The party was born during a meeting among several neighbors: a winter celebration to shake the winter blues and to meet the newcomers to the street (which included yours truly).
Since my wife, Terry, a former physical education teacher turned principal, was involved in the planning, our get-together could not be your typical sedate, indoor wine-sipping how-do-you-do cocktail party. Nope, ours was to be an outdoor, fitness-style extravaganza-on-the-lake worthy of our northern ancestors.
It would involve snow-shoeing, hot chocolate, chili…and broomball! There was even talk of a post-sauna polar bear dip (after cutting a swimming hole through two feet of ice). The only taker on the latter suggestion was Terry, she of Norwegian stock and underdeveloped cold receptors—the idea was quickly nixed.
But the focal point of the evening would be the broomball game. For those of you from southern climes, broomball is a sport using a large ball and taped-up brooms. The rules are like hockey, except you smack the ball (and often your opponent) with your broom. And it’s a great team-builder because it’s difficult for a single player to stickhandle a 10” ball through an entire opposing team. Passing works better.
The day’s fitness activities began on the nearby lake, during a glorious, sunny afternoon. First duty was the ritual packing of the rink. Donning snowshoes, we walked in single file, tracing smaller and smaller circles around the 50’ x 30’ rectangle that was to become our field of battle. Two ball-hockey nets were located on either end. Lawn chairs and tables were fetched from garages and placed beside the rink. Candles were placed in sand-filled jars on footstools around the rink’s perimeter. We then left for a few hours (to take a nap) and to let the snow set to a surface upon which we could bang a ball or fall on our keester.
The game began at 7:00 PM and it was an evening to remember: clear sky, the temperature brisk but not too cold. Full moon rising over the trees. As I descended to the lake from a hilltop, I spotted the flickering candles and the assembled group of hooded players, and wondered if we were to begin the evening with a Druid ritual. Twenty players: the youngest 10-years old, but most of us middle-aged. Quick instructions from our on-site PE instructor (who supplied fancy factory-made broomball brooms), and the game began.
At first, a few of the female neighbors were reluctant to play—until one of them scored the first goal. Then it was no-holds-barred from every player. Running, yelling, falling in the snow, an occasional brilliant pass. No sticks allowed above the waist, but much tripping, holding and tackling—all allowed and expected.
A quick break for hot chocolate and we were at it again. It was like being a kid again, playing shinny on the neighborhood rink.
After an hour or so and a frenzied last-goal-wins series, we finished, dripping sweat, stripped to the bare essential clothing, steam pouring off us like human tea-kettles. A brief cooling-off period and we retired to an indoor potluck supper of chili and other good eats; and an animated discussion of who had cheated the most.
It was an evening of vivid images: the moon, bright and full; flickering candles around the moonlit rink, the steam rising off hatless heads into the darkness … and a group of crazy neighbors, many of them former strangers— all brought together by a game.
That’s what sport can do—make memories and bring people together. Of sport’s many special gifts, these are two of the most important.
Dick Moss, Editor,
[tags]physical education teacher,broomball,winter sports party,the power of sports,broomball party>