Skip to content

Sports This Week: A tale of lacrosse told from the inside

Author involved in many highlights of lacrosse in the last 50 years
calder 72
Author Jim Calder tells his story against backdrop of lacrosse.

YORKTON - When you attend a Saskatchewan Rush game it’s great to arrive early enough to watch the team’s warm-up, and just marvel at the stick skills of the players. 

But while players can do some remarkable things, a constant for them all is throwing the ball against the wall, catching it and repeating over, and over and over, a near mechanical skill learned from their earliest days in lacrosse.

  • From Tales of a Lacrosse Troubadour by Jim Calder 

The raptor flies hundreds of feet above the Great Turtle … soaring lazily on the updrafts … north to south … our Grandfather the Sun shining on the sweeping eagle …  

Below … the eagle’s sharp eye picks up movement along the way …  

Thump … thump … thump … thump … a rez kid bouncing the hard rubber ball off the outdoor box boards … his feet planted on the dirt floor … in touch with Mother Earth … the hallowed ground for the community … he’s holding a beautiful hickory long stick made just for him by the local stickmaker.

So starts a very personal story of lacrosse by someone who isn’t exactly a well-known name in the sport outside perhaps those most closely involved with it, but someone who is sort of ‘Forrest Gump-like’ turning up at many of the most notable moments of the game in the last half century. 

Born in Canada, but moving south at a young age, Calder fell in love with lacrosse like it was the sport he was destined to play. 


  • From Tales of a Lacrosse Troubadour by Jim Calder 

Remember that day when your gym teacher gave you that wooden stick and ball to try out? You were serious about baseball back then and you were pretty good at that game. But something shot through you when you picked up the hickory stick, even though you weren’t quite sure how to handle it. 

You ended up going to the wall of your nearby school. At first you’d hit the wall, the ball would careen off, and you’d miss stopping it, much less catching it.  You would have to run after it out in the field some fifty yards or more. After awhile that got tiring, so you really started to focus on throwing and catching the ball so you wouldn’t have to chase it every time. The wall proved valuable lessons. 

At first you missed quite a great deal of the time. But as the days rolled by, you were chasing less, and catching more and more. The great thing about it was that you could do this on your own if you couldn’t find a buddy to go with you, even though it was more fun to have company. The wall was your teacher, your guru, your sensei. 

Baseball was still fun, but your mind wandered back to the stick, the ball and the wall. When can I go to the wall again? Baseball season finally ended, and you already knew that next spring you might be doing something different. You might try out for the junior high lacrosse team. The stick and the fling you had were destined. Destiny had you find this game, and it welcomed you. It knew you had the right stuff to play it correctly. . . 

You are born twice if you are a lacrosse player. Your mother brings you into the world for your first day. And then, a few years or perhaps many years later, you are given your first lacrosse stick by someone who loves the game. And if you are a lacrosse player, you are born a second time. You have met your game and what will be your focus for many decades to come. That first day of your second birth you know all you will ever need to know. It is an innate knowledge. 

I’m not saying you know all the stickhandling, dodging, shooting or defensive moves that come as time rolls by. Those skills are the gifts from living in the physical world, meeting the right sensei’s, gurus and teachers at the right time, and working hard at your craft and passion. I am saying you know the feeling of being a lacrosse player, the sense of finding the game you were meant to play. This instinctive knowledge comes from the Creator. It is a tingle that goes through your body as you hold the stick for the first time. It tells you that you have arrived at your game. You recognize that the essence of this gift is from the Creator.

Calder became very good with that stick, eventually attending Hobart University, winning the NCAA title in 1977. 

After he graduated Calder thought he was done with lacrosse in a world before pro lacrosse, but he was only just starting. 

Calder would learn he could play for Team Canada, and that would set him on a course to be part one of the biggest moments in Canadian lacrosse history. 

It was July 1978 – yours truly had just graduated high school – and Team Canada was at Edgeley Park, Stockport, England was the World Championships (of field lacrosse). 

The United States were the juggernaut favourites. Canada a ragtag group most far more at home in an arena playing lacrosse than on a massive outdoor field with the weird ‘long-stick’ defenders to deal with. 

When the teams met in the round robin Goliath had smitten David. It was not even close. The sport might become Canada’s official summer game, but it didn’t look like this country’s game in a 28-4 loss. 

But the teams would meet again in the championship final. 


  • From Tales of a Lacrosse Troubadour by Jim Calder  

When you look at the 17-16 final score in Canada’s “upset for the ages” over the United States, it’s hard to fathom how just four days earlier the USA had throttled the Canadians 28-4 in what was the greatest margin of international victory at that time. 

The gold medal game was anticipated by all to be a one-sided affair. The USA could certainly have a mediocre day and still come away with a 10 goal win. Wouldn’t Canada be satisfied with reaching the gold medal game and taking home silver? 

In sports, all games are played for a reason and all outcomes are possible. But seriously, coming back to play in the championship for silver was the only foreseeable slim possibility for Canada. 

I’ve already told you about the bus ride to Edgeley Park from our residence at the University of Manchester. We tool that energy into the game and hit Team USA hard. We actually got up to an 8-3 lead in the first half. John Grant got us going with an early behind-the-back shot that only a Canadian box player could provide at the time. His shot showed that we were loose and hungry. But the games were – four twenty-five minute quarters back then – and you had time to get back in the game, which is what the USA did. 

The US fought back hard and Canada hung on to a 10-9 lead at the half. There was a great deal of game to go! Mistakes were made on both sides. I remember missing two beautiful outlet passes from Flintoff before I settled down. The great USA defenseman Dom Starsia writes of a mistake he made late in the game on a clear where he forced things rather than settling the ball down. You remember the good plays and the bad ones forever. 

The USA battled back to a 14-13 lead at the end of the third. Canada tied it up 16-16 with three minutes and seven seconds to go. Canada’s goalie, Bob Flintoff, made twenty-one saves that day as compared to the USA’s total off eleven stops by two goalies. It may have been the game of his life. The Yanks outshot the Maple Leafers 62-41 that day. 

I remember the last part of the overtime. The USA committed a slash penalty in the second overtime period. Overtime periods were five minutes long back then. Canada was man-up for the second time in overtime. We moved the ball around the perimeter and it went from me to Mike French. Mike made it look like he’d reverse the direction, and then Stan Cockerton snuck around the far side of the goal. Mike found him and Stan was not going to miss – he scored his sixth of the day! There were only twenty seconds left in the second overtime. 


And Calder’s story goes on. 

He would be involved in the birth of the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League. He would be deeply involved in the 150th celebration of lacrosse in 2017. He would become something of a historian of the sport.  

It is the stuff of a great book, one lacrosse fans will truly appreciate – check it out at

“As you get older and you can’t play anymore, you coach. You build the sport. You appreciate the history of the game,” said Calder in a recent interview with Yorkton This Week. 

Calder is particularly interested in the history, the sport’s cultural significance to First Nations peoples. 

“Because of its Indigenous roots it’s really not comparable to any other sport,” he said. 

Today, Calder seeks to know the roots of lacrosse, its history. 

“I’m finding out about the history of this game in a very informal way,” he said. 

Calder said while he was involved in many memorable moments the best for lacrosse lies ahead. 

“Now lacrosse is probably one of the fastest growing sports in North America, It’s really coming into its golden game,” he offered, adding when the 6v6 outdoor version of the game debuts at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles it will be huge push for growth. “. . . I was just thrilled it finally has a return to the Olympics, (it was last on the sport roster in 1908). It’s good for the game internationally.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks