Sloppy Waffles, Booty Wop, Flying Carp, and Whiskey Sticks are all names of local broomball teams, but surprisingly the sport is “swept” under the rug. A game with team names like this must be exciting, right?
Some names, like Booty Wop, might be references to what happens to broomball players on the ice as they slide on spongy-soled shoes with an occasional butt-first spill.
“[Broomball] has a bit of a reputation for being just a little odd,” says broomballer Christopher Roberts.
You might be wondering what broomball is.
“Broomball is played basically like a mix of hockey and indoor soccer – things like offsides and icing carry over from these games. You play with a small soccer ball and can use the stick [a specialized stick which ends in a modified rubber “broom”] or your feet to move it around and toward the goal. There are six players on the ice from each team – a goalie, two defensive, and three offensive. Each game is about an hour – technically two 24 minute halves with a halftime break in between,” explains Roberts.
Roberts has played broomball for five years and currently plays for the Struggletown Spartans, part of the Rochester Parks & Recreation’s (RP&R) winter league. Ben Boldt, the Recreation Supervisor for RP&R, organizes the league. This year there are 16 teams with about 240 players.
RP&R installs outdoor rinks in late fall, floods them throughout the winter months, handles team registrations, produces schedules, and updates scores and standings throughout broomball season. Games take place at the outdoor Withers Sports Complex, 2021 Mayowood Road SW, which houses two rinks, on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Rochester’s broomballers are a wide-ranging group including casual and dedicated players. Lindsey Hanenberger has been playing around four games a year for the past six years at events like the Camp Victory Staff Reunion game, but Nathan Rabe plays on several teams and even travels for the sport.
Rabe, a 17-year veteran, plays for the Rochester United and Cold Chalupas teams. He travels regionally for tournaments and has even played in international locations like Vancouver, BC.
Comparing broomball to hockey, Rabe says, “it takes a lot less skill and money to get started. Anybody can play, and with a little dedication, anybody can become good at the sport.”
“It’s not quite as fast-paced as…hockey, but it still can bring a lot of the same intensity,” claims Roberts.
He points out that the sport includes a considerable amount of contact: “You’ll definitely fall on the ice, hit the wall, or bump up against another player.”
Gary Dahl, who began playing broomball as a junior high student, remembers having his nose broken by a flying broomstick: “I saw the stick flying through the air in slow motion at me, but there was just no time to get out of the way.”
Standing rink-side, on a dark, bitterly cold, wind-scoured Tuesday night, with three or four spectators watching from a heated car, it’s clear broomball is played not for glory, but for love of the game.
Try to join a pick-up game at Rochester’s Graham Arena from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Fridays.