Skip to content

Sports This Week: New films look at history of lacrosse

Wayne Gretzky points to Gaylord Powless as sports all-time best
Wayne with Lacrosse Stick 72
Wayne Gretzky talks lacrosse in new film.

YORKTON - When I see something about the sport of lacrosse my interest is always peaked. 

The National Lacrosse League in general, and the Saskatchewan Rush in particular, top my list in terms of sport viewing, and the field game is great, my interest only limited by not having a Canadian based pro-team or league to follow in detail. 

So when I happened upon a web post recently regarding a new film; The Rules of Lacrosse — and the Men Who Break Them, I was hooked and wanted to learn more. 

In checking out the film I found the opening statement in the synopsis which only fed the intrigue; “What do Wayne Gretzky, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (Maryland), and David Grohl (Foo Fighters / Nirvana) have in common? You guessed it, they all played lacrosse... 

“This film covers the A to Z of men’s lacrosse, from its rich, Indigenous history to the present forms of men’s lacrosse, both the box and field games. This documentary explores several themes of men’s lacrosse: forming and maintaining professional teams and their players, college and leagues, the wooden stick controversy, and the growing of the game internationally from its North American roots. In fact, lacrosse will become an official men’s and women’s Olympics sport, beginning in 2028.” 

Having to find out more I arranged a telephone with Joanne Storkan of Honest Engine Films, the director behind the film. 

Storkan came at the film without actually knowing a great deal about lacrosse. 

“I’m from California,” she said, adding “My kids played some lacrosse at a kind of prep school,” but only because a teacher was from Eastern Canada and brought the sport with him. 

So the director had homework do to. 

“I did a lot of research,” she said. 

The Rules of Lacrosse wasn’t her first film on the sport either. 

“I fell into the world of lacrosse while doing research for a screenplay I was writing entitled ‘Stix’, which is a coming-of-age story similar to “The Karate Kid’, only with a lacrosse back-drop,” noted Storkan’s Director’s comment on the film. “While interviewing a coach and former player, Tom Ryan, I learned that he had just produced a short film about his experiences in the world of lacrosse entitled “Stir It Up’. 

“After viewing the film, which I really loved and found very interesting, I proposed that we convert his short movie into a feature-length film and incorporate more aspects of the sport that were not covered or delved into in Tom’s 26-minute film. After we filmed more games and interviews, we learned that for several reasons we could not merge our new footage with his older film. Our choice was either to scrap the project entirely or create a new movie. We chose the latter, and thus was born ‘The Rules of Lacrosse’.” 

In talking to Storkan of course Gretzky came up, and it proved a rather interesting aspect of the film. 

The director met Gretzky, one of this country’s most iconic athletes, on a night out. 

While Storkan said she didn’t know who Gretzky was, initially admitting she “sort of ignored him”, when the ‘Great One’ learned of her film he wanted in. 

“He (Gretzky) begged me to be in it ... He was just so passionate about the sport,” said Storkan. 

During the evening Gretzky asked Storkan who the greatest lacrosse player is? 

She said she anticipated Gretzky would point to John Tavares, but that was not the case. 

Gretzky instead named Gaylord Powless, from the Six Nations Reserve, the same Powless recently elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. 

Storkan said by then she realized Gretzky’s interest in the film and passion for the sport were real so hastily they set a time to film a segment. 

In the interview with the filmmaker, Wayne Gretzky emphatically states, “I always say this to people—you think football and ice hockey are physical? The most physical sport I ever played in my life was lacrosse.” 

That is rather high praise for lacrosse. 

It was at this point Storkan said she also realized she needed to expand the horizons of the film to look at the game in Canada too. 

“I knew then I had to go more into Canada,” said Storkan. 

So what about the process most intrigued the director? 

Learning about the significance of lacrosse to Indigenous people as ‘The Medicine Game’, said Storkan. 

“When I did my research that was the most fascinating thing,” she said. 

In the end the film became a feature length documentary, although Storkan said she has come to realize it might be a bit long for all but the most diehard lacrosse follower to sit through, so she said it is likely to be massaged into a two, or three-part series, that will be a good fit for sports TV. 

Readers can check out trailers for the film at