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Moscow Broomball – Competitive Camaraderie

Promoted as a sport for expats by expats, Moscow Broomball is similar to ice hockey in many ways, with the big difference being that players are not wearing ice-skates, they are wearing sponge-soled shoes, making maneuverability unpredictable and most entertaining – for both players and their loyal supporters on the side-lines. As the name suggests, the game takes place in the Russian capital city, and is restricted to the winter months when an improvised ice-rink is created by flooding a tennis court with water and letting nature take its course. The season lasts as long as the ice does, and ends off with a social event known as The Broomball Ball.

Moscow Broomball is only open to expats working at the various embassies in Moscow and their families, as well as to foreign nationals temporarily in the city. The reason given for this is that embassy staff members rarely stay in their posts for longer than three years, and the continuous departure and arrival of new players calls for a blend of camaraderie and competitiveness that may be lost with long-term membership. Sticking to expat membership keeps the game light-hearted and allows new players to immediately fit in.

It is compulsory for players to wear protective gear such as elbow pads, leg guards and face-cage helmets. Goal posts are generally made from wood and wire mesh and the game is played with a soft plastic ball and straw brushes (such as those used by Moscow's street sweepers – hence the name of the game) that have been bent into a hockey stick shape with layers of silver duct tape. These custom-made Broomball sticks are shorter than a hockey stick and held in one hand with a loop around the wrist to avoid losing it during play. The sponge-soled shoes are specially imported from Canada where a similar version of this game is played.

The basic aim of the game is to score by getting the ball into the opponents' goal – and team members have some inventive ways of achieving this objective, as well as some unusual defense strategies. With due consideration for safety, Broomball is a contact sport – with opponents and with the ice. Goalkeepers remain on their knees at all times, do not have sticks and can catch the ball with their hands, other than that, rules are negotiable.

Played each winter since 1966, Moscow Broomball has become a much-enjoyed tradition, with the current Moscow Broomball League having been in existence since 1980. If you are in Moscow during the winter months, you may want to join the spectators at a Moscow Broomball game – by all accounts it will be entertaining.

 



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