The lacrosse world lost a legend with the passing of Alfred (Alfie) Jacques, who had been battling kidney cancer. Jacques succumbed on June 14th, his son Ryder said. He was 74.
“We loved him and we knew how much people cared about him, and that helped when his end came,” Ryder said. “It was a comfort to the family that he was loved by so many people.”
Jacques had been making lacrosse sticks since he was 11 years old with his father on the Onondaga reservation, near Syracuse, New York. Over his lifetime, Jacques had constructed over 80,000 lacrosse sticks.
A Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer, Jacques played junior, senior and professional lacrosse in the 1960s and 1970s. He played nearly every position in box and field lacrosse and was a goalie for the Syracuse Stingers during their one season (1974) in the National Lacrosse League. Jacques also coached and served as general manager for the Onondaga Red Hawks, leading them to a Presidents Cup championship in 2010.
“Alfie Jaques is a national treasure of the Haudenosaunee,” said Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan and the 2015 Spirit of Tewaaraton honoree. “His tireless dedication to his life’s work has earned him the recognition and respect he justly deserves.”
In Jacques own words:
“I’m Onondaga, Turtle Clan, and I’m going to do this as long as I’m able to do this,” he said in a 2019 interview. “It’s such a part of who we are as a people. It is important, as it allows us to play the Medicine Game the way it should be, with all wooden sticks.”
The Jacques workshop has been a destination for lacrosse aficionados the world over to see firsthand how these masterpieces were created. He took his craft on the road, conducting demonstrations at major lacrosse events like the USA Lacrosse Convention, and the annual Stick Festival in Onondaga, where droves of coaches, officials and fans flocked to his booth for a glimpse at his work, and to hear stories about tradition and the medicine game.
When I had a chance to interview Alfie back in 2018, he explained the process took 10 months to complete a stick. What type of tree, what part of the tree, and the using of all the parts of the tree in the process had me riveted as we talked over dinner. Always with a sense of humor, Jacques told me he signed and dated every stick, but when he made left handed sticks…he signed them backwards.
Even when his health declined in recent years with a kidney cancer diagnosis, as well as a heart attack in 2017, Alfie kept working his craft.
“It’s therapeutic,” Jacques said. “It’s a relaxing thing to do. Everything you do in this work has purpose to the end product. You don’t just cut for cutting sake. You cut with purpose. You saw with purpose, carve with purpose, drill holes with purpose. This is what I live for. This is my life.”
Although he is now in his next journey for the Creator, Alfie’s legacy will live on. His tireless efforts to keep the game and it’s traditions alive will be remembered for generations to come.
Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.