If you’re old enough to remember the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, you will probably remember Peter Forsberg and his daring move against Canada’s goaltender Corey Hirsch. The 20 year old Forsberg scored one of the most technical and memorable goals in modern hockey history. Forsberg is not unique in his ability to handle the puck. In fact, most Swedish and other northern European hockey players are above average at handling the stick and puck. Why is it that a country with less than 10 million inhabitants has been able to produce so many great NHL stars? There are obviously many answers to this question. One obvious reason is the fact that Sweden is a country that encourages its citizens to play more than one sport while growing up. One argument is that this will be less beneficial to a person since he or she will never become superior at one sport. That’s just plain and simple wrong. Playing more than one sport at the same time is guaranteed and proven to be quite beneficial to a person since he or she will boost his or her overall athleticism. The concept will also ensure that there is not too much pressure on a player to excel in a specific sport at a young age. But don’t worry, players will definitely excel over time.
How does floorball fit into all of this? USA Hockey considers floorball to be an invasion sport, an activity that will help players become better at ice hockey. The strategy, format and technique of floorball is almost identical to ice hockey and will help hockey players boost their overall performance on the ice. Playing floorball is considered to be an excellent off-ice training alternative for hockey players and this can be conducted both individually and as a team. The players will improve their stickhandling, puck control, small area games, understanding of the game and many other crucial hockey aspects. This can be done inside, outside, in the driveway, backyard, basement and most other settings.
Where does Sweden fit into all of this? Floorball has been around in Sweden since the 1970’s and virtually every child born in Sweden will have played floorball on a regular basis while growing up. The activity is extremely popular within schools and many children play with their friends on the street, i.e. “street hockey” but with floorball sticks. Many Ice Hockey teams have also introduced floorball as either a warm-up activity or summer training. In fact, Colorado Avalanche’s All-Star Peter Forsberg used to play floorball on a regular basis with his Modo Hockey. Forsberg has specifically contributed floorball to be one of the reasons to his quick hands.
By introducing a similar type of activity to hockey but with more lightweight equipment, Swedish hockey players have successfully been able to enhance their control over the stick and puck.
Not only is floorball a beneficial activity for current hockey players; floorball can also help attract new players to the hockey community. The fact is that not everyone who may have an interest in ice hockey has the opportunity to play. As we all know, ice hockey can sometimes cost a great deal of money. If you play on a travel team, the costs for just one season could run as a high as $20 000. And that is if you actually have access to an ice rink in your general area. Many people in this country simply do not have any ice times available for them. With floorball, hockey teams and organizations can reach a brand new group of players that may never have become interested in hockey otherwise. Floorball is undoubtedly the safest and most beneficial type of hockey that can be played in an off-ice setting. As already mentioned, the rules, format and strategy are very similar to ice hockey and the activity can be played virtually anywhere.
How does floorball affect the U.S Hockey community? The relationship between floorball and ice hockey should be seen as nothing but positive. Floorball will, without a doubt, help supplement the hockey community by attracting new players and also enhancing the skills of current hockey players. Many minor-league and youth hockey teams/organizations have started to use floorball as off-ice training (In conjunction with "Learn to Skate," summer training etc.) Several NHL teams such as the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils have already understood the relationship between hockey outreach and floorball, and have jumped on the bandwagon. Other teams and organizations would be foolish not to.