver. I don't doubt for a minute that in our lifetime we'll see this (box lacrosse) tournament grow, too. I wouldn't be surprised at all that over the next eight or 10 years the championship will have 12, 16 or 20 teams. I just think it's one of those things that you can say, something that is good is worth waiting for. That's why this event is good for lacrosse, and a good thing for Canada. It's our game. We've got eight countries here wanting to play our game. How can that be anything but a good thing?''
The 2011 tournament began Saturday with the Iroquois Nationals defeating Ireland 23-3. Players used First Nations passports to travel. A similar attempt last July failed and there was no Iroquois entry in the world field tournament in England.
''I was never more happy and thrilled than when I walked in the arena today and they were on the floor,'' said Cockerton. ''Iroquois staff and management were devastated by not being able to be in Manchester and the event was not the same without them.
''They worked very, very hard the last three or four months to make sure that all of their travel arrangements were approved. But, still, you never know what can happen. Now there is going to be some great lacrosse and I'm very, very happy that they are here.''
At the Canadian Lacrosse Association's semiannual general meeting in Dartmouth, N.S., two weeks ago, Cockerton was presented with the association's Lester B. Pearson Award. A life membership in the CLA came with it. CLA president Joey Harris of Winnipeg made the presentation.
''On behalf of the CLA and from myself personally, it is an honour to present this prestigious and highest award in lacrosse to Stan as he epitomizes what the award stands for -- outstanding contributions of sportsmanship and leadership in the game of lacrosse and to the physical and mental development of young Canadians -- through his unselfish dedication,'' Harris said. ''His role of promoting lacrosse on behalf of Canada internationally and now as president of the Federation of International Lacrosse is second to none.''