Editor’s Note: Please welcome Piotr Stalmach on the LimeGreen Lacrosse Blog. Piotr has show off a couple of innovative top strings for LAS in the past and will keep us informed about the lacrosse development in Poland.
Polish Ice Hockey used to be a force to be reckoned with. We had our best years in the 1930’s and 1970’s. The 80’s saw Polish hockey consistently on the edge of international groups A and B, while the nineties led to falling below 14th place (in 1993) and since then, the downfall has been consistent, with a current ranking at #24.
Our so-called national sport is soccer, but we’re consistently not very good at it on the international level. Personal rivalries run strong and are often transferred over to National Teams. What we do excel at is locally considered niche sports. Ski Jumping, Hammer Throw, Sailing, Canoeing, Shot Put… Our best team sports include Handball at #13, Lacrosse at #14 and Volleyball at #4 in international rankings.
We Poles are usually referred to as hard working individuals. We’re proud and tough and when the times are rough, we pull through. We love to complain. Thank goodness for soccer! That’s a topic for hours on hours of complaining. Going from #3 in the world, gold and silver in the Olympics in the 1970’s, to down deep in the rankings today. We could go on forever about that!
Ice Hockey is another sport that has also come a long way down for Poland internationally. Interest has dwindled over the years, which is normal when there isn’t much international success (how soccer is still popular, no idea). Fans have fled from the rinks, and not as many people care to play. A recent change of power at the top in the Polish Ice Hockey Association wants to turn that around. Their first goal is to get people back into the stands, to get them interested in local sports, and to help growth from the bottom up. One of their ideas was to partner with other sports to be able to reach out to fans that are already going to games in those sports. Enter lacrosse.
It was actually the Polish Lacrosse Federation that reached out to Ice Hockey early this year. This happened to coincide with the Hockey Associations plans, so they decided to go forward. Right now, Ice Hockey has taken Lacrosse under it’s wing. All lacrosse games, posters, etc. are branded with the PZHL hockey logo. Both associations promote their games and projects from a media standpoint to help exchange their fanbases. But it’s still hard to get people to come to games, even when they’re free. Though once they do, they’re usually hooked.
But this doesn’t end there! More and more lacrosse players are getting involved in ice hockey and hockey players are starting to trickle in as well. I’m sure you know, more than a handful of Pro Hockey players have said that lacrosse was an integral part of their hockey careers.
We’re also hopeful that PZHL will help us develop Box Lacrosse. The rinks are already there, and often unused in the summer. Hockey players are there, often bored sick in the summer, we can help them keep their skills up. Why not host an European Lacrosse League weekend at the Legia Warszawa hockey rink? Or have the Polish Eagles host a Boxla tournament in Wrocław. Let’s grow the game in all directions!
The transition from hockey to lacrosse can be very easy. All a hockey player needs to buy is usually just a stick. They have shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves and helmets. Maybe a cage for the helmet. A soccer player getting into lacrosse will likely have to spend upwards of $600 for new gear, a hockey player easily under $100. Hockey players already know how to hit hard and get hit much unlike soccer players. Sorry if I’m dissing soccer too much, all appreciation to the true soccer athletes.
How does this transfer to other european countries? It’s hard to say. Might be that hockey must be in as sad a situation as Polish Hockey to get them interested in lacrosse. But I think the point isn’t only that ice hockey is the way to go. The point is to go out there and look for partners, not only on the national level, but on the local level as well. And not only business partners, but organizations that you can do something for and they can return the favor later.
Here’s what my team, Grom Warszawa is doing to promote lacrosse locally. We have so far partnered with a coffeehouse, a club, a local American Football team, and a few profit and non-profit organizations. We show up at their events, they give us discounts, they promote our events and show up and send their customers as well. So I think the key is to be a group of people that is fun to be around (check), that know how to get a party started (check), let the kids go ballistic on your goalie (check), and support other local teams from other sports (check). Long story short, to get people involved, you HAVE to get involved with people. Now get out there and #growthegame and think big.
For more on lacrosse in Poland, go to http://www.lacrossepolska.com and look for Lacrosse Polska on facebok, twitter and instagram.