1982 Field Lacrosse Memories

I was surprised when I got an email from Dave Evans (assistant coach of the 1982 Canadian National Women’s Field Lacrosse team) that after forty years, we would be receiving a bronze medal for our third place finish at the 1982 Women’s Field Lacrosse World Cup (only the first and second place teams received medals). 

Since our teammate, Michelle Bowyer, was being inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame on Saturday, November 13, 2021, Dave organized a get together for the next day where we would be receiving our 1982 bronze medals from alumni member, Cheryl MacNeill.  Not all of the B.C. members of the national squad were able to make the event but I was able to re-connect with Michelle Bowyer, Karoline Karpun, Janet Wilson, Janice Holt and Stacy Smith.  Several lacrosse alumni were there as well (Cheryl MacNeill, Trish Nicholson, Karen Blake and Kal Bowyer). There were other members of the lacrosse community in attendance including Dorothy Robertson’s daughter, Janice Wharton and Dorothy’s great granddaughter, Ryan Swan who is currently playing box and field lacrosse! 

Cheryl explained that the “Women’s Field Lacrosse Alumni” felt strongly that the 1982 “Canadian World Cup” team needed to receive bronze medals and that the alumni was going to make it happen. Cheryl gave us the history behind the medals and the extent of work that was needed to track down a silver medal and make a cast of it so that our bronze medal would match the gold and silver medals that were given out in 1982.  It was an amazing story plus the alumni footed the bill as well! It was a wonderful gesture and very much appreciated.  To come third in this event with our over-all lack of playing experience at any level was a true testament to the quality of athletes that were on the Canadian team.

The 1982 World Cup experience was bittersweet for me.  In terms of skill development, I really wasn’t ready to play at the international level. I had just retired my box lacrosse stick in the summer of 1981 and picked up the field stick in 1982.  The transition wasn’t easy as I had difficulty catching, cradling and shooting the ball with a stick that resembled a tennis racquet!The sticks we used in 1982 were not as forgiving as the sticks that are used in the women’s game today.  The group of B.C. women who transitioned from box lacrosse to field lacrosse, had six months to practice and learn the strange positions and rules of the field game.   When we played there were no boundaries (no markings on the field of play) and no rules restricting player’s movement on the field.

         In B.C. we had no one to play against while we prepared and that was a considerable disadvantage.  We met our Ontario teammates for the first time in London, England and had one week to gel as a team prior to the start of the World Cup tournament!

         That 1982 trip was memorable!  We arrived in London one week prior to the tournament and stayed at the London YMCA.  When we were not practicing, we had the opportunity to explore London and take in a live theatre performance of “Evita”.  There were several times that we had to wear our official dress (red blazer, white blouse and grey skirt) for official events such as the “Brine World Lacrosse Tournament” final dinner held at Derby Hall (University of Nottingham).

         For the tournament, we were housed in a Nottingham University dormitory.  We each had our own rooms but there was only one bathroom per floor!  I remember being cold and sleeping in my clothes.  Debbie Smith and I found a quaint eatery close by where we could warm-up with a homemade bowl of oxtail soup!

         Playing the so-called, ladies game of field lacrosse was a culture shock for a few of us too!  Having to wear a skirt while playing a sport was a first for many of us.  The funniest moment I remember was hearing the following message spew out of the loud speaker while we were lining up on the field for our first game.  “Would the Canadian girls stop spitting on the field!”  How unladylike!

         We were considered the “Cinderella team” of the tournament but we were also a rough and physical team because of our box lacrosse background.  There were six teams participating in the 1982 World Cup.   Australia and the USA were highly skilled, fast and tough opponents.  Scotland, England and Wales were less so and we were able to battle against these three countries to take third place in the tournament. 

         Receiving a Brine plastic lacrosse stick with “Canada” and my last name printed on the sides was special.  Unfortunately in a mad fit of de-cluttering in 2019, I decided to toss the stick instead of donating it to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.  If you have women’s box or field lacrosse memorabilia, consider donating in to the CLHOF!

         The entire experience of receiving a bronze medal from the alumni has reawakened my passion for lacrosse.  I am currently working on the history of women’s box lacrosse in the Vancouver Lower Mainland between 1972-1982.  Another future project is to document the history of the emergence of women’s field lacrosse in B.C. in 1982 and the eleven consecutive titles won by the B.C. Selects Women’s Field Lacrosse team (1983-1993)!

         It was an honour to play for Canada at the first ever Women’s Field Lacrosse World Cup in Nottingham, England.  After watching games from the 2022 Women’s World Cup Tournament, I am amazed how different the women’s game is today and how much closer it resembles the men’s field game. I felt proud to watch our current women’s team play a hard fought game in the 2022 World Cup finals.   Canadian women’s field lacrosse has come a long way in forty years!  I find the current style of game more appealing than the version I played in 1982 and wish that I was young enough to play this exciting style of women’s field lacrosse!  

Related Images: