Why Lacrosse??

From Gretzky to Tavares, Shanahan to Stamkos, Canadian-born NHL players recommend playing lacrosse in the summer to improve hockey skills.

Hockey and lacrosse are very similar sports.

Hockey players excel in Lacrosse and, in turn, they become markedly better hockey players.

Both hockey and lacrosse are high tempo, physical team sports that have similar elements to the game. Both sports utilize 5 players and a goalie, three periods and strategy of developing odd-man situations to create scoring opportunities.

Comparatively, lacrosse is a much less expensive sport than hockey and uses much of the same protective upper body equipment.


Hockey players benefit from lacrosse by developing:

  • develops stick handling creativity
  • develops creativity in tight areas
  • reading the play offensively
  • develops strong, dynamic defensive tactics
  • builds up strength and endurance
  • helps prevent sport burn-out by playing a new, fast-paced sport
  • increases hand-eye coordination
  • teaches players to play with their head up and to be more aware of their surroundings
  • reinforces the importance of quickness and agility around the net
  • builds self esteem, respect, integrity and fairness
  • teaches leadership skills
  • learn to play both offensive and defensive positions and make a quick transition from defense to offence and vice versa
  • scoring skills are honed by shooting at smaller targets and picking corners
  • teaches the creativity of fakes, back passes and shots
  • develop the use of both hands

 Why Hockey Coaches Should Coach Lacrosse...

  • Hockey coaches teach similar strategies of team play and special teams.
  • Its a great way to keep your hockey team together to help grow chemistry.
  • Hockey coaches and players only have to look at players such as Gretzky, Sakic, Shanahan, Ronning, Kariya, Nieuwendyk and Oates as these great hockey players have one thing in common...they have all played lacrosse and have used the experience to enhance their hockey skills. You can share in their experience by playing lacrosse.


Why Hockey Players should Play Lacrosse

From the BC Lacrosse Assn. Development

  • Lacrosse and hockey are very similar sports
  • U.S. College scholarship opportunities in lacrosse are available
  • Hockey players excel in lacrosse
  • Its a great method to increase physical fitness in hockey's off-season
  • Team sports build self esteem, respect, integrity, & fairness
  • Lacrosse teaches leadership skills
  • It helps prevent sport burn-out by playing a new, fast-paced sport
  • Players of all fitness levels and abilities can compete in lacrosse
  • A player can learn basic plays and strategies
  • A player can learn to play both offensive and defensive positions and make a quick transition from defense to offence 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, & shots
  • Lacrosse is run in 5-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

Don't Take Our Word for it.....


It is interesting to note what hockey great Wayne Gretzky wrote in his National Post column in March, 2000:
"If sport has a high point of the year, it must be the first week of spring."
"...When I was growing up, I used to love this time of year. It was when I put my hockey equipment away and I was absolutely ecstatic to see the end of the hockey season. One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey. "All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out of sports they should be doing in warmer weather. I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball around. It didn't matter how cold or rainy it would be, we'd be out firing the ball against walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey." "All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and everyone of them learned something from
the game to carry over to the other - things athletes can only learn by mixing up games they play when they are young."
Wayne Gretzky



Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper scored 99 points in his lacrosse career at Hofstra, playing for now Team USA men's lacrosse coach John Danowski.

Before coaching hockey was on his radar, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was sniping on the lacrosse field.

The former Hofstra attackman’s lacrosse background runs deep, as it does with so many Canadian hockey players. The connection between the two sports isn’t lost on him, as Cooper has used lessons from lacrosse to up his hockey coaching approaches.

“What they [both have] is hand eye combination,” said Cooper. “You have to have it in lacrosse and you have to have it in hockey. I always look at guys who can bat pucks out of the air all the time, and I always wonder if they were lacrosse players.”

The NHL is littered with lacrosse talent, from Matt Moulson to Reilly Smith to Tyler Seguin to current Lightning scorer Steven Stamkos.

In three years with the Jr. A Richmond Roadrunners of the BCJLL, Cooper combined for 129 points. His best season was his last, in 1988, where he picked up 52 points, 25 of which were goals, over 15 games.

Cooper even got a sniff of the Senior A level, the highest level of box lacrosse in Canada. The Lightning coach made a single appearance for the Outlaws Sr A team, before college commitments prevented him from pursuing an indoor career.

In his one game with the Richmond Outlaws of the WLA, Cooper tallied a goal and an assist.

Cooper did play hockey growing up, but it was lacrosse where he made his mark at the Division I level before starting to coach in high school.

“For me, they’re both games you give and go,” he said. “You give it up to get it back. You play with the exact same mentality. That’s number one. Number two, I grew up with box lacrosse, so it’s five-on-five. Again, it’s the same. It’s a physical sport, and you have to play both ends of it. Both ends of the rink. You’re working line combinations, there’s so many similarities. I truly believe the guys who play lacrosse when they grow up, they translate, they work well together.”

Lacrosse to hockey wasn’t the only adjustment Cooper has had to make. Going from indoor to outside the box also posed its challenges before he could star for a Division 1 team.

“I played [field] in the Canada Games but that was after I played at Hofstra,” said Cooper. “The hard thing for me was learning to play with my left hand. I was a righty, and we always would throw passes behind our back. That was frowned on a little bit when I played so I had to learn to play with my left, and that was the most challenging. The thing that helped me was, in box lacrosse you have a big huge goalie in a little tiny net. In field lacrosse you have the small goalie and a big huge net. So I found it was a little easier to score in field lacrosse, and I think that’s what helped me.”

By the time Cooper graduated from Hofstra, the Major Indoor Lacrosse League was fledgling. After giving up box in Canada, Cooper said the new pro league was just a little out of his reach.

“It [pro lacrosse] was just starting,” he said. “I graduated in 89. It was kind of just figuring itself out. I never put myself in that place. I played Division I lacrosse, and hung in there decently but I don’t know if I would have handled it with the big boys there.”

Before he stepped behind the bench, Cooper had a good influence about the nuances of coaching with John Danowski. Danowski went on to coach national championship teams at Duke; Cooper didn’t fare too poorly himself on the coaching path.

“He’s won national championships since then,” Cooper said. “We’re in contact with each other and it’s great to see the success he has as my only college coach.”

Cooper’s Lightning are off to a hot start in the NHL (currently tied for the league lead with 38 points), and his focus is on his hockey career. But count coach Cooper as one of the many multi-sport athletes whom lacrosse has influenced.

Copyright © US Lacrosse Magazine 2019

Thrashers Community Partners

RAMP Registration

Join thousands of association partners using RAMP Registration Solutions.

More Information

RAMP Official Assigning

#1 with Officials...for very good reasons.

More Information

RAMP Websites

Manage your identity from the palm of your hand to the top of your desk.

More Information

RAMP Team App

Keep your coaches, parents, athletes, and fans connected, seamlessly.

More Information