Lacrosse Makes Strong Debut; Gate Clicking Merrily for Wings

by FRANK BILOVSKI

of the Bulletin Sports Staff

There were three new franchises awarded Philadelphia for this summer.  Tennis you know about, although the Freedoms and the WTT concept are something new.  The tennis purists and new fans haven’t exactly knocked down the Spectrum turnstiles to see it.

Football you know about.  The Bell and the WFL are something else again.  The crowds at JFK COULD knock the turnstiles down—only because the same turnstiles were used for the Tunney-Dempsey fight.

And then there is box lacrosse.  The Spectrum gates have been clicking merrily for the Wings.  But what is this new animal called box lacrosse?

To be sure, the sport is well-named.  The teams play lacrosse and sometimes the players box (or at least fight).  Because of the fights and the wicked use of sticks on the bodies of the team with the ball, there has been a theory advanced that indoor lacrosse is in the same bag as roller derby and wrestling.

Don’t mention that theory to Toronto Tomahawk coach Jim Bishop.  “I don’t buy that,” Bishop says.  “Lacrosse is sheer entertainment, the most pure form of athletics there is.  It is the only contact sport around during this season.”

Jim Bishop has a point but it is clouded by the fact that he was one of the National Lacrosse League organizers.  I mean, would you let John N. Mitchell write the summation for the Watergate prosecutors?

So what is box lacrosse?

The 10,000-plus fans that attend the games here look upon it as the Hockey of Summer.  Six-a-side, penalties, shorthanded goals, power plays—it all smacks of hockey.  The fact that lacrosse is the National game of Canada, where hockey is king, says it, too.  And there are fights.  Any hockey purist will tell you that fights are an integral part of the sport.

So here is the gut reaction from a non-purist—lacrosse or hockey.  The best hockey game of the Flyers’ season was the sixth Stanley Cup game, free of fights, just perfect hockey.  The best game of the Wings’ first half-dozen home contests was the match with Rochester.

There was one brief altercation that night.  The crowd jumped to its feet like the people who watch two heavyweights battering each other.

But the fans yelled even louder when Larry Lloyd or John Grant or Larry Ferguson did something spectacular with the ball—or when Wayne Platt made a super save.  They yelled for the sport, instead of the sideshow.

The average Philadelphia sports fan can sort the sideshow from the game.  This is why a million and a half people will appreciate Mike Schmidt executing a perfect hit-and-run while a handful will be satisfied to find out that Pedro Morales kept his wrestling championship.

Box lacrosse has a chance to be very big in Philadelphia as long as the emphasis is on lacrosse instead of boxing.  Or to put it another way, Dave Schultz has an important function with the Flyers but Bobby Clarke is The Franchise.

Larry Lloyd tonight?  Enjoy, enjoy.

(from CONTACT, Vol. 1, No. 11)

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