Indian Trail plays host to growing sport
It’s described as hockey for those who can’t skate. The puck is replaced by a larger ball and teams run on the ice. Otherwise, Indian Trail’s Broomball league should look familiar to any fan used to finding their way around a hockey rink. Since the doors opened five years ago at the Extreme Ice Center, 4705 Indian Trail-Fairview Road, the facility’s Broomball league has been growing. Now it plays host to national tournaments, bringing in teams from Cincinnati, Washington D.C and Delaware. All for the love of a game locals and transplants describe as pure fun.
“When people hear about the sport, most aren’t even interested, because it sounds so strange,” Carolina Broomball League director Mondo Normile said. “But it’s a tremendous workout, it’s great exercise and it’s a lot of fun.”
The League is based out of Extreme Ice and last month hosted its first tournament, open to teams from across the country. In their division, the Indian Trail team took home the title, winning 6 to 0 in blowout fashion about a team from Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“We’ve had people here from Canada and New York,” Extreme Ice Public Relations Director Brandy Mills said. “It’s a pretty big pull. Sometimes we just don’t realize how big it is for people.”
The official season for Broomball starts the Sunday after Labor Day. There’s a 13 week schedule, which is done round robin style with the six teams that play. After the regular season, there are three playoff rounds. The center also hosts a spring league and pickup games during the summer, where for $10, anyone can lace up their shoes and learn how to play.
In any game of Broomball there are two teams, with six players each on the ice at one time. Just like hockey, goals are scored by hitting an object into the opponent’s net, with a small ball replacing the puck. The “brooms” are sticks with wooden or aluminum shafts, complete with a rubber molded head, similar in shape to that of a regular broom.
Players race across the ice by using special rubber soled shoes. Also the ice is different from the type you’d find on a hockey rink. It’s been treated so that it’s dry. That helps a player’s traction as he runs across.
While it may not have the name recognition of hockey, it’s a sport with a history just as long. Records date the first North American Broomball game as taking place in 1909 in Toronto. By the 1960s, a Broomball community had developed in the northern states, like Minnesota and New York. Now it’s a sport played across the world, with leagues in Australia, Japan, Italy and of course Canada. The Canadian town of Glenella is known as the Broomball Capital of the World.
I started playing when I was in college,” the 42-year-old Normile said. “I can’t skate, I’m a terrible skater, but I love hockey. With this sport, it’s so much like hockey, but you can run on the ice.”
Another difference with Broomball is that it’s a co-ed sport, with couples signing up to play at times. It’s also against the rules to check another player.
“The idea is we want everybody to come off the ice in the same condition (as when) they got on the ice,” Normile said.
After graduating, he got out of the sport, playing like once a year. Then he and his family moved to Charlotte and found a Broomball league at Eastland Mall.
“It was just tough over there, their equipment was so old, it was hard to keep things going,” Normile said. “But when we moved here to Extreme Ice, it opened doors, helped expand the league.”
Normile hopes the league will grow and said he appreciates the support from the Extreme Ice Center.
“Even out here in the Charlotte area, ice time’s at a premium,” Normile said. “They’ve encouraged us, they supported us when we had the idea to do this tournament. Broomball is growing.”
He points to the fact for last month’s tournament, seven teams from out of the region came in, some from other states.
There are three more chances for people to try out their skills this summer or learn how to play for the first time. Each Tuesday in August, Extreme Ice Center will host pickup games from 8 to 9:20 p.m. The cost is $10 per session and the last pickup game is set for Aug. 30.