Stick sports are fun, simple truth. They provide a different experience to the user than many other sports. In the case of hockey, add ice and all sorts of crazy ensues. I’m fascinated by what hockey players can do, and the NHL has done a great job highlighting that fact through commercials. For anyone starting out the toughest aspect to the game is learning to skate. Depending on where you live you may be lucky enough to have access to a rink and learn from a very young age. Unfortunately that’s not the norm for many across the country, or the world. While the NHL has grown in popularity it still hits a small market as compared to the other major worldwide sports such as soccer and basketball. There are a number of people and articles out there talking about how to get more people to play hockey. The NHL has funneled money directly to communities to help open more access to the sport through demo events. Local clubs and boosters raise funds to buy equipment that can be rented instead of purchased. All of these things are great, but I think they’re still missing a broader connection.
In steps Floorball. Floorball is close enough to hockey that it can be used to build a bridge between the two sports. Hockey teams can use Floorball to enhance and build players by improving stick handling skills, and give them an environment to improve their technical abilities and awareness. On the promotion side, Floorball can provides a style of play that closely mimics play on the ice. When you have a minor league or professional hockey team located in an areas that’s not hockey minded Floorball can be a bridge to connect with the community. While many kids may never play hockey for any number of reasons there is the possibility that they would participate in a Floorball league hosted by the local hockey club. This allows two things to happen. First, it opens your organization to more people. Second, whether they play hockey or not you have the potential to double or triple the amount of kids impacted by a hockey type sport. That’s community.
I don’t understand why USA Hockey or other hockey clubs haven’t jumped in to add Floorball as part of their overall development of players. It’s not that the two sports can’t carry over from one to the other. Is it a lack of interest? Lack of knowledge or training? It could be more rooted the challenge to change how things are done. I like a lot of the changes I’ve seen recently, specifically related to youth development and playing small rink games. However, even that change, which I see as a clear benefit to those younger players still runs into opposition. I’ve asked questions and inquired, but I can’t seem to get much in response. I simply don’t get it. With all the gizmos and training ads and all the other things out there selling you on something that will improve your game why not Floorball? I’m not even talking about the amount of money clubs and parents would save by spending some time training in a gym during the season versus the ice.
While hockey isn’t the end all answer to growth of Floorball, I’m hopeful that as Floorball continues to grow it will be seen and appreciated as a way to enhance a hockey player’s skill. If anything, that it’s used to engage more people in the community that would otherwise not engage in these two wonderful sports. At the very least the conversation will continue as Floorball begins to develop.