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Six hearty Minnesotans took to the ice on a cold Monday evening at City Park to play broomball. Elvea Potter, center, steals the ball from Brett Cease, left, while Noah Hunt watches. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Don't have skates? Try broomball

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An exciting game that involves sliding across the ice in boots rather than on skates, carrying brooms instead of hockey sticks, hitting a rubber ball in place of a puck and good camaraderie is available for the playing this winter.

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Broomball night, sponsored by the City of Bemidji's Parks and Recreation Department, is open free of charge to the public from 6:30-8 p.m. every Monday night, Jan. 3 through Feb. 21, at the City Park, 1224 23rd St.

Parks and Recreation Event Coordinator Samantha Parker said last week's opening night of broomball "went really well."

"I was thrilled to see them out," Parker said of the eight people who came to play broomball Monday evening in the cold weather. Parker said many of the participants were new to the sport.

"They were really excited to get out and play and be out on ice," she said.

This is the second year the city has offered broomball for the public through the Parks and Recreation Department. Parker said she thought of the activity after noticing several other cities offered broomball leagues and open rink times to the public.

The Parks and Recreation Department provides broomball participants with the broomballs, "brooms," or sticks, and goal nets. There is also a warming house available.

Last year's broomball nights took place indoors at the Nymore Arena and were scheduled at later time on Sunday nights.

"It didn't go as well as we had hoped it would," Parker said. "It gave us a lot of thoughts about reworking this season."

She said the broomball nights were eventually canceled last year because of a lack of participation. So, the time, date and place were changed this year, and Parker said she hopes more people can participate.

"We feel like the new time fits into everyone's schedules a little better," she said.

Broomball would typically only be canceled this year, Parker said, due to bad weather. All city-sponsored activity cancellations are posted on the city website, www.ci.bemidji.mn.us.

Parker had an opportunity to play broomball last year when the Parks and Recreation Department invited Broomball.com (from Duluth) to host a broomball game in Bemidji. She said 15 people from the community joined in the game.

"It's great. It's a lot of fun," she said. "It was nice to get out on the ice and not necessarily have skates on. You can still run around, be active and feel warm."

Broomball is a relatively easy game to play, depending on who is playing, of course. It is played on an ice rink. There are five people to a team and one goalie per team.

The broomball looks very similar to a small soccer ball and is made of a hard rubber. Players use their sticks or brooms to shoot and pass the broomball. The goal is for participants to shoot for the opponents net and score. The team with the most goals wins the game.

Falling and sliding on the ice can be hard on a broomball player's legs and knees, so wearing extra padding can be helpful.

According to USABroomball.com, broomball was first played in Canada in the early 1900s by streetcar workers using a small soccer ball and corn brooms. The sport was eventually brought down to the United States.

The first games were reportedly played in Minnesota, the birthplace of USA Broomball, beginning in the 1930s, the website states.

Broomball in the United States started out with 10 players on the ice per team. By 1967, the number of players was reduced to eight players per team. Some leagues still play eight-man broomball. By 1980, the rules changed to six players per team, as the game is played today.

Parker recommends anyone who wants to play wear warm clothing, including a warm hat, gloves and boots. Extra padding is optional and a bike or hockey helmet is recommended.

"Everyone is welcome to play," Parker said. "I saw a wide range of ages Monday night."

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