Core Sports

Floorball

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Team Canada’s Felix Robbilard controls the ball versus the U.S. (Photo by Ryann Kahler)

2017 World Games new addition is also one of the world’s fastest growing sports.

BY: RYANN KAHLER

Floorball is all about quick transitions, finesse, speed, agility and endurance, but it can also be modified depending on your age, your skill level or your competitive preference; guaranteeing all levels of play, no matter who you are.

For some the word floorball is foreign, while for others it has become a part of their everyday lives. The quick explanation is looking at floorball as a hybrid version of ice-hockey with a similar set up to floor hockey, but don’t let that fool you because floorball is an entirely different sport.

Vince Faso, the assistant coach for team U.S.A. in men’s floorball explains that some people are confused by the word floorball.

“For some people the word floorball doesn’t strike a lot of cords at first and if you say floorball hockey, we want to sort of distance ourselves from, because they are entirely different sports with some similarities,” Faso says.

Floorball and floor hockey are very similar with the way athletes are positioned on the court. There are three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie.

Forwards and defensemen play using sticks, much like floor hockey.

The difference lies in how that equipment is built. In ice hockey for example, sticks are either wood or carbon fibre, which makes them solid in frame. In floor hockey, sticks are normally a hard plastic with a blade that has some holes placed on the top portion.

Finally, what makes floorball sticks so unique is that they are light weight and have a blade that is aerodynamic in design, by having various holes throughout the blade, much like a grid. This allows for more control by allowing the air to pass through the blade.

Tyler Brush, Team Canada and part owner of 519 Floorball. | Courtesy of 519 Floorball

A floorball ball is also aerodynamic with tiny holes surrounding its surface. This allows for air to pass through the ball, causing the ball to easily change directions during a shot. Floor hockey, on the other hand, is most commonly played using a hard-orange ball, that is solid throughout.

The goalie is another drastic difference. Floor hockey goalies have full equipment much like ice hockey, by being fully equipped with pads, chest protector, blocker, glove, helmet and a stick. Floorball goalies, on the flip side, have no stick, no glove, no blocker, but they instead use their bare hands or at most soccer gloves. Their goalies also wear a light vest and pants with minimal padding. They also wear kneepads underneath their pants, similar to volleyball kneepads.

Floorball is known to be a safe sport through the use of its light weight equipment. It is also safe due to the rules and regulations that protect athletes against hitting, slashing and overall brute force. Not only is it safe, but it is also fun.

Literally, anyone can play, a defender for team Canada in men’s floorball, Tyler Brush says.

Brush’s coach, Alexander Boden agrees.

“It is an easy game, the only thing you need are shoes and sticks, so everyone can do it and it’s not that expensive,” Boden says.

Floorball is played in a series of three periods, much like hockey. The periods last 20 minutes each or 15 minutes for juniors.   

Brush says floorball can also be compared to as soccer.

“I would compare floorball a little more to soccer from a strategic standpoint, because you have to hang on to the ball a little bit more, it’s more of a possession game,” Brush says. “Whereas, hockey is a dump and chase.”

Like soccer, players have to hold onto the ball and gain control, maneuvering their way through their opponents and creating space to make strong passes. Floorball requires the same skill in maintaining control of the ball and using your teammates to generate space for passes and plays. Floorball is about reading the field of play and knowing where and when to make certain moves.

Floorball is a very versatile sport and can be modified in a handful of ways at the non-professional level. The number of participants can be reduced or added depending on the age of the players and the court-space available. Floorball can be played both indoors and outdoors on any sized-space, making it a perfect sport for street-play, school activities and after-school programs. However, the most common use of space is a basketball court, according to Floorball Canada (FLC).

Taylor Reta-Shipp, Team Canada’s goalie. | Courtesy of 519 Floorball

Floorball is a great sport in order to build stronger eye-hand coordination and develop skills that are transferable to other team sports. For some ice-hockey players, floorball is at the top of the list during the off season.

“I’d suggest floorball over ball hockey, just because it works on your hands way more. The ball is lighter, so you have to have softer hands. It is a lot faster, I find. And overall, I started out playing [ice] hockey. The biggest impact that has helped my hockey [has] definitely been floorball. It makes you a smarter player, your hands become unbelievably better. But also, your reaction time is unbelievable,” Cameron Buck a forward for team Canada, men’s floorball says.

Most of the men’s Canadian floorball team is made up of players from the men’s elite Ottawa floorball team. Buck says they are fortunate enough to have a strong community that has been growing floorball substantially in comparison to other parts of Canada. There are also competitive leagues for men, women and under-19 that represent Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, Cambridge and Ottawa. There are also a range of floorball clubs and smaller leagues for all ages scattered throughout the country. Colleges such as George Brown and Durham have even started their own intramural floorball leagues.

Durham College started introducing floorball two-years ago. However, their floorball league is a cross-over of floorball and floor hockey. They play with floorball rules and floorball player equipment, but the goalies are dressed in full gear and equipped with a stick like a floor hockey goalie would be, Christie Attwood, Durham College and UOIT’s campus recreation coordinator says. Attwood adds that they call their league floorball hockey.

If there are no clubs that are available close by you or they require too much travel time, the best suggestion Brush has, is to simply start up your own league or club. He adds, that’s how he and others like him did it in Cambridge.

All you would need to do is buy a stick, the used ones are cheap or brand new are around 50 dollars, Brush says. The FLC website has advice for starting a new league and gives step by step guides to do so. Another possibility is to play for complete fun, by starting a league within your school or renting gym space to play pick up with friends. Floorball can even be played outside, on the road or on a pathed basketball court in the park.

It all began overseas.

According to FLC, floorball was invented in Gothenburg, Sweden in the early 1970s and was originally played for fun as a past time in school. Eventually the sport gained more popularity and developed its own rules and levels of play.

The most popular leagues can be found in Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Czech Republic and the sport is growing rapidly in countries and regions such as Finland, Australia, Jamaica, Singapore and now the U.S.A. and Canada.

In 1986, the International Floorball Federation (IFF) was created and the FLC became a member of the IFF in 2001, which makes floorball fairly new to Canada. However, it is seeing rapid growth. The first competitive league structure in Canada was created in 2012.

As of 2015, the IFF includes nearly 60 member associations from all continents, making floorball a global sport.

The sport has also been recognized in recent years at the Olympic level. Floorball was played at the South-East Asia Games in 2015. The sport also became an official sport at the Special Olympics World Games held in Austria 2017 and became an official sport at the World Games in 2017 in Poland. It will also become an official sport in 2021 at the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

This year, in men’s floorball, team Canada beat Team U.S.A. in both qualifier games, which were held at Ryerson University the second weekend in February. The first game held a 3-2 win and the second a 5-4 win. Team Canada will be traveling to the World Floorball Championships held in Czech Republic.

Floorball is one of the fastest growing sports world wide, according to Generation Floorball. It may be recognized as a fringe sport today, but that could soon change.

THE OFFICIAL RULES 
ONE Played with three to five player and one goalie or extra player if desired
TWO  No catching ball or hands to ball, except for the goalie ~ player infraction results in 2 min penalty 
THREE No jumping, one foot must remain on the ground when receiving the ball ~ infraction results in a free hit for the other team
FOUR Players cannot go down on two knees to make plays or block shots, only goalie can play from their knees ~ infraction results in 2 min penalty
FIVE Ball must be received on stick below knee level ~ infraction results in possession change
SIX No contact with ball on stick above the knee ~ infraction results in 2 min penalty
SEVEN Stick must remain below the waist ~ infraction results in 2 min penalty
EIGHT No stick lifting of other players or general interference ~ infraction results in 2 min penalty
NINE No poke checking sticks in-between another players legs ~ infraction results in possession change
 TEN No body contact, incidental shoulder contact is okay ~ infraction results in 2 min penalty
 ELEVEN No playing the ball with head ~ infraction results in 2 min penalty
 TWELVE Face-offs: Face offs will be used to start the game at the beginning of each period and to re-start after each goal or if the ball is damaged. For a face-off, stick blade must be on the ground and perpendicular to centerline, feet parallel to centerline ball and the middle of the two players’ sticks. Players cannot reverse their grip or hold the stick below the face-off line. Play starts with a whistle blow.
 THIRTEEN Possession changes: Occurs in the situations cited above. Ball is played as a direct free shot similar to a soccer free kick, where the offending players must be 3 meters away and the ball must be shot or played to another player upon the officials whistle blow with a solid hit – not a sweeping motion.
FOURTEEN  Substitutions may occur at anytime

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