On June 30, 1883, players from the St. Paul Lacrosse Club strode onto a field on the corner of 4th Avenue and 10th Street in downtown Minneapolis clad in solid-colored jerseys. Their opponent, the Minneapolis Lacrosse Club, wasn’t far behind wearing caps and carrying hickory-carved lacrosse sticks that resembled fishing nets more than modern sticks.
St. Paul won 3-0 in the first-ever contest between the two teams. Minneapolis and St. Paul will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Washburn High School — marking the return of a 132-year-old lacrosse rivalry.
“It’s going to continue to be a great rivalry,” St. Paul Bobcats coach Ben Mooney said. “It’s going to be tremendous.”
This year Mooney and Minneapolis coach Aron Lipkin both have sanctioned teams for the first time, giving Minneapolis and St. Paul public high school students a chance to play lacrosse. Becoming sanctioned has helped both teams out in several ways, including gaining funding.
“Our clubs ran at a deficit for as long as I can remember,” said Lipkin, whose team is called the Inner-City Warriors. “We fundraised a lot; coaches usually went unpaid.”
Alan Childs, the author of “Minnesota Lacrosse A History,” which will be published in June, said Minneapolis and St. Paul were traditionally the state’s two best teams. They regularly played each other for the Minnesota Cup — the trophy that went to the state champions.
But in 1912, the games stopped. People wanted to put on ice skates.
“Hockey kind of took over in the 20th century,” Childs said.
Now, hockey and lacrosse coexist. With the help of such programs as Lipkin’s Homegrown Lacrosse and the Minnesota Swarm pro team, more Minnesota athletes are opting for lacrosse.
“The sport’s growing because of the great alternative to hockey. It’s a great countersport. I think the hockey kids are seeing they can play another physical game in spring instead of playing a more laid-back game of baseball,” said Cory Childs, Alan’s son and the Burnsville High School boys’ lacrosse coach.
When the Bobcats and Inner-City Warriors play Saturday the uniforms, sticks and rules will be very different from those of 1883. But Minnesota lacrosse aficionados hope both teams return to the level of play they once reached together.
Regardless, a tradition will be renewed.
“We’re back to where we were,” Alan Childs said. “The cities are back to having rival teams and, hopefully, can build up a rivalry again.”
Jack Satzinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.