Spring 2010 Michigan Tech Magazine

Tales of Broomball

Brooms on Ice

by Jillian Schwab, student writer

A first-time player encounters broomball

My residence hall's broomball team approaches the rink, our colorful duct-taped brooms resting on our shoulders. We had all heard of broomball before, but only one girl had played it. Most of us hadn't even watched a game.

After handing our IDs to the presiding referees, we each select and strap on a helmet and climb into the rink. Some of us take hesitant steps away from the boards, while others push off and slide across the smooth ice. We stumble and fall for a couple minutes, trying to get some sort of footing. Then the referees call the players over to make sure our brooms comply with Inter-Residence Hall Council regulations. One by one they pass inspection, and we slide into our positions.

The frozen rubber ball drops, and the game is on.

As I stand on the ice, holding my broom and trying not to slip, I wonder what it is about this game that makes it one of Michigan Tech's most beloved traditions. As I shuffle toward the ball and swat it away from my side's goal, my leg slips out from under me, and I land on my kneepads. The rules sound so simple; the game itself is difficult, unique—and painful.

Why is it so endearing? I wonder, as I struggle to get myself back up, only to slip again, falling backwards this time.

Broomball is believed to be a modern version of a game invented by Vikings living in Iceland in the tenth century, known as knattleikr. The first recorded incidence of modern broomball appeared in eastern Canada in the late 1800s. Over the next century, it spread south to the US and then to other parts of the world. The sport has been a Michigan Tech winter tradition for decades and is only gaining momentum.

Broomball is not very complicated. Two teams take to the ice, running up and down the rink trying to knock the ball into the goal and prevent the other team from scoring. It's a lot like ice hockey, except broomball players wear street shoes instead of ice skates; a rubber ball is used instead of a puck; and the sticks are handmade from brooms and duct tape.

The game sounds easy, until you strap on a helmet and climb over the rink walls. Then it becomes a desperate struggle to stay standing.

However, as any seasoned player will tell you, if you're not on your knees for half the game, you're not playing hard enough.

As I force myself back to my feet, something amazing happens. The ball collides with the back of a goal box, and two of my teammates high-five. We've scored! We're still down by one point, but we've scored! There's no time to celebrate, though, as both teams slide back into position and a referee takes center ice. He drops the ball, and the game continues.

A couple more minutes of slipping and sliding pass, and the referees call halftime. Both teams gather along the sides of the rink. We smile and mutter encouragement to each other as a referee indicates for the teams to switch sides. We glide awkwardly across the ice and prepare for the second half.

With another drop of the ball comes another fifteen minutes of slipping, sliding, dashing across the rink and plenty of falling. I fall; my teammates fall; the other team falls. Even one of the referees loses his footing. The other team scores another goal. We sigh for a moment, and the game moves on. As the end creeps up, the spectators cheer louder and louder, excitement mounting whenever a player takes a shot. But eventually the referees stand up and signal the end.

With the score three to one, we've played and lost our first broomball game. We thank each other with the traditional line of handshakes, climb out of the rink, and hang up our borrowed helmets. My teammates are all grinning as we line up at the IRHC* hot cocoa shack. We may have lost, but everyone had too much fun to care. The same question is written across all our faces.

When's our next game?

*The Inter-Residence Hall Council is the main programming and governmental body of Michigan Tech’s residence halls and coordinator of many fun things, including broomball.

Broomball Mania Invades Wisconsin

by Marcia Goodrich

KBC, DT, Nutini's, Uphill 41. Sound familiar? How about Ambassador, Bleachers, The Dog, and Library?

If you rank these among Tech students' favorite watering holes, you are only partly correct. They are also the names of broomball teams that assembled in January at the home of two Tech alumni. Jana (Young) Fogarty '05 and her husband, Josh '03, love the sport so much they couldn't let trivialities like graduating and moving three hundred miles away keep them from wrapping brooms with duct tape and staggering out onto the ice.

"When we first moved here we both had just graduated, and we were missing Tech and broomball," says Jana, who played the game for four years, both on an East McNair women's team named Reaction and on the coed Super Happy Fun Team. So in the winter of 2007, the Fogarties and five other Tech alumni got together to whack a ball around a frozen lake near their home in Random Lake, Wisconsin.

In 2008, the number of Random Lake broomball enthusiasts grew to seventeen. "Last year the word spread, and we got thirty-eight," she says. "Then we had a January thaw and got really nervous, but the lake refroze in time."

For the 2010 matches, Jana and Josh weren't taking any chances. With help from a core group of alumni, Greg Mooren '06, Molly (Crouch) Mooren '06, Brian Mooren '03, Mellisa (Le) Mooren '02/'04, Ken Wheeler '05, and Matt Barens '05, they prepared for an onslaught.

"This year, we had so many people RSVP that we decided to make a rink in our backyard. The day we had broomball, there were sixty who came. We had an all-day tournament, double elimination. It was a ton of fun." So fun, in fact, that the Fogarty tournaments are attracting players who'd never heard of broomball before, much less gone to Michigan Tech.

But five years after commencement, why broomball?

"When you think about Michigan Tech, you remember your friends, your classes, and your activities, and one of my favorite activities was broomball," Jana explains. "You don't need a lot of supplies, and people who have never played are sometimes better than those who have played a lot. Even athletes aren't better than anyone else."

Nevertheless, somebody gets to win, and in 2010 the gold medal went to Bleachers. But next year, who knows? "The ice equalizes everyone," says Jana.