Teams qualify for the Minnesota State Championship tournament based on their participation and finishing position in league play, and this year, 36 men’s teams, divisions A, B, C, and D, and 10 women’s teams, divisions A and B, participated.
Spectators were treated to three days of sprawling, sliding bodies and ferocious, high-speed shots that reflect how seriously Minnesota takes the sport. The tournament was a preview to this year’s national tournaments, which will be in Oxford Ohio on March 22-24 for men’s teams, and at the Augsburg Ice Arena in Minneapolis on April 13-14 for women.
“USA Broomball was formed in 1999 and has held 11 out of its 15 National Championships in Minnesota, the hotbed of broomball,” said USA Broomball President Kevin Denesen.
While fiercely competitive, the players are a close-knit group by virtue of playing on various teams and in different leagues throughout the regular season.
“I’ve played broomball for 12 years and played eight years of tournaments, averaging two to three per year,” said T.J. Haliburton, 34, of Champlin, who is a defenseman and manager of a team called “Mel’s Boys,” which lost its third game of the tournament in double overtime. “This is a fun sport and I really enjoy the social aspect.”
“The competition is my favorite,” said Renda Baird, 44, of Edina, adding that she was “over the moon relieved [and] proud” that her team, called “Black Ice” won the championship in the Women’s Class A Division. “Lots of women are longing to play a competitive team sport. Broomball is a great one.”
The Minnesota Sports Federation has been providing post-season broomball tournaments since 1982, according to the Minnesota Sports Federation. The game quickly evolved from a backyard sport a few decades earlier, when teams played with real brooms and deflated volleyballs. Today, players use expensive sticks made of titanium or other material and special shoes for traction.
USA Broomball National Tournament Director Dave St. Aubin said the tournament went smoothly, despite it being the first time that all of the men’s and women’s divisions participated in the same building on the same weekend.
The Schwan Super Rink hosted 69 teams for nationals in 2010, an indoor world record, St. Aubin said. The first nationals tournament in 1999 had 19 teams. St. Aubin said he expects the national tournament to be back in Blaine next year, and he expects a big turnout of teams.
But this year’s state champs were celebrating this year’s success rather than looking to next year. “It’s a wonderful feeling to win the championship game for a state title,” said Terry Luukkonen of Duluth, defenseman and manager for “Superior Machine,” which won the state title in the B Division. “The game was a close contest and you go from an anxious, nervous feeling to elation once the buzzer sounds.”