Broomball: More Fun on Ice With Brooms!

IMG_3489Brooms. Ice. The last time I wrote about these two things, I had returned from a humbling experience with curling. Since then, WNY has doubled their houses, as it were, with Canalside opening up their ice to curling. Before the days of rocks and double-entendre screams, Buffalo has been home to a very competitive ice-sports league of a whole different flavor: Broomball. Some of you may recognize broomball from your college days, and I’ve been told our friends to the north play it in gym class. For those not familiar, broomball is, at its very basic nature, like field hockey on ice – the players run end to end, whacking at a ball with their carefully crafted sticks. It is intense – 3 periods lasting 18 minutes each – and it is exhausting, but it is the most fun you can have while trying desperately not to fall.

Every broom is carefully crafted to match the player's skill set.

Every broom is carefully crafted to match the player’s skill set.

When my friends and I decided to join the league run by Leisure Rinks on Saturday nights, we had no idea what we were in for. We had come off of a few disappointing indoor soccer seasons, and were looking for something new to do, while still maintaining the co-ed nature of our bar league sports. One of us saw an ad for Broomball, and none of us knowing what it was, decided it would be a great idea. The website for the league had some information regarding rules and equipment and such, and it seemed simple enough. We showed up to our first game with corn-husk brooms and rolls and rolls of tape, some pads, and an excitement we hadn’t felt in a while. We drew the later game, which was good, because none of us had any idea how to properly fashion our brooms. We walked from the lobby to the rink and seeing our first official broomball action, did our best to bend, roll, and curve our brooms to match those the players on the ice were using. We all pretty much failed. Creating your broom is an art form, and it takes time to perfect – a lesson we’d all learn over the years.

Our first season was full of important lessons. Helmets are good – that was one of the first. Second, running on ice is hard. One may scoff at the purchase of special shoes for playing broomball, but I assure you, it’s worth the price tag. Third, we are the type of people to choose a small dive bar in Orchard Park over several bigger, louder, hipper options. Shout out to Riley’s and Larry for putting up with us and the teams we’ve since brought through your doors. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a college education’s worth of money there, but it was worth every penny. Our fourth, and most important lesson, is just how intensely frustrating fun can be. We lost every game that first session, and the next. There was a lot of yelling. There were a lot of choice words screamed loud enough to be heard on the other rink. There was some cheering, some laughing. In one game, we were facing a team that just destroys every team they play. To lighten the mood, it was suggested that I yell “SAVE!” every time made a save. I did and it was HILARIOUS. You make your own fun. I guess that’s lesson 5.

IMG_3487The next season, a couple more new teams joined. That was great because suddenly, there were two divisions, and we were competitive in our division – making it to the playoffs first session, and to the championship second session. We lost by two points – one ‘girl’ goal. I was moving left to make the save when a girl stepped into the path of the ball. It hit her right between the shoulder blades and changed direction. It was heartbreaking. But we did it again and again, making the championship run several times over our brief careers as broomballers.

Over the past few years, league numbers have dwindled. Our own team experienced growing pains as people became families and priorities shifted. This is our first season without broomball, and I hate it. I miss the game a lot, even though we weren’t necessarily good for our last year. The good news is, though, that the league at Leisure is starting their second session soon (sign up here). It takes a minimum of seven players – three guys, three girls, and a goalie. Grab your friends, grab some pads, grab some brooms (and A LOT of tape) and head on down! New teams have joined over the past couple of years, so the competition has evened out a bit. There are some great teams, some average teams, and some novice teams. You’ll find your stride and will be able to hold your own by the end of your first session. If Saturday nights are tough for you, there is a league forming on Monday evenings at Canalside. Healthy Buffalo is sponsoring the league and providing you with sticks & mesh jerseys. You bring the pads, helmets, and teams and they’ve got the rest. You can check that out here.

IMG_3485The history of broomball in WNY is deep and rich. Teams composed of generations of families still play, some for 30+ years. It’s a great tradition to start. It is amazing exercise and builds team and family bonds. There really is no better feeling than watching your team come together, when everyone is clicking and on the same page. There is a certain sense of extra pride when it is someone you love. I wholeheartedly encourage you to check out a game. You will fall in love immediately with how silly it is and how fun it looks. Playoffs for the first session are on January 24th. The first games are at 10:15pm and the second games are at 11:20pm.  Dress warm, bring a few cans of …”soda”…and check out the action. You’ll be calling your friends and family to begin building your roster first thing Sunday morning.

Erik Wins

Postgame “Sodas”

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