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PURSUIT: Newmarket Redbirds play sport with roots back to 1888

The Redbirds Lacrosse Club has deep roots in Newmarket, but is focused on the future with lacrosse sixes debuting at the Olympics in 2028

If you want to play hockey as well as Wayne Gretzky, you might want to start with a lacrosse stick. 

Famous NHL players like Gretzky, John Tavares, Brendan Shanahan and Connor McDavid have all said that playing lacrosse while growing up made them better hockey players. Considering their collective success, perhaps more kids should consider playing lacrosse.

The Redbirds Lacrosse Club has been the home of lacrosse in Newmarket and Aurora since about 1980, and their president, Paul Wilson, is very familiar with the benefits of playing the sport. 

“It’s great for cardio, it’s great exercise, it’s going to teach hand-eye co-ordination in a team environment where kids can learn to win and lose and train as a group, so it’s great for that,” said Wilson. 

The Redbirds view themselves as a complementary sport to hockey, which makes it a perfect summer option to learn transferable skills to hockey, stay in shape and have a blast playing one of the oldest sports in Canada. 

The club offers both indoor and outdoor lacrosse leagues for men and women in the age groups from U5 to U17. The seasons usually start in March with a training camp to teach basic skills and to build up a solid foundation before shifting to games in April and the rest of the summer. There is also a junior affiliate called the Newmarket Saints that kids can try out for to continue playing competitive lacrosse after they age out of the Redbirds’ program. 

The club practises and plays games out of many venues, including the Aurora Sports Dome, Sheppard’s Bush and Ray Twinney Recreation Complex. There are also talks in place with the town to build a permanent lacrosse facility in Newmarket similar to the field at Sheppard’s Bush in Aurora. 

In addition to what is already being offered, the Redbirds are thrilled about a new program they hope to offer to Newmarket players in the near future. 

“They’ve got a new program called ‘sixes’ that is being launched where there’s only six players on the field. This is significant because lacrosse is going to be in the Olympics in 2028 and it’s going to be that format,” said Wilson. “So for us, that’s another program we’re going to start introducing and start integrating into what we do.”

Lacrosse participation is not as strong as it used to be in Canada and the Newmarket area- despite its roots in the town dating all the way back to 1888. As a result, Wilson and the club are adamant about maintaining a fun and competitive atmosphere to keep kids playing. This includes adapting to offer new programming like lacrosse sixes and staying up to date on the latest safety regulations. 

Wilson also believes that the Redbirds offer players many opportunities to grow within the sport.

“We’re a well-established provider of local athletics to both men and women. We have female and male coaches. We have referees that have opportunities to travel the province and Canada, in fact, to represent our organization on the referee level. We have players that are representing the province of Ontario that are also travelling to the United States and we had five players with the championship team in western Ontario that just won the provincial championship. So there’s opportunity at the grassroots to introduce players to a sport that maybe they never heard of and they have the opportunity to grow into really playing on the world stage,” said Wilson. 

The 2024 season is quickly approaching for the sport known as the fastest game on two legs. Check out the Redbirds’ website for more information about registration, league play and getting involved with one of the truly Canadian sports.