One hundred years ago the typical farmer never travelled 20 miles from his farm in his whole life. In 1907, in contrast, the Orillia Terriers lacrosse team travelled all the way around the world, playing 25 lacrosse games along the way. It was the first competitive round-the-world tour taken by any sports team.
This trip was unprecedented, and audacious. The manager of the Orillia team, John Miller, with the boundless optimism typical in Orillia then, convinced the Australians who had solicited a Canadian team to come down under, that the whole endeavour could be paid for out of the gate receipts of a series of games there. The Aussies, with good cause, were skeptical. They wanted the tour to boost the popularity of lacrosse in Australia, specifically because they couldn't draw crowds. It is a testament to Millers boosterism and persuasiveness that he convinced them to put up the money.
But the Orillia team did go to Australia, and did draw crowds. The Aussies got more than double their money in return through the gate receipts.
In an era of spectacular matched competitions (the first "golden age" of sport in Canada was 1900-1910) when huge sums of money changed hands at the outcome of a race or a game, this tour stood out for the scope of it's vision. This really was audacious. It was a spectacle.
The players enjoyed a free five-month round-the-world tour, getting to play some intense and challenging games against novel competition, while the Aussies got the high profile they were looking for and a windfall to boot. Miller's optimistic vision came through in spades.
As I outlined in my last post, the tour quickly devolved from a friendly demonstration of the Canadian game into a do-or-die play-off style game for lacrosse supremacy, not unlike the 1972 hockey summit series. The gentlemanly Australians were introduced to the pugnacious Canadian game, just as the Russians were in 1972. Well, they wanted to know how the Canadians filled the stands. Now they knew.
As Canadian sport goes, this was just a sidebar event, an event that is completely forgotten now. But it did show that big tours could be done, it set the stage for future tours. It is well worth any sports fan's attention.