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Simplified Lacrosse Rules for the Casual Observer

By: Pete Ducato

Yes, it’s an Indian game; the original and oldest game of North America, also billed as the ‘Fastest Game on Two Feet’.  Lacrosse is a French word (la crosse) meaning ‘the stick’ or just recently a new Buick.  Lacrosse was often played in lieu of war between tribes.  Later on it was played for the pure sport. Originally, the game was played with no boundaries, except the goals – which could be miles apart.  Teams often had 75 to 200 men each.  Heavy wagering took place in the form of blankets, horses, food, weapons and wives.  Woe to the married man who gave up the winning goal.

Lacrosse is now played by 2 teams of 10 players each, or at least at the start of the game; it may not end up that way.  All players are required to wear a helmet, gloves, shoulder pads, a mouth guard and have a crosse.  The goal of the game is to put the ball into the goal of your opponent.  This ball is made of hard rubber, about the size of a baseball.  The ball may be carried, thrown or batted with the crosse, rolled or kicked in any direction as long as it remains in the field of play.  The field lines, unlike soccer, are out-of-bounds.

The field is divided into 2 halves totaling @ 110 yds long and 60 yds wide.  About 15 yds from each end is the goal, sitting in a circle called the crease.  The goal is 6 feet by 6 feet and the crease is a 9-foot radius.  This area is the sole domain of the goalie and his defensive players.  The ball may be thrown into the crease but never carried.

Crosses may be short (40 to 42 inches) or long (52 to 72 inches).  They must measure 6.5 to 10 inches at the widest point of the head.  The reason for this is so the opposing players can knock the ball out of your crosse.  If you have the ball in your crosse, you may not use your free hand or arm to fend off blows from your opponent.  This gives rise to the funny way the ball-carrier holds his free hand when in heavy crosse traffic.

Games are played with 12 minute quarters, with each team getting 4 timeouts for the game, using no more than 2 per half.  Goals only count if the ball is thrown, kicked, or batted into the goal past the orange poles before time has expired.  If the game is tied, play continues into overtime with sudden victory, or sudden death if you lose.  At least that’s the way the Indians used to play.

Games start with a faceoff between 2 opposing players.  At all times you must keep 3 players in your attack half of the field.  If you don’t, you are offside.  Most of the time you have to keep 4 players in your defensive end of the field.  Pretty simple, just count.

What you CANNOT do on the field of play – touch the ball with your hands or gloves, stall, enter the opponents crease, go offside, play the ball while out of bounds, body check your opponent from behind or below the waist or above the shoulders, trip or  crosscheck an opponent, have an illegal crosse, interfere with the free movement of your opponent, withhold the ball from play, push an opponent from behind, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, slashing your opponent, bleeding, spearing, body checking without having both hands on your crosse, fighting, hit an opponent with your crosse, or pimpslap anyone.  However, some of these are legal if you are within 5 yards of a loose ball.  It depends.

What you CAN do on the field of play – bodycheck the man with the ball anytime or anyone within 5 yds of a loose ball, motionless screening or picks, use your crosse to dislodge the ball from your opponent’s crosse, run with the ball, or skip to m’Lou.

Major penalties draw a 1 to 3 minute suspension, depending on the official’s judgement of severity and intent.  Officials can also eject players from the game.  Any player receiving 5 major penalties is out of the game, regardless of the number of penalty minutes.

Minor penalties can draw a 30 second suspension, loss of ball or both.  The officials make these up as the game goes along; it makes the game more interesting.  All minor penalties are released early if your opponent scores while you are in the penalty box. If any penalties are called on 2 opposing players at the same time, the team with lesser penalty time gets the ball.

If your crosse is illegal because the pocket is too deep or the strings are too long, you get a 1 minute penalty and the chance to fix it.  If your crosse is too short or long or not wide enough, I get to keep the crosse and you serve a 3 minute penalty and have to find another crosse in order to re-enter the game.  If your gloves have been modified so as to not conform to the rules, you get a 1 minute penalty and you get a chance to correct the problem.

Substitutions can happen at any time during the game, just like in hockey.  After a missed shot, possession of the ball is awarded to the team that is closest to the ball when and where it goes out of bounds.  The referee is the sole determinant of whether the player was shooting or passing.  If you lose or break your crosse while on the field, you cannot be part of the action.

Goals don’t count for a variety of reasons – offensive player in the crease, time expires before the ball is past the goal line, offensive player interferes with the goalie, too many offensive layers on the field, if the attacking team is offside, if the whistle blows before the ball is past the goal line.

Slashing #5 (slow motion)

 January 2018
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