Broomball? ‘A silly game, when you think about it’
On the third week of December, the Carbondale Rodeo Grounds, flooded with water and frozen, transforms into the Gus Darien Ice Arena. Residents can play hockey or skate around the rink in slow circles while the Colorado sun shines. But on Wednesday and Friday nights, broomball reigns supreme.
The cold air smells festive – like beer, sweat and smoke. Shouts and laughter float across the parking dark lot. People, bundled in gloves and hats, huddle around a fire pit. Overhead lights shine down on the ice, turning it into a bright white pool. Where bulls and horses once wheeled, broomball players run across the ice in their tennis shoes, slipping and using long sticks to whack what looks like a small toy soccer ball across the ice.
The annual broomball tournament is an adults-only activity put on by the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center. This year there are six teams, each with at least six people. The game is played like hockey, but on tennis shoes instead of skates. The games have no referees – players call the shots. Games consist of two 18-minute halves.
Helmets are required, and players are urged to use an assortment of other protective gear, including elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads. Players are decked out in shin guards and ski helmets, wearing their grippiest trail-running shoes or snow boots (spikes aren’t allowed). The CRCC recommends that players have insurance.
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On the far side of the ice, a player goes down. Somebody crows with laughter while he kicks his legs in the air like a turtle on its back.
Carbondale’s Evan Cree, a member of the formidable “Team Orange,” which took the championship title last year, is getting ready for his game to start. He pulls black knee pads up under his khaki pants.
“I’m not getting hurt again,” he says, shaking his head. “I want to mountain bike this summer.”
Cree, like many other broomball players, has dealt with injuries that have sidelined him from pursuing other recreational activities that he enjoys. It seems that, broomball players are far too competitive to let their weaknesses keep them from getting out on the ice.
“I screwed up my elbow,” says goalie Craig Fowler. “Last week it was my hip. Sometimes it’s just the ego.”
Despite the nagging bruises and occasional ball to the face, there haven’t actually been any serious injuries in the past two years.
“It’s a silly game, when you think about it,” says Bill Kirkland, the league’s organizer. “You’re running around on ice. By all means, hockey is safer than broomball, because you’ve got skates to keep you upright.” But the best thing, in his opinion, is the community aspect. “It brings everyone together, and everyone’s relaxing and having fun.”
Carbondale local Maria Wimmer has been playing for two years.
“You get to hang out and have a good time,” she says, “and it gets you out on those single-digit nights when you’d be at home otherwise.”
Games start on Wednesday and Friday nights at 7, 8 and 9. The community is welcome to gather around the fire to watch and cheer. Just watch out for errant balls.
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