a recreational sport played at Jefferson City's Washington Park
Ice Arena, is similar to hockey except that participants don't wear
It’s 8 o’clock
on a Sunday night at Jefferson City’s Washington Park Ice Arena
and a group of parents collects their sons and daughters at the conclusion
of figure skating practice. As the children leave the ice and regain
their street legs, another group of adults, some as old as the waiting
parents, makes its way toward the gleaming surface.
One by one, these
“athletes” step onto the ice, their feet shod not with blades
but high-top shoes with sticky foam bottoms. In stark contrast to the
graceful ease the skaters displayed on the ice, they shuffle as they
try to find their balance, careful to avoid a misstep and crash to the
scampering across the ice, whacking at a small ball with brooms. The
commotion on the ice may seem comical to the casual observer but these
broomball players are not laughing.
very serious,” Carol Brunnert of Jefferson City says with a sly
grin. “It’s physical and it’s fast and it’s
cold and you’re wearing tennis shoes and hitting a ball with a
broom that’s wrapped in duct tape and you fall once in a while.”
Brunnert is one
of about 100 mid-Missouri residents who play co-ed broomball late on
Sunday nights, the only time the ice arena is available. The sport,
which originated in Canada, is similar to hockey in that one team tries
to get an object past the other team’s goalie to score. The similarities
pretty much end there.
often wear special broomball shoes for increased traction. A Nerf-like
ball is struck with a broom that has been wrapped in duct tape.
shoes, the players use a spongy ball instead of a puck. As the name
implies, the ball is struck with a broom.
completely ridiculous,” says Missy Morarity, a former broomball
player who supervises ice arena activities for the Jefferson
City Parks and Recreation Department. “People are slipping
and sliding and falling on their butt when there’s nobody else
Silly or not, the
game has been popular in the capital city since it was first introduced
to the area in the mid-1980s. “It’s been an ongoing thing
here for many years. We have a loyal following,” says Morarity,
who manages one of the few ice rinks in Missouri outside St. Louis and
While there are
associations, with tournaments and champions, the game is played
informally in mid-Missouri. Two games are held on the ice simultaneously
with play running cross-court and only limited physical contact allowed.
And while special $80 broomball shoes are common, no Jefferson City
players use the high-tech broomball sticks that are seen elsewhere.
a pretty cheap sport, really,” Morarity says. “Everybody
can go out and buy a broom — they’re what, five or six dollars?
— and a roll of duct tape and you’re pretty much set.
just something fun and cheap and easy to get started with if you can
get enough people who are crazy enough to go along with you.”
co-ed teams compete in two leagues in Jefferson City's broomball
Mark Boyer, marketing
manager for Three Rivers Electric Cooperative in Linn, is one of the
original broomball fanatics in Jefferson City. Boyer moved to mid-Missouri
from Granite City, Ill., where he played a much more aggressive, if
not more competitive, brand of broomball.
a different game there because you play full court and it’s full
contact. There’s not a lot of restricted rules there like this
league,” Boyer says, adding that his old Illinois league disbanded
due to safety concerns. “They allowed full body checking. The
ball was hard plastic instead of a Nerf ball. It was a lot different
“You got to
take what you can get,” he says, apparently happy for the opportunity
to play at whatever level.
At 46, Boyer is
one of the oldest players in Jefferson City broomball but shows no sign
of giving up the game. In fact, when considering a job opening at another
co-op a few years ago Boyer investigated how far he would have to travel
to play broomball. “That was something I looked into,” he
says. “I care about it that much.”
spectators attend broomball games. Typically the only people who
watch the games are those waiting to compete a later match. Jefferson
Park Ice Arena is one of the few skating rinks in Missouri
outside of St. Louis or Kansas City.
a 10-year veteran of the sport, says one of the attractions of broomball
is that natural ability seems to fade once you step on the ice.
“The ice is
a great equalizer,” she says. “Even the people out here
who aren’t very athletic, after they’ve played a couple
of times, all of a sudden they’re hustling and they’re moving
Boyer, too, says
the key to broomball is learning to move on the ice.
a lot of people make the first time they come out to play is they think
you run. You don’t run,” he says. “You more or less
take little baby steps. You have more control that way.
“If you get
up a head of steam and they shoot the ball away you just go sliding
right on by.”
While learning to
move on the ice offers challenges that other sports don’t, for
many participants broomball is nothing more than a chance to participate
in recreational activities year round.
a seasonal guy,” says Greg Glover, a Callaway Electric Cooperative
member from Tebbetts. “I play softball, basketball, volleyball,
a little bit of golf — just about everything.
winter you get lazy so this is something to get out and do every week,”
he says. “What else do you do during the winter?”
player reaches out to steady himself as he slides on the ice surface.
first took up broomball because his friends “twisted his arm,”
now he’s hooked.
out as a silly game but the way our league is played it’s pretty
competitive. It’s a pretty hard-core played game,” he says.
is not lost on Morarity, who often must remind participants of the recreational
nature of Jefferson City broomball.
“I have to
kid some of the players. They get a little too serious about it,”
she says. “I say, ‘Step back and take a look at this. You
run around on the ice in tennis shoes whacking at a Nerf ball with a
duct-taped broom. What is it that you’re taking so seriously?’”
For more information contact the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation
Department, 427 Monroe St., Jefferson City, MO 65101; phone (573) 634-6482
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.