BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lacrosse is being considered for a return to the Olympic games in 2028 and the drive for the games is already underway for the Haudenosaunee Nationals.
The Iroquois Nationals, as they were called up until this year, was formed in 1983 playing in a series of tournaments and friendly matches against U.S. colleges and other national teams. It wasn't until 1990 that they were allowed to play in their first international tournament, the world championships in Australia. Current board member and Haudenosaunee lacrosse legend Rex Lyons was a member of that squad. "They played our national anthem and you're standing there and you have the rest of these 5 nations, the nations are powerhouses, USA, Canada, England, Australia, standing at attention in respect of your flag and your national anthem. I felt my ancestors behind me and alongside me," he said.
Now, the sites are set on the biggest international stage, the Olympics. Assistant coach Roger Chrysler was a member of that original team. Both he and Lyons know it is a long shot, but they are optimistic. "I am just hoping when my Olympics come, I'm a little high in the gum, so hopefully I'll be around still to see that." Lyons says he sees it clearly now. "In my head, I could be a little biased, but I see the the Haudenosuanee lighting the torch at the Olympics."
That fire of competition is being sparked right now in the players who will pave the road to the L.A. games. Last week, the under 21 and men's teams worked out at Sahlen's Sports Park in Eden as they prepare for U-21 World Championships in Ireland this August and the World Lacrosse Games in Alabama next month.
For the Haudenosuanee, the creators of the game, it is about much more than athletics. "Lacrosse is much more than a game, it's much more than us, it has a higher purpose and much more meaning to it" says Onondaga member and former Buffalo Bandit, Jeremy Thompson. "It's gonna be something huge for our people as far as recognition for our sovereignty and our passport rights."
There are hurdles, of course, financial and political. They have a lot of lobbying to do to convince the International Olympic Committee to recognize them and allow them into the games. Precedent has been set, there are several unrecognized states that do compete in various Olympic sports including Puerto Rico, American Samoa and The Virgin Islands.
Many say that lacrosse at the Olympics would not make sense without the Haudenosuanee. They not only created the game, they are currently 3rd in the world, based on their bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships.