Whenever I tell people that I play in a couple of broomball leagues, the reaction is typically one of two responses. They say either “Wow, that’s really cool!,” or “What the heck is broomball?!”
Yes, the “what is broomball?” question still comes up even as the sport has grown in popularity in recent decades. In short, broomball is a game similar to hockey. It’s played on ice, with two teams (usually six players per side including the goalie) trying to shoot into each other’s goal.
Read on for more information about the sport, and a list of suggested broomball equipment if you’re curious about joining a league.
What is Broomball? An explanation
As noted, broomball is similar to ice hockey, so if you understand the rules of hockey, you’ve got the basic idea. The goal is to outscore your opponent by putting more balls into the net than the other team.
Players use special broomball equipment such as tennis shoes or specially-made broomball shoes instead of skates. They also use sticks with plastic ends shaped like brooms, hence the name “broomball.”
Broomball can be played for fun recreationally, or as part of organized, high-level leagues. The sport is big at universities. Since it requires ice, broomball needs to be played in places with frozen ponds such as Canada, or places that have indoor ice rinks, like major U.S. cities and college campuses.
Read on for answers to some of your frequently asked questions about broomball, links to some of the best broomball sticks, gloves, and other equipment, and tips and strategies for playing the game.
What is the difference between broomball and hockey?
Broomball and hockey are quite similar in terms of strategy, but there are a few key differences. First, as mentioned, broomball players don’t wear skates. They wear regular sneakers, preferably ones with a nice grip to keep them from sliding all over the place.
There are some companies that manufacture shoes made specifically for broomball – scroll down to see our list of the best broomball shoes.
Second, the sport uses a small ball instead of a puck. And instead of hockey sticks, players use broomball sticks, which are made of wood or aluminum and have plastic broom-shaped knobs on the end. They may look silly, but they’re a lot of fun to use.
While some broomball games are played on regulation ice hockey rinks, often broomball leagues will use half-rinks or mini-sized rinks. That makes sense, since it requires more effort to run around on ice in shoes than it does to skate.
Broomball can wear out players faster than ice hockey, and its participants are typically amateurs with fewer skills than hockey players, so the smaller rinks are a good idea for many reasons.
Though hockey is known for its hitting and body checking, these activities are banned in many beginner broomball leagues. However, advanced leagues might allow this type of physical play.
Some leagues may call infractions like icing and offsides that are common in hockey. However, some amateur leagues don’t bother with offsides or icing, as the focus is more on having fun rather than being a stickler for rules.
Broomball leagues do call penalties for things like roughing, tripping, and high sticking. That can result in a player being sent to the penalty box for 2 minutes, forcing his/her team to temporarily play shorthanded.
Broomball leagues are often co-ed and typically feature players in their 20s and 30s, though some older players do participate as well.
What does a broomball game look like?
The level of competition varies across North America. Games played by beginners obviously feature a lot more players tumbling and slipping and sliding on the ice. Higher-level league games with experienced players are fun to watch because they reveal a certain skill level and discernible strategy decisions.
Here’s an example of an amateur broomball game where people play just for fun. It’s footage from intramural games at the University of New Hampshire. Note how the regulation ice rink is split into three rinks. This clip is great because it answers some basic questions about playing broomball:
By contrast, here’s a clip from an old Canadian Broomball Championships tournament. Check out the high-quality shots, slick passing, hard body checks, and intense nature of the battle. These players have been participating in this sport for years and have honed their craft.
FAQs: How can you start playing broomball in the USA or Canada?
Curious about joining a broomball league? Let’s go over a few frequently asked questions from broomball beginners and newcomers.
Where do I find a broomball league?
Broomball leagues can be found all over the country, with the majority in cold-weather cities where ice hockey is popular. Minnesota has the most broomball leagues, including Cities Sports Connection, which runs from December to February in Minneapolis, and St. Paul’s winter recreational leagues.
Ohio, Wisconsin, California, New York, and many other states also have a substantial number of broomball organizations. Take a look at our list of broomball leagues in the U.S. USA Broomball also has a list of leagues by state, but their list somewhat outdated and many of their links are broken.
Can I join a broomball league if I’ve never played before?
Sure! Everyone has to start somewhere. There are no requirements for joining a broomball team. You should just have a basic understanding of how hockey works, as the strategy is largely the same.
Just make sure the league you’re signing up for isn’t an advanced league. The majority of broomball leagues are recreational/beginner leagues. You’ll likely be playing with a mix of folks – some who are also newbies, and some who have played for a couple years.
Can men and women play broomball?
Of course! Check the rules of your local league. There are men-only and women-only leagues out there, but many recreational broomball leagues are co-ed. Some, in fact, have gender requirements. “Teams must have at least 2 women on the ice at all times” is a common rule for co-ed leagues.
Will I slip and fall on the ice?
Yes, definitely. It’s not a big deal and it’s part of the fun. Over time, you learn how fast you can run on the ice without losing your balance. Keeping your footing is part of the strategy.
But yes, you will fall. Accept it and embrace it! And maybe buy some elbow and/or knee pads if you like.
Is broomball a dangerous sport?
Generally, no. Most leagues do not allow checking or hitting. That said, there is some risk from falling on the ice. The most common occurrence will be bumps and bruises. There are accidental collisions at times. I took a stick to the face once on a follow-through after someone took a shot.
Shin bruises are common, because broomball features a lot of whacking. Players are always chopping at the ball to try to move it forward. Sometimes they miss and accidentally whack your shins. Shin guards are a smart investment.
Are broomball games played indoors or outdoors?
Both. I played in a Pittsburgh broomball league where our games were held in an indoor ice rink. When I lived in Chicago, we played outdoors at an outside winter rink.
Obviously, playing indoors was preferable, because it can get very, very cold outside in the winter. And we played at night! I remember one night the temperature was below zero, but we still had to play outside. Everyone just wore a lot of layers, gloves, and hats.
How long is a broomball game?
This can vary a lot by league. You should expect that games will last less than an hour in total.
The leagues I played in had three periods of 12 minutes each. I’ve seen other leagues that have just a single 20-minute period.
Another league has three 8-minute periods. Another has two 20-minute halves. They’re really all different. Most leagues have a running clock that does not stop, except for timeouts.
How do you shoot a broomball?
If you have time before the game, practice shooting so you can get used to using the broom. Elevating the ball is key to scoring goals, so you’ll want to learn how to get it up off the ice.
There are three common types of shots:
–Slapshot, which involves taking a big backswing and striking hard through the ball
–Wristshot, which involves a flick of your hands (no backswing) to fling the ball forward
–Chopping shot – I don’t even know if this shot has an official name, but it’s an effective broomball shot that involves chopping down at the back end of the ball, much like a golfer would hit a ball in a sand trap, in order to get it airborne and propel it forward with speed
What are some tips for broomball beginners?
Use the boards to your advantage, especially when you’re playing defense. Always try to clear the ball away from the goal along the boards – never clear it up the middle near your own goal!
If you have more than six players on your team, you’ll be rotating players in and out. Keep your shifts short! Broomball can be very exhausting, so you will want to make sure you don’t get stuck on the ice for too long.
Want some other suggestions? Check out our guide to broomball tips and strategy.
Other than that, just have fun! If you’re curious about playing broomball, just give it a shot! It’s a great workout, and the people who play it are generally fun and friendly. You just may find a new favorite sport!
What should I wear for broomball?
It varies from league to league, so you may want to ask other players or your league commissioner for tips. If I was just starting out in a new league and didn’t know anything about the league, here’s what I would wear for my first game:
-Breathable long-sleeve shirt
-Jogging pants or sweatpants
-Shin guards & knee pads underneath the pants
-Regular tennis shoes or broomball shoes
-Helmet (most beginner leagues provide these)
What kind of shoes do broomball players wear?
It really depends. Some beginners in casual leagues will often just wear tennis shoes. Others tend to purchase specific broomball shoes.
“Broomball shoes” have a tough exterior with rubbery soles that grip the ice rather than sliding. They do help to keep you upright while running around on the ice. You will definitely have an advantage wearing grippy broomball shoes over your basic sneaker.
If you’re playing broomball for the first time, it might be worth asking around to see whether players in your league tend to purchase shoes made specifically for broomball.
Broomball shoes can be expensive, sometimes costing more than $100. Here’s a closer look at one of the top broomball shoes:
The popular Acacia shoes can be spotted from a mile away thanks to their recognizable orange color. The Gripinator is designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Acacia uses its “Spider Gel” technology to create one of the best sole grips of any broomball shoe.
What kind of sticks do broomball players use?
Broomball sticks (which can be referred to simply as “brooms”) feature a broom-like knob on the end rather than a blade. Sticks can be made of wood or aluminum. The last league I played in gave the players a basket of wooden sticks to choose from each week when we arrived at the rink.
Advanced players often purchase their own sticks. Once again, Acacia and D-Gel are the two primary brands for this product. Below is some information on one of the best sticks, the D-Gel aluminum broom.
Aluminum sticks are typically higher quality than wooden ones. Most players you see bringing their own brooms to games have aluminum models. The D-Gel stick is four feet long and has a nifty curved broom on the end. The slight curve provides advantages when it comes to ball handling and getting off elevated wrist shots.
Other Broomball Gear: Gloves, Helmets, Balls
Additional equipment that is useful for broomball games includes gloves, helmets, kneepads, shin guards and, of course, balls.
Not everybody wears all of this gear. Some players just wear a helmet and don’t bother with anything else.
When I play broomball, I wear basic soccer shin guards under my jogging pants. I also wear volleyball knee pads and elbow pads to protect my knees and elbows when I fall.
As for the other gear, take a look at a few of our recommended broomball items:
Some players in recreational leagues choose to wear heavy-duty gloves to protect against injury. Others just want to keep their hands warm, so they wear thick winter gloves that you’d wear outside on a snowy day. For the top of the line in terms of protection, take a look at the Acacia Impact gloves. The padded grip guards against injury while allowing for ample movement and control of your fingers.
Many broomball leagues offer helmets for their players. You really shouldn’t be taking the ice without one, given how easy it is to slip and fall.
For those who want to purchase their own helmets, many players just go with a standard hockey helmet. There really isn’t a helmet made specifically for broomball.
That said, the Bauer helmet is a pretty safe bet. It’s a highly-rated helmet that offers solid head and ear protection, which is all you need when you’re playing broomball at any level.
Types of broomballs used
Two main types of broomballs are commonly used today. One type looks like a miniature soccer ball. It has little hexagonal panels melded together and is fairly soft and squeezy to the touch. The other is shown below.
This Acacia ball is an example of the other type of broomball. It’s harder and more firm. It comes in orange and blue, which for some reason have become the two common colors of all brands of broomball. These balls are 5.5 inches in diameter and weigh roughly nine ounces.
Who invented broomball?
Nobody knows for sure! The general consensus is that it started in Canada in the early 1900s. The non-profit organization USA Broomball suggests that the first modern players were street car workers who played with a soccer ball and actual brooms.
For a more thorough level of detail, read our more in-depth post about the history of broomball.
As the game grew, it was refined and spread to the U.S., especially northern states like Minnesota, where it became quite popular. Games were reportedly being played there in the ’30s, with leagues emerging in the ’60s. Initially, teams had 10 players per side, making it more like soccer than hockey. But over time the roster sizes were gradually reduced to the current six players per side.
There are some reports that Scandinavians used to play a game similar to broomball back in the 10th century. That game was far more violent and could only be considered a very distant relative to the broomball game we all play today.