From Gretzky to Tavares, Shanahan to Stamkos, Canadian-born NHLers recommend playing lacrosse in the summer to improve hockey skills.
"It's lacrosse that helped teach me to spin off checks, take shots and protect the puck under pressure. My stick skills, the way to read the play quickly comes from lacrosse. The hand-eye coordination, is just one of the little things that helps you in hockey."
– John Tavares, two-time World Junior Hockey Champion
"I couldn't wait for hockey season to end so I could pick up a lacrosse stick again."
– Wayne Gretzky
Both hockey and lacrosse are high tempo, physical team sports that have similar elements to the game. Both sports utilize 5 players and a goalie, three periods and a strategy of developing odd-man situations to create scoring opportunities. Hockey players excel in Lacrosse, and, in turn, they become markedly better hockey players. Comparatively, lacrosse is a much less expensive sport than hockey and uses much of the same protective upper body equipment.
"If a sport has a high point of the year, it must be the first week of spring. When I was growing up, I used to love this time of year. It was when I put my hockey equipment away and I was absolutely ecstatic to see the end of the hockey season. One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey. All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out sports they should be doing in the warmer weather. I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball against the walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey. All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and everyone of them learned something from the game to carry over to the other - things athletes can only learn by mixing up the games they play when they are young."
– Wayne Gretzky, National Post, March 2000
Not only did the “Great One” play lacrosse in hockey’s off-season, but there is also a long list of NHL players who have polished their hand-eye coordination and physical endurance by playing lacrosse in the summer. Here are some other NHLers who also participated in lacrosse: