Lyle Thompson leads the Georgia Swarm against the Vancouver Warriors Saturday at Rogers Arena and hopes to be leading the Haudenosaunee Nationals against the Canadians and the Americans at the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympic Games.
Men’s and women’s lacrosse have been added to Los Angeles by the local organizing committee.
The Haudenosaunee is a collection of six indigenous nations from Ontario, Quebec and New York and they’ve competed as their own team at international lacrosse events since 1990. They played as the Iroquois Nationals at the 2019 world box lacrosse champions and finished second to Canada, for instance.
They’d like to continue to do the same in Los Angeles and they’ve already have notable backers. U.S. President Joe Biden and Canada’s sports minister Carla Qualtrough both announced last week that they’re supporting the Haudenosaunee bid.
If it happens, it would be unprecedented. It would take the International Olympic Committee making an exception to a rule that permits teams playing only as part of an official national Olympic committee.
Thompson, 31, is one of the star players. He leads the Swarm (1-0) up against the Warriors (0-1) Saturday as both teams continue their National Lacrosse League schedules. Thompson was the NLL most valuable player in 2017 after leading the Swarm to the league title in the box lacrosse circuit.
“With the announcements last week, it definitely looks like we have more support,” Thompson, who’s from the Onondaga Nation Reserve in New York, said Friday on his way to Swarm practice at Rogers Arena. “It will come down to U.S. lacrosse and Canada lacrosse being able to really back it and standing their ground. At the end of the day, the IOC still has to approve it and we need to get a lot of votes that aren’t necessarily on our side right now.”
Indigenous peoples invented the sport. There’s reported history back to the 12th century. Indigenous players readily refer to it as the “Creator’s Game,” and the “Medicine Game.” Helen Guo wrote in The Varsity in 2022 about how “games were also played before a medicine person who was looking for a way to treat a sick person, in hopes that the Creator would see the appreciation and in turn guide the medicine person to the right treatments for the sick.”
Thompson was in line with that Friday.
“It’s more than a game for us. We play for purposes beyond it being a sport,” he said. “We continue to carry that same thinking.
“This is a unique situation. It’s a Native American game being played on the world stage at the Olympic level. It would make almost no sense for us not to be involved in that event. So I think we have every right to continue to push for it.”
He believes that Haudenosaunee competing in Los Angeles would “inspire other tribal nations to fight for the same thing — to be represented for their own people at the biggest stages.” He believes that lacrosse getting that Olympic profile will “put more sticks in hands.”
The IOC began allowing organizers to add sports that are popular in their regions at Tokyo 2020. Softball and baseball were on the schedule for Tokyo. They are off it for Paris 2024 but they join six lacrosses as add-ons for Los Angeles 2024. Sixes lacrosse is a variation on traditional field lacrosse, with shorter games, smaller playing surface and six players per team instead of 10.
Thompson helped the Six Nations Chiefs beat the New Westminster Salmonbellies in five games in September to win the Mann Cup Canadian Senior A national club box lacrosse championship. He tied teammate Cody Jamieson for the series high in goals (8).
Vancouver had a bye in the NLL last week. They’re coming off an 11-7 loss to the Panther City Lacrosse Club of Fort Worth, Tex., on Dec. 1 at Rogers Arena.
“It’ll be a fast game,” Thompson said of Saturday. “Vancouver has a strong defence, a physical defence. As an offensive player, I’m prepared for that.
“Style wise, I think it’s going to be a fun game to watch.”
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