The Sport of Broomball Historical Roots

The origins of Broomball have been traced back to the early 1900’s. Some sport historians recall, creative rail workers who found broomball as a sport discipline to be a fantastic, recreational past time during the winter months in the early 1900’s. Around the same time period in Saskatchewan, as in the east, the sport was played outdoors on frozen ponds, lakes and rivers or areas conducive for icy surfaces the size of today’s ice arenas. But verifying claims of the sports original roots have been difficult. The town of Barrie, Ontario has documented information of locals getting together on Lake Simcoe between the years of 1903 to 1905 for a fun men’s competition. However, it is believed the sport actually started between native bands passed onto the settlers who inherited the sport through camaraderie and friendship.

Therefore, a rare and welcome exception to the standard of no documentation regarding the origins of Broomball comes by way of legendary Saskatchewan sports reporter Paul Hack, who is credited for acknowledging the sport’s origins in 1986 “Sports Flashback” column in a now defunct Saskatoon newspaper, Take Five. Because of Hack’s fortitude and investigative talents, the following column is widely accepted as the source for an explanation as to the game’s origins.

“Broomball, a new sport? Don’t you believe it! True the development of the game shifted in 1970 from a recreational activity to a more competitive nature. In Saskatoon and quite likely in many other communities Broomball for recreation sake flourished in the 1920’s, but the game was played much earlier. There was a report of a Broomball match on Tuesday, March 5, 1909 between Purdue Hotel and Purdue Town. The Town won the game 1-0 and the report of the game in the newspaper stated, “Throughout the game the best of friendly spirit prevailed.” The article goes on to add; on March 16, 1909 the ladies of Asquith challenged and defeated a group of business men from the town 2-1.

Broomball became a new dynamic into the world of sports. Paraphernalia to play the game during this period included people wearing gum boots for traction and using mom’s kitchen broom to control a small inflated ball or something similar like rolled up tape.

The huge interest in the new found sport fast became a full contact team sport taking on the same pattern as ice hockey. It was clear in 1975 during a tournament in Montreal dubbed the “national broomball tournament”; a regulatory body was needed to facilitate future sport expansion. In 1976, through the efforts of members from the Alberta Broomball Association who met with Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, representatives from these areas formed the Canadian Broomball Federation as the National Sport Governing Body for the sport of Broomball in Canada.

Since the inception of the CBF, the sport has developed significantly with the introduction of technical programs, safer regulated equipment, and rules of the game administered by qualified referees. Competition includes men, women and mixed categories at all ages. Canada is also leading the way for juvenile development in the sport and has introduced programs for 19 and under in all categories of recognized competition. The sport is fast, exciting and very entertaining at the of elite competition level. The CBF realizes the importance of focusing on the youth of today by adopting the National Coaching Certification Program in the late 80’s. Unlike the pioneers of the game, today’s elite athlete is trained by a certified NCCP coach making the sport of broomball a very demanding cardio vascular team sport for the participants to appreciate. Canada has a flourishing membership of 19,000 registered members and another 15,000 participants at various recreational levels and age groups including the elementary and secondary school systems.

The Canadian Broomball Federation has provided the leadership in the sport internationally which is now enjoyed in 16 countries around the world and regulated by the International Federation of Broomball Associations of which Canada was a founding member. A World Championship is scheduled every two years on the even year. Past international events have been hosted in Canada, USA and Italy.

Compared to other sport disciplines, the philosophy for broomball is the same. Create a foundation to have readily available assistance programs and resources in promoting youth activity in the sport of broomball nationally and internationally. The IFBA mandate is to have the first World Juvenile Championships take place in the year 2007. The ultimate goal is to provide the highest quality of instruction, training and supervision in order to develop programs and educate all levels of competitors.

Competition venues find hosting broomball events appealing because of the low ice maintenance and provide more competitive scheduled games during the course of the day than other winter team sport disciplines using the same facilities. Each year, International Broomball Organizations conduct national championships within their country boundaries. In Canada, the host city for the Broomball Nationals is selected four years in advance through a bidding process at the national AGM. The economic impact of hosting the National or World Championships have proven extremely beneficial for the exposure of the sport and financially for the host communities. The broomball fraternity is able to provide all facets of volunteer support and technical assistance required throughout the special event.

Throughout the growth of this great game of Broomball, one thing rings true from the very first game right through to today’s version of the game. As reported in a Saskatchewan newspaper in March 5th, 1909 following a game between Purdue Hotel and Purdue Town that “Throughout the game the best of friendly spirit prevailed”. This holds true for the sport to this day. Even though games are more competitive and there are larger championships to play for including Western & Eastern Canadians, National and International events, the competitors continue to show this “spirit” on and off the ice.

This sport brings together the community as all have a genuine interest in the competition. Throughout the years this “gathering” of people has been a common thread within the culture of the game. From the festivals of 1903, to the church leagues of the 20’s and 30’s right to the competitive leagues of the 21st century, Broomball continues to draw people from all cultures to enjoy this game. First Nations involvement has been very strong across Canada for many years as well as in many French communities within the country.

Broomball is a very family oriented game as kids play with their parents, husbands with their wives. Broomball combines a social gathering with physical activity, team work, and sportsmanship. The Mixed Category brings with it a very unique opportunity for families to come together and enjoy an activity that all members can participate in and continue to excel in single sex categories.

The Canadian Broomball Federation is very proud to be a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Sport Canada, and the International Federation of Broomball Associations. The membership is confident should the opportunity of showcasing the sport during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver be made available, VANOC will not be disappointed.

Broomball, a sport where…
“The Best of Friendly and Competitive Spirits Prevail!”

Research provided by the Saskatchewan Broomball Association, Quebec Broomball Federation and Retired (but still active player) Harry Squibb from Ontario.