What Is Box Lacrosse? (Explained)

national lacrosse league indoor lacrosse

The offseason can be long in lacrosse. In searching for some extra practice, you may come across an indoor lacrosse league called box lacrosse. The field is smaller, there’s less players, and the goalies look like inflated hockey goalies! Is this even actual lacrosse? In this article, we’ll break down the basics of box lacrosse, its differences from field lacrosse, and the benefits of learning the indoor game as a traditional field player 👇.

What Is Box Lacrosse?

Box lacrosse is an indoor lacrosse variant of field lacrosse. It has many similarities to ice hockey; namely, it is played in a hockey rink with  carpet turf or athletic flooring. Its smaller field of play facilitates a great mix of fast-paced, physical play with graceful offensive finesse. Box lacrosse is fantastic for learning how to handle the ball in tight spaces, become a more physical player, and develop sharp stick skills which can benefit field players!

History Of Box Lacrosse

first national lacrosse league lacrosse game
Credit: Manitoba Lacrosse Hall of Fame

Box lacrosse was invented in the 1920’s in Montreal and it quickly became more popular than outdoor lacrosse in Canada. The Mann Cup and Minto Cup are Canadian senior and junior box lacrosse championships established in 1932 and 1937, respectively, and are still awarded yearly to the best teams in Canada. They are often regarded by many as the most prestigious trophies in field or box lacrosse.

An international professional box lacrosse league did not gain traction until the inception of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League in 1986. It was renamed as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1987 and again as the National Lacrosse League (NLL), it’s current name, in 1998. As of 2023, the NLL has 15 teams in the US and Canada and the league is rapidly expanding with its most recent addition landing in Las Vegas in 2022.

national teams in indoor lacrosse

Box lacrosse players also compete internationally, as of 2023, box lacrosse is the only sport in which American indigenous people are recognized as a nation which can compete. Every four years, World Lacrosse (the international governing body of lacrosse) hosts the World Box Lacrosse Championships, where national teams compete against each other. Some World Lacrosse national teams include Canada, United States, England, Czech Republic, the Haudenosaunee Nationals, Finland, and Israel. Team Canada has won every gold medal in the World Lacrosse Indoor Championship since its founding in 2003.

Box Lacrosse Vs Field Lacrosse

national teams in lacrosse

Field lacrosse is played on a large field with specialized positions and 10 players per team on the field. Box lacrosse is played in a hockey rink and only 5 short-stick players and a goalie are on the floor for each team. The playing surface is typically carpet-style turf or some kind of flat surface which necessitates cross training shoes rather than cleats. Box lacrosse has a 30-second shot clock, whereas the field game has a longer shot clock at higher levels of competition. Goalies wear much more padding and guard smaller nets.

Substitutions

The teams reside on hockey benches which are disconnected and substitutions go through the bench doors rather. These benches have two doors which lead to the offensive and defensive sides of the floor. Subbing happens on the fly and players subbing off the floor enter one door and players subbing in exit the bench using the door at the other end of the bench. Unlike field, all defensive players sub off when possession is gained and offensive players sub off when possession is lost. Only the goalie remains on the defensive end when possession is gained.

field game vs indoor games penalty box

Play Style

The style of play is much different in box lacrosse. Offense is almost never generated from isolated dodges behind the net because of the lack of room. Alley dodges are not encouraged because of the large goalie and small net. Pick and rolls and off-ball seals are much more common than in outdoor lacrosse. In box lacrosse, you do not have to set picks with your feet planted, but there are still rules for moving picks.

Rules & Penalties

In box lacrosse, you can receive an two or five minute minor or major penalty. In field lacrosse, penalties are only 30 seconds or one minute. An example of a major penalty in the NLL would be high sticking, boarding, face masking, fighting, and spearing. Two major penalties in one game can result in an ejection. In box lacrosse, a team cannot be more than two man down at a time. If a third penalty is called, a penalty shot is awarded to the opposing team. This is something that does not exist in the field game.

The final major difference is the tolerance for fighting. Fighting in box lacrosse results in a major penalty, but does not result in an automatic ejection from the game. Similar to hockey, the penalized player must sit in the penalty box for an allotted time.

Box Lacrosse Equipment

Below are descriptions of the various equipment needed in box lacrosse. Goalie equipment will not be covered here.

Box Lacrosse Helmet

Our Pick
indoor lacrosse helmet

Warrior Fatboy Alpha Pro Box Lacrosse Helmet

Box lacrosse helmets are hockey helmets with a face mask designed specifically for lacrosse. Unlike field helms, there is no need for a sun visor, the helmets are lighter, and the smaller helmet allows for better peripheral vision.

Box Lacrosse Face Masks

indoor lacrosse game face mask

If you already own a Warrior Hockey helmet, the Warrior Box Lacrosse face masks can easily be mounted on it and used for indoor lacrosse.

Box Lacrosse Shoes

Box lacrosse is generally played on carpet-style turf or a flat playing surface like a roller hockey rink. New Balance’s new, box-specific turf shoes are the best form of footwear for indoor lacrosse.

Box Lacrosse Stick

indoor lacrosse stick

Rules for runners’ sticks follow the same guidelines as those laid out by the NCAA for short sticks in field lacrosse. Sticks must be 40 to 42 inches including the shaft and head. Some players may have different stringing or stick type preferences between field and box lacrosse. However, you should play with what you are comfortable with, especially if you are new to box lacrosse! If you are new to lacrosse and need a stick, check out the Warrior Fatboy Evo Warp for a box stick that is ready to go out of the box.

Box Lacrosse Pads

For runners, the majority of the pads required for box lacrosse are the same as in field. There are no specific box lacrosse gloves, arm pads, or shoulder pads. Full length arm pads are recommended for maximum protection. A few additional items less common in field lacrosse are described below.

Box Lacrosse Rib Pads

Rib pads protect the lower ribs, which aren’t covered by the shoulder pads, and your lower back. Given the prevalence of picks and the general increased frequency of contact, rib pads are usually required. In general, they should cover from the waist up to the bottom of the shoulder pads. Hard plastic rib pads are generally recommended for box lacrosse.

Box Lacrosse Bicep Pads

Hard plastic bicep pads are sold separately from shoulder pads specifically for box lacrosse which help protect the area of your arms above the arm pads from cross checks which are much more frequent compared to the field game.

Box Lacrosse Drill

Below are two examples of drills individuals can do to prepare or practice that will be helpful when learning box lacrosse. 

Loose Ball Drill

Loose balls are fundamentally different in box lacrosse as the ball ricochets off the boards. Find a wall or a rink and throw the ball low against the wall with varying speed and follow your throw to pick up the loose ball. If in a rink, throw the balls from different angles with respect to the walls and use the corners to get comfortable with the different directions the balls can bounce. Anticipate where the ball will go after hitting the wall and approach at an angle to intercept it.

Quick Release Shot

Start with a ball in your stick and pick various spots on the floor to stand within shooting distance of a net. Toss the ball straight up high enough to catch slightly above your head, catch while in a crow hop motion, and shoot after a single cradle. This drill can also be done with a pass from a partner. This drill reinforces quick catch and release shots which are very powerful in box lacrosse. Focus on trying to quickly identify and hit the edge of the net which the goalie won’t cover.

Box Lacrosse Fight

FAQ

transition players in nll games

Why Do Box Lacrosse Goalies Where So Much Padding?

Goalies wear more padding due to the increased quantity and closer proximity of the shots and the smaller size of the net. It is very common for goalies to accrue more than 30 saves, and see many more shots, in a game. 

How Is Box Lacrosse Different Than Field Lacrosse?

The main differences are playing in a rink rather than on a field, hockey-style substitution rules, smaller nets, goalie equipment is larger, no long poles, penalty times are longer, fighting is tolerated, and 12 players total (5 + 1 goalie for each team) on the floor at any given time instead of 20.

How Much Do Box Lacrosse Players Make?

The average salary of professional lacrosse players in the NLL is roughly $20,000.

How Many Players On A Box Lacrosse Team?

The NLL requires a 21-man active roster, but only 19 dress on game day (17 field players or runners and 2 goalies). This number may vary by league and age but 17 runners ensures 3 full lines and 2 extra players.

Why Are Box Lacrosse Helmets Different?

There is no need for a sun visor. The hockey style helmet provides better peripheral vision, and they are lighter.

How Big Is A Box Lacrosse Field?

The standard size is 200 ft long and 85 ft wide. Box lacrosse can also be played on smaller rinks.

How Big Is A Box Lacrosse Goal?

The NLL uses 4 ft high by 4 ft 9 in wide goal but can be as small as 4 ft by 4 ft.

Wrap Up

game played by professional lacrosse players

Box Lacrosse is an exciting game to play but feels much different than field lacrosse. It is something that every lacrosse player should experience. Hopefully this article introduced you to the basics of box lacrosse, clarified the differences between box and field lacrosse, and answered some basic questions you might have about the game.

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