The game is popular in Canada (chiefly in British Columbia and southern Ontario) and in New England and other areas in the northeast United States. The colleges, high schools and "pee wee" leagues in the United States support many teams. Princeton, Syracuse, and Johns Hopkins have dominated in the Division I collegiate ranks, while the American teams have won recent World Championships for both men and women. The Iroquois nation also enters a team in the World Championships. Canada differs from other lacrosse-playing countries in preferring the box lacrosse variant of the game.
Outdoor men's lacrosse involves two teams of 10 players each competing by projecting a small solid rubber ball into the opposing team's goal. The field of play is approximately 110 yards (100 m) long and 40 yards (37 m) wide. The goals are 6 feet (1.8 m) by 6 feet and contain a mesh netting similar to an ice hockey goal.
Diagram of a men's lacrosse field.
Players line up based on 3 offensive players called "attackmen", 3 "midfielders", 3 "defensemen", and 1 goaltender. Each player carries a stick (the French settlers on seeing the Native Americans using the stick called it la crossier (crozier) hence the name "Lacrosse") of varying length from 40 inches (1.0 m) to 72 inches (1.8 m). The sticks have a metal shaft and a plastic head with a string and leather basket called the "pocket".
Players scoop the ball off the ground and hurl the ball in the air to other players. Players are allowed to run carrying the ball. There are a number of complicating rules for positioning and offsides of players, but, in general, to the uninitiated, think a combination of soccer and hockey. Games consist of 4 fifteen minute periods. The scores of games typically consist of a total of twenty or so goals being scored.
Canadians most commonly play box lacrosse, an indoor version of the game played by teams of six players on ice hockey rinks from which the ice has been removed; the enclosed playing area is called the box, in contrast to the open playing field of the traditional game. This version of the game was introduced in the 1930s to promote business for hockey arenas, and within a few years had almost entirely supplanted field lacrosse in Canada.
In box lacrosse the goal is smaller (4' X 4') than in outdoor lacrosse (and the goaltender usually bigger). The attacking team must take a shot on goal within 30 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, and play is rougher than in the field game (see below).
A national senior men's lacrosse championship (the Mann Cup) has been awarded in Canada since 1901. It has been played under box lacrosse rules since 1935. A junior men's championship (the Minto Cup) has been awarded since 1937 (the Minto Cup was also awarded to a senior men's champion from 1901 to 1934). Since 1908 all national senior and junior men's champions have come from either Ontario or British Columbia. The Canadian Lacrosse Association also holds tournaments to determine national junior and senior women's box lacrosse champions and junior and senior men's and women's field lacrosse champions.
Indoor lacrosse is a less violent version of box lacrosse played professionally during the winter not only in regions where summer lacrosse is popular but also in regions where lacrosse is rarely played in summer. Players may use only sticks with hollow metal shafts (box lacrosse permits solid wooden sticks) and may not crosscheck (crosschecking – hitting another player with the stick with one's hands apart on the shaft – is legal, within limits, in box lacrosse). These two differences encourage a running rather than a passing game. The inaugural World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, won by Canada, were held in 2003.