What Is Floorball? This. Is. Floorball
December 21, 2018
Nowadays, there’s a plethora of sporting action for punters all over the world to sink their teeth into. There are so many opportunities out there, plenty of which will be completely unknown to the average fan. Even followers of popular sports like hockey might not be aware of the distant relatives their games have. One of these is the great institution of Floorball, an indoor sport that mixes the fundamentals of hockey with the lightning pace of sports like football and basketball.
Floorball is immensely popular among young people in North America and European countries like Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. One of the reasons for this is the sport’s fundamental belief in inclusivity. It’s flexible and easy to learn, which obviously fits the classroom model, but more importantly, there are teams for both genders, all ages and even for those with disabilities. It might not be the most recognisable of sports, but it’s one that is gaining popularity and could very well hit the mainstream soon.
What is floorball?
Floorball is a form of indoor hockey, but there are a number of key differences between the two.
The first is the equipment used where Floorball utilises the latest contemporary sporting technologies. For example, the sticks are much more lightweight and durable than their rougher counterparts, making them safer and more accessible to younger audiences. They are intentionally designed to make learning the game as easy as possible and are even specialised so they don’t scuff or mark gym floors. The ball is light and moves around quick, meaning matches are fast-paced and filled with thrilling moments. Matches are played in three periods of 20 minutes and the emphasis is put on finesse and speed rather than brute strength.
Outside of an official capacity, floorball is all about inclusivity. As such, there is a certain amount of flexibility to the laws that mean it can be adapted to suit specific situations and group sizes. Games can be played between three to five players plus a goalkeeper on each side. The goalie can be swapped out for an additional outfield player as well, though in official matches each team needs five players and a goalkeeper on the court. Teams are allowed substitute players at any time.
While it isn’t yet part of the Olympics, there has been an increasingly supported campaign to get it included. While part of its PE prominence can be attributed to ease off the access afforded when playing, one of the main reasons it’s found such global popularity is that, fundamentally, it’s a fun sport to watch and play.
What are the rules?
Floorball uses ‘Face-offs’ at the beginning of each playing period to start the match. They are also used to re-start after a goal or if a new ball is needed. When this happens, players must keep their stick-blade on the ground, perpendicular to the centreline, with feet parallel to centreline ball and the middle of each player’s sticks. Punitive measures take the form of possession changes or two-minute penalties. Possession changes are similar to free kicks in football, with offending players having to stand three meters away from the kick. The player with the ball must either shoot or pass it to a teammate in front. Penalties are effectively sin-binning, with offenders being allowed back into the game after the duration of the offence.
The game isn’t a contact sport and as such, apart from accidental or incidental contact, infractions will merit a two-minute penalty. The same punishment will be given to players who hold sticks, shirts or others on the court. No player is allowed to catch or put hands on the ball apart from the goalie and any violation will result in a two-minute penalty. One foot must be kept on the ground at all times and you cannot jump otherwise a free hit will be awarded to the opposition.
Only the goalkeeper may block shots or make plays while down on one or both of their knees, anyone else will incur a two-minute penalty if they do so. Additionally, players must receive the ball to stick below knee level or suffer a possession change. In the event that contact is made with the ball above the knee, a two-minute penalty will be given. Similarly, when shooting the stick must remain under waist height or incur the same penalty.
Where is it played?
There’s actually a lot of debate as to where Floorball originated from, but its influences can be seen in both America and Europe and the global nature of the game is clear. In the US, it’s believed that Floorball started as a small game played in the gym halls of Michigan schools. It was incorporated into PE programs as an indoor variant of another lesser known sport, bandy. Soon after this, interstate tournaments were set up by the government and it was well on its way to becoming an official sport.
Despite this, the first official international match took place in Gothenburg, Sweden in the late 1970s. The first official floorball club, Sala IBK, was also founded here in 1979 and the first rulebook was drawn not long after in 1981. Half a decade after, the IFF (International Floorball Federation) was founded by a trio of countries, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, the first three to have dedicated floorball associations. By 1989, Sweden had enough teams to form the first league and the rest is history.
Now it’s a global sport with nearly 5000 teams and a growing following, particularly in North America. Each year, new teams are being formed, new faces are bringing their talent to the table and, perhaps most importantly, adding their voices to the ever-loudening calls for the sport to be included in the Olympics. In Sweden, it’s called ‘Innebandy’, Finland knows it as ‘Salibandy’ and other parts of that region call it ‘unihocky’. Across the Atlantic, it’s known as Cosum Ball, after the stick manufacturer. Whatever the name, the game is the same wherever it’s played.
What’s more, in keeping with the game’s core principles of inclusivity, floorball has now translated to the ParaGames and the Special Olympics. In the former, the sport was adapted into Manual Wheelchair Floorball and played between teams from Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. Sweden was crowned the winner, but the fact that floorball has been accepted, promoted and enjoyed by so many people from all walks of life around the world is surely a win for everyone.
Here’s some great goals from the recent World Floorball Championships…
Where can I bet on floorball?
As floorball is getting bigger and bigger, a number of bookmakers now offer Floorball betting odds for the Svenska Superligan, the Finnish Salibandyliiga, plus the World Championships and more.
Cyrus has been writing about sports and many other topics for major publications over the past five years. Now working in digital marketing, he spends his days arguing over football and dreaming of his beloved Manchester City winning the champions league.