Late Saturday afternoon, Canada Games Centre. About 20 people of various ages, sizes and genders tumble over the boards at the Olympic-size ice oval and embark on a strange series of exercises and shooting drills.
What are they up to?
“It’s hockey for people who can’t skate,” says Shayne Fairman, a masters broomball player, quoting a friend’s description of broomball.
While the players’ focus is obvious, to those unfamiliar with broomball, the sport they are playing is not.
It looks like hockey with five players aside and a goalie on ice, each trying to score in one another’s net.
They wear helmets and gloves but no skates. Instead, they’re outfitted in specially designed shoes with thick rubberized soles.
Carrying what looks like an over-sized ice scraper, they run, slip and slide their way up and down the rink.
Their goal: put the sphere in their opponents net.
“I love the game,” enthuses Scott Smith, Vice-President of the Yukon Broomball Association. “It’s a social game, it is great exercise and it’s co-ed, meaning you get the chance to meet a lot of great people.”
These days Smith is wearing two hats when it comes to Broomball in the Yukon.
In addition to being Vice-President of the flourishing Yukon Broomball Association (YBA), the long-time player is the head coach of the Lead Dawgs. The broom-wielding Yukon squad heads to Innsbruck, Austria to compete at the International Federation of Broomball Associations’ biennial world championships. Competition starts November 1.
The Lead Dawgs will play in the co-ed division in Austria. Smith likes the team’s chances of competing, and possibly coming out on top.
“In the Yukon we only play co-ed ,so that’s our strength,” explains Smith. “And for these World’s we have a good mixture of competitive players, both young and experienced. The goal is to compete and to have fun, something that’s not always easy.”
If the Lead Dawgs were victorious it wouldn’t mark the first time a Yukon broomball team has done well at the Worlds.
Two years ago the team placed second when the World Broomball Championships were held in Burnaby.
But coming out on top isn’t Smith’s primary goal for the 20-person Yukon side.
“This is going to be great exposure for the Yukon and for the sport on a whole,” says Smith passionately.
“On top of the World’s, it looks we will have nine teams in the league this year. And our season opening tournament later this month is already full.”
Also at home, Smith adds, work is underway to form a youth league.
“It gives the kids another option besides soccer and hockey,” said Smith. “We are fortunate in the Yukon that we have our own rink and therefore have access to better ice times, something that is very appealing.”
If all unfolds as Smith hopes in regards broomball’s growth as a sport, there will be no questions asked the next time someone sees people running up and down the ice, large ice scrapers in tow, chasing a colourful sphere.
For more information on broomball in the Yukon visit the YBA website at www.yukonbroomball.com.