Whatever you do, don’t call it floor hockey.
Floorball is steadily growing in the Wheat City and organizers are quick to draw a distinction between the sport and that other gym class staple.
The Floorball Brandon season started this week, with the league having grown to about 120 players from 100 last year and 80 in its inaugural campaign two summers ago.
"It’s kind of a like floor hockey but with more soccer rules, I guess you could say," organizer Dan Landry said.
"There’s no lifting of sticks, no slashing. There’s not anything like you’d find in hockey today where they’re taking away from skill. Floorball’s all about skill."
Like in hockey, a team has six players in action at once — three forwards, two defencemen and a goalie — but the goaltending position is one of the most noticeable differences. Floorball goalies play on their knees and don’t carry sticks, playing the ball with their hands instead. While they wear protective equipment, bulky net-blocking equipment like that used by hockey netminders is not allowed, promoting more scoring in the game.
Originating in Europe, floorball has been used by National Hockey League stars like Teemu Selanne and the Sedins to hone their skills. Hockey Canada has begun using floorball as off-ice training for national teams and the sport gained International Olympic Committee recognition in 2011, with proponents hoping it will join the Olympics by 2020.
Brandon’s introduction to floorball came almost accidentally. Landry, a partner in Source for Sports, had seen the equipment at a hockey show in Ottawa and brought some in at the urging of a store in Saskatoon, so that hockey players could use it to work on their stickhandling. It was popular enough that players and parents began asking if there was a local league, which led to the formation of Floorball Brandon. The league runs during July and August, with players broken into three age groups for one game a week.
Landry said top-notch local hockey players like Tanner Kaspick, Ty Lewis and Jordy Stallard, who all starred for the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings last season, have played in the league in the past. Connor Gutenberg, who was drafted by the Western Hockey League’s Wheat Kings this spring, is new to the sport and, although it took a bit of time to get used to the rules, he believes it will help him on the ice.
"I think it’ll help a lot with stickhandling, stuff like that," Gutenberg said. "And it’s got a good cardio (component) too. You’re running around a lot just going back and forth through the gym."
Landry said the sport is catching on outside of the hockey community as well, partly due to lower cost and no need for skating.
"What we’re finding is we have those kids who played soccer but aren’t quite the great skaters, come on board but do very well because you obviously don’t have to be a great skater to play floorball," he said. "You just have to have decent hands, the ability to be a good runner, a good worker and you’ll be just fine."