A popular sport in Canada and along the United State's east coast, Juneau residents Joe Watts and Jim Craig are trying to establish the game of lacrosse in Alaska.
Watts and Craig host an open lacrosse game at Treadwell Ice Arena every Wednesday, giving curious athletes of all ages a chance to see and participate in one of the nation's fastest growing sports.
"From a coaching standpoint I appreciate it when people want to come out and work hard and show lots of hustle," Watts said. "You can't coach willingness."
At Treadwell, athletes play indoor, or "box" lacrosse, a fast-paced relative to outdoor, or "field" lacrosse.
at Treadwell Ice Arena
Who can play: The game is open to men and women of all ages.
When: Wednesday, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Treadwell Ice Arena.
Cost: $3 for adults, $2 for kids, goalies play for free. Equipment is provided for newcomers.
Both Watts and Craig moved to Juneau from the Mid-Atlantic part of the east coast, where lacrosse is one of the most popular scholastic and recreational sports.
Watts played at Essex Community College in Maryland, where the sport is practically a state-wide obsession.
Craig moved to Juneau from his native Philadelphia where he played in the northeastern part of the city. Last April, Philadelphia drew nearly 45,000 people to Lincoln Financial Field to watch the NCAA Division I championsihp.
While lacrosse is an established sport along the eastern seaboard, the game is slowly gaining a foothold west of the Mississippi River.
An April 25 feature story in Sports Illustrated labeled lacrosse as one of America's fastest growing sports, attracting both men and women to the game.
According to Craig and Watts, the sport is also catching on in Juneau.
More than 20 people showed up for an open indoor game at Treadwell Ice Arena on Wednesday.
"(Wednesday) was absolutely phenomenal," Craig said. "We had guys that played (NCAA) Division I ball, we had 11-year-olds, last week we had a couple six and eight year olds. It runs the whole gamut of demographics."
As far as equipment goes, Craig and Watts require helmets during play but said there are loaner helmets available on Wednesdays.
They also provide sticks. Watts has even purchased sticks over the Internet to help plant the seeds of lacrosse locally.
Craig and Watts provide most of the equipment so anyone curious about the sport and give it a test drive with experienced players willing to teach the basics.
"We can hook them up," Craig said. "They guys that know the game are really trying to help the folks out. I've never seen this before in a sport. Here the good guys pass to the weaker players to give them more experience."
Watts and Craig believe the excitement of the game and overall friendliness of the players will help lacrosse, both indoor and outdoor, become Juneau's latest sporting sensation.
"Everybody out there is trying to be an ambassador of the game," Craig said. "We try to put out the best face on the game."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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