Back in 2001, the Prince Albert Box Lacrosse Association was formed with 44 athletes signed up and games taking place at the Steuart Arena.
As the now named Prince Albert Lacrosse Association completes its second decade, there are over 400 athletes taking part in the sports with games taking place all over the city.
“I look back fondly on those early days,” said Prince Albert Lacrosse president Javan Bexson, who was a player in the association’s first year. “I can remember every individual who was playing when we first started and I could probably remember everyone who was on the board of directors at that point.
“To see what this has grown into since 2001 is really extraordinary. The future of the sport is really bright here and there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for everyone who is playing lacrosse now.”
The efforts of the Prince Albert Lacrosse Association were rewarded in January as the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame named them the Organization of the Year.
A formal ceremony was to have taken place in May, but that has been pushed back until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a real honour for all of us to be recognized,” Bexson said. “Everyone has done a lot of work to move the sport of lacrosse in a positive direction here in Prince Albert and we’re seeing more and more youth getting involved every year.”
The Bexson family has been part of the Prince Albert Lacrosse Association since its inception, with Javan’s parents Betty and Joe serving on the initial board, which was headed by current Canadian Lacrosse Association president Shawn Williams.
“It was basically word of mouth to find out about the sport back then, especially before the days of social media,” Bexson said. “Everyone was telling their friends ‘You have to come and try this sport out’ and it just spread from there.
“It was really unique at the time. It was a fast sport with lots of contact and people were really intrigued.”
The steady growth in the sport was accelerated in the summer of 2015, when the reigning National Lacrosse League champion Edmonton Rush moved to Saskatoon.
Since they arrived at the SaskTel Centre, the Rush has captured two titles and also reached the league final on another occasion.
“The exposure that the Rush has provided is astronomical for the sport in our whole province,” Bexson said.
“There’s also another professional league for the field side of the game in the United States (the Premier Lacrosse League) that is having their games broadcast on NBC Sports, which has also helped to promote the sport, along with having the ability to watch NCAA games.”
In addition to winning provincial age-level titles over the last decade, Prince Albert Lacrosse has also seen their junior Predators program become a perennial contender in the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League, with their best showing coming in 2018 as they captured the league title at home.
Another major highlight came that same year, as local product Brendan Rooney was part of the Yale Bulldogs program that won the NCAA national championship.
“We’re a pretty small community here in Prince Albert and to have a guy be on a national title winning team is pretty amazing,” Bexson said.
“I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead for the sport. We have the chance to host the field lacrosse provincials in 2021 and Saskatchewan’s hosting the national men’s championships in 2021, which will be huge events. The province is more engaged in what’s going on with lacrosse and I’m excited to see how it grows here in Prince Albert.”