YORKTON - When it comes to lacrosse it has long been a personal interest in large part because it Canada’s ‘summer sport’ but also because it has a history which pre-dates the country.
That said, I appreciate my knowledge is woefully limited when it comes to the sport.
Of course today the focus is the Saskatchewan Rush, and before their arrival the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League.
However, long before the NLL was even an idea, a couple of important trophies were competed for by lacrosse teams in this country; the Mann and Minto Cups.
The Minto Cup is today awarded annually to the champion junior men's box lacrosse team of Canada.
It was donated in 1901 by the Governor-General, Lord Minto, and was “originally restricted to amateurs, within three years the first under-the-table professional teams were already competing for it. After 1904, with efforts to keep the professionals out of competition proving to be futile, it was made open to all challengers,” notes Wikipedia.
“The last successful amateur challenge came in 1908 when New Westminster Salmonbellies won it; the last amateur challenge was made in 1913 by Vancouver Athletic Club. This would be the only time in Canadian lacrosse history when the Mann Cup champions (Vancouver) faced the Minto Cup champions (New Westminster) head-to-head – with the silverware (Minto) going to the winner.”
The 2022 winners were the Whitby Warriors who took the Minto Cup winning the deciding game in a best of three with the Edmonton Miners in August, with the Miners making history as the first Prairie team in the finals (see related story Oct. 7, edition of The Marketplace).
“Lacrosse was nearing its peak of popularity during his time as Governor-General (the Earl of Minto). He was a fan of the game and in 1901 donated the silver trophy that bears his title. In its early years it was, like the later Mann Cup, a challenge cup emblematic of the national champion, amateur or professional. But, inevitably it was won by professional teams. When pro lacrosse died in 1924, the Minto Cup became redundant and was stored away. In 1937, it was resurrected as the trophy awarded to Canada’s national Junior champion,” writes (Bruce) W.B. MacDonald in his recent book; Minto & Mann: The Untold Stories of Lacrosse's Dynastic Teams.
Sir Donald Mann donated his cup in 1910. The original trophy is now permanently located in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“In 1910, at the height of professional lacrosse in Canada, Mann spent $500 on a gold cup to be awarded on a challenge basis to the winning amateur team. Any team could challenge the existing cup holder at any time. Whichever team scored the most goals over two games was declared the winner. Mann’s cup gesture was but one of several his personal initiatives, in that time period, aimed at encouraging participation in amateur sport. The Mann Cup was intended to counteract the influence of the Minto Cup, competed for by professional teams, and to spur continuing interest in amateur lacrosse,” writes MacDonald.
Today, the Mann Cup is the trophy awarded to the senior men's box lacrosse champions of Canada. The championship is a best-of-seven, East vs West series played between the league champions of Major Series Lacrosse, from the East, and Western Lacrosse Association, from the West.
In the 2022 Mann Cup the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers defeated the Langley Thunder 13-9 in the seventh and deciding game of the championship final. In doing so, the Lakers captured their fourth consecutive Mann Cup.
In addition, it was the 18th time, Peterborough has won the coveted championship.
As one might imagine with histories extending back for more than a century, there are many stories associated with both cups.
It is those stories which are highlighted in Minto & Mann.
They are stories most will not know before delving into the book.
“Even the most passionate lacrosse fans probably do not remember the Orillia Terriers, Montreal Shamrocks or even Vancouver Carlings, but in their times these teams were famous across Canada and even farther afield, always in the thick of the hunt for Minto or Mann Cup glory, winning national championships at least three times in ten-year periods,” detailed friesenpress.com.
MacDonald has become something of a lacrosse expert thanks to his writing. Initially commissioned to write Salmonbellies vs. The World: The Most Famous Team in Lacrosse & Their Greatest Rivals, he had material accumulated on other teams he knew he had to put into a book.
“A lot of the book (Minto & Mann) grew out of my research from the New Westminster Salmonbellies book,” he told Yorkton This Week. “. . . I felt with the Salmonbellies’ book some other teams didn’t get as much coverage as they deserved.”
There were stories that of other great teams that simply “didn’t make it into the Salmonbellies book.”
So MacDonald undertook a second book, this one on his own, something he admitted was something of “a labour of love,” he said, adding “I had become very familiar with the history of lacrosse . . .
“I had this information and I wanted to get it between two coves for anybody that was interested.”
What MacDonald created is a book which is a treasure trove in terms of the history of lacrosse in our country. Lacrosse is about as Canadian as a sport gets with its deep Indigenous roots, and the Mann and Minto Cups deserve to be far more celebrated today than they are. That both are not on one of the multitude of sport channels is sad commentary on how those stations, and perhaps its audience too, under-value our sport heritage.
So MacDonald gets kudos for creating this book, a single source of at least some of the long history of lacrosse in Canada.
That said, this book is very specific in terms of who might be the audience. Even as a lacrosse fan, it was at times a bit of a ‘slog’ reading of teams and games from decades ago. However, there comes an appreciation too for the history being preserved on the pages of a game which is after all our ‘summer game’.