An effort to create a lacrosse program in Maskwacis has the support of all four nation chiefs.
A special memorandum of understanding with the four nations, Grand Chief Willie Littlechild and Alberta Lacrosse was signed July 7 at the Ermineskin arena that will see the development of a program in Maskwacis.
Lisa Grant, executive director for Alberta Lacrosse, said there was a minor lacrosse program in Maskwacis some years ago, with Lacoka Lacrosse working with the four nations, however, it never fully took off.
“It needs community support and leader support to keep it going,” said Grant of the commitment.
She’s excited to see leadership signing the memorandum of understanding for the program and even more excited to have Blaine Raine heading the Maskwacis program. “He’s our champion.”
“We’re going to just start with the younger age groups and start up a house league and get the younger kids playing,” said Grant.
The hope is with having the younger kids involved, they will continue to play as they get older. For Grant, it’s an exciting venture as there is strong potential to build up the program, keep kids active and see a traditionally indigenous sport return to a First Nations community.
“Lacrosse is also known as a healing game,” said Grant, adding that Littlechild has always been a supporter and there is even support with the school commission in Maskwacis.
For Raine’s part, bringing the sport to Maskwacis is something he looks forward to. He’s had a long and colourful history with lacrosse that has taken him to the United States and back. “I was very fortunate enough to play at an elite level,” said Raine.
He played division one college lacrosse and then senior B lacrosse in the U.S. and Canada and played with the U.S. Marine Corps for almost 14 years until he eventually returned to Maskwacis.
“Lacrosse has been very good to me. It helped me travel and helped me meet great people,” said Raine. “And I want to expose lacrosse to the kids here because I know there’s some natural talent here.”
When there was a lacrosse program at Maskwacis, several teams brought back medals.
Raine added he feels the lacrosse program will be a benefit to the hockey athletes, pointing out it’s the best off-season sport for hockey.
To help build up the excitement, the Lacoka Locos midget team held an exhibition game with a First Nations team.
Locos coach, Gordon Kirbyson, was excited to be able to bring the Locos — currently undefeated in the regular season and heading to provincials this weekend — to Maskwacis to showcase the sport and have his players gain some cultural exposure.
The exhibition game started with a special honour song and drum ceremony, with chiefs and Grant speaking about their excitement to see the program begin. While the Locos ended up winning 18-8, there was much camaraderie and enjoyment within the game.
At one point, two players in the face off held a paper, rock, scissors challenge to see who got the ball. Skylar Running-Rabbit, for Team First Nations faced off against Locos’ Kreeshen Buffalo in that fun challenge. For those interested, the Locos won possession of that face off.