Running on Ice, in Summer: Broomballers At Veterans Memorial Rink (Video)
This unique sport with a grassroots following has found a summer home in Somerville.
It's 9 p.m. on a summer Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Skating Rink in Somerville. The sign in the lobby says, “Persons without skates will be asked to leave,” and yet twelve people in shoes walk right past it and onto the ice. Stranger yet, the rink's management doesn't seem to mind, and staff can be seen chatting amiably with these lawbreakers. What is going on here?
Broomball is a sport that began in Canada in the early 20th century and, since then, has made it's way through the United States via the Midwest, where it enjoys a larger following than it does here. The name comes from what it was first played with, which were brooms soaked in water and left outside to freeze. It's hockey without skates or soccer with sticks, depending on whom you ask. Not surprising for a sport that involves a fair amount of athleticism, can be played with homemade equipment and results in some pretty wild falls, many of its players were introduced to the sport in their college years.
Amy Barnett, head of this pickup league, is one of those players. She first played the sport in her sophomore year at BU and spent about four years after graduating searching for a Boston-area league to play in. It wasn't until she began calling around for resources to start her own league that she found one in the North End, but parking difficulties there, among other challenges and a simple desire to play more, convinced her to form her own league.
With help from FMC Ice Sports, which donated equipment and deeply discounted their ice-time fees at the league's original home in Cambridge, and Broomball.com, which provided supplies and continues to provide discounts, she was able to get the required broomball sticks and broomballs together. The league's current home, Veterans Memorial Rink, has also discounted ice-time fees for the league.
Now that the league is up and running, it attracts a wide variety of folks, from hockey fanatics to those who have never set foot on the ice. Some are parents, others are high school students looking to unwind after hockey practice. Broomball isn't an aggressive sport, but it rough-and-tumble, as your ability to stay upright on ice while running in your sneakers and controlling a ball with a wooden stick is challenging. On a recent Tuesday night, there were more than a few falls, but this is a sport that people love enough to get right back up and fall again.
Broomball games run from 9 p.m. to 9:50 p.m. every Tuesday through the month of August at Veterans Memorial Skating Rink, 570 Somerville Avenue, Somerville, (617) 623-3523. All interested adults and older teens are welcome, including first-timers. A helmet—any kind of helmet—is required, there's a $5 fee to play, and neither the rink nor the league assume any liability for injuries that might occur. Come a few minutes early to learn the rules and make teams so players can go on the ice promptly at 9 p.m. For more information, check out http://www.facebook.com/groups/MAbroomball/.