If you've been a box lacrosse fan for a long time, you've probably noticed some changes in the game over the years. From crease sizes to smaller nets, boxla has come a long way from what it once was.
If there's any one thing that's changed the most since the creation of the sport, it's definitely the goal keepers. If you look at the hockey goalie, the only real change has been the addition of a helmet. If you look at a box goalie you will see far more changes.
In the 1930s when the first games of box were played, most people saw box lacrosse as hockey without the ice. One would think that with this belief the goalies would have worn leg pads, elbow pads, and gloves just like the hockey goalies from that era. If you thought this you were wrong, box lacrosse goalies in the 1930s wore no pads at all.
Image #1 is a frame from a video of a 1932 box lacrosse match filmed by the British Pathé. As you can see the goal keeper is wearing absolutely no pads. Most professional lacrosse players can shoot at or over 100 MPH. Could you imagine taking a 100 MPH shot right to your chest? That's crazy! Even hockey goalies at the time wore chest pads and gloves.
Luckily, this tradition of no pads didn't stick for very long. As box grew in popularity so did the safety concerns of the goalies. During the 1950s and 1960s the goalies wanted to protect themselves, but saw hockey pads as too much and wanted something they could still run around in. So goalies designed new pads combining hockey pads along with their desire for mobility to produce a very interesting hybrid.
Image #2 is a picture of Don McElhone in 1966. As you can see he is wearing thigh and chest pads similar to hockey goalies of the time, but the gloves and ankle pads are different, allowing for more mobility as I mentioned above. It's also very important to notice that he's wearing no helmet. This means one of those 100 MPH Lacrosse shots I mentioned before could still him right in the dome. This shows how pads were originally only meant to keep players in the game, and not for safety. They didn't care about long-term brain damage, just dings to the ankle or chest that would sting so bad they'd have to be taken out. This attitude of pads was soon to change as the 1970s approached.
At the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s box goal keepers finally began using head protection. While most hockey goalies of the 1970s were wearing fitted masks (think of the masks horror movie characters wear) box goalies began wearing full helmets. This is because lacrosse shots to the face are head-on bullets that could do serious damage to the skull or brain, while a hockey puck usually only leaves a small cut.
Picture #3 is a picture of goal tender Don Watts from 1975. As you can see his helmet doesn't look anything like helmets most goalies wore in any sport at the time. It was a brand new concept for goalies to wear helmets so they just threw on the first thing they could come up with along with a HUGE neck guard. Seriously, that neck guard looks like a bib. It's just ridiculous. Even with the addition of the helmet, goalies were not done evolving.
In 1986 the Major Indoor Lacrosse League was founded and with this new league came changes to the box lacrosse goal keeper. Starting through the 80s and going into the 90s goalies began wearing more modern helmets, thicker pads and started using heads made of mesh instead of traditional leathers. These weren't major changes from the 1970s goalie, but they certainly do increase the gap between the look of a box goalie and a hockey goalie.
And finally we have the present day goalie. The changes from the previous goalies are: MUCH bigger chest pads, MUCH bigger leg guards, and MUCH bigger gloves. Also the helmets got a little different, they look a little more like hockey goalie helmets. The opinion on the new pads are mixed. Some say they provide great protection and are perfect. Others say these new pads are way too big and look ridiculous.
Picture #4 is a modern box lacrosse goalie. As you can see, the argument that the pads are too big is very real. Despite goalies being this big there are still around 25 total goals in the average boxla game. This shows how both sides to this argument have a point and why the modern box goalie is a large point of discussion.
To conclude, box lacrosse goalies have come a long way over the past 84 years. From no pads to 10 pounds of pads the look of a goal tender certainly has changed. And weather these changes have been for the better is something I will leave up to you.
Picture #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kW284NJwlhI | Picture #2: http://dartmouthbandits.com/page.php?page_id=2319 | Picture #3: http://lns.websitepro.ca/lns_10971.html | Picture #4: http://laxallstars.com/box-lacrosse-and-germany-the-earliest-years/