In the world of Floorball the United States is a sleeping giant.
It is loaded with athletic and talented athletes looking for opportunities to play at competitive levels. When people see floorball they tend to gravitate to hockey or hockey players. While many aspects of the game carry over directly to hockey players and they’ll naturally gravitate to it many will still see it as a training tool to their true passion, hockey. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. In fact that’s great that they’ll use it as a training tool to help them get to where they want to in hockey. Right now floorball will rely heavily on ice hockey players to push the growth of the sport. However, floorball is not a sport only for hockey players.
The bigger market and reach for the sport will come from the non-traditional hockey player. At the youth level parents and kids have options to explore related to sports. Hopefully as they develop at a young age Floorball will be part of their athletic development. Eventually the sport will grow to become a standard throughout schools as basketball or volleyball currently is. Players who excel in sports such as basketball, soccer, and football and have natural athletic abilities will find in time a natural fit in Floorball. The difference right now is that hockey players have the advantage of already having stick handling skills.
The likely mistake the majority of hockey organizations will make in the beginning is using this as a tool for their players without thinking about how to engage the broader audience. I predict that over time participation numbers in Floorball will far outpace that of ice hockey. In looking at USA Hockey in 2015-16 they registered 542,583 players, and 555,175 for 2016-17 (USA Hockey Statistics). According to the National Federation of State High School Associations in 2014-15 (survey results) the number of high school athletes across the country sat around 7.8million. While some of that included ice hockey the percentages of ice hockey participation is quite small, specific to high school sports.
Floorball is a great tool for ice hockey players helping to develop and improve a variety of skills it is more likely that we’ll see non-ice hockey players outpace their ice hockey counterparts over time. This will become especially true if youth development is emphasized not for the growth of hockey players but floorball players. Eventually players who compete in both sports will have to choose between following a path in ice hockey or floorball. However, ice hockey programs can utilize Floorball as means to attract and retain players within their system. With a lack of ice hockey throughout the country and with more available space to play Floorball, and a overall lower cost to play it is more likely we’ll see Floorball outpace ice hockey in the future. I’m hopeful that more in the world of hockey will see the value of Floorball across many platforms and use it as a tool to further their programs and player development.