Team Canada's broomball squad played in the first-ever Super Series against the United States last week, and three local members took part.
St. Claude products Zack Szoradi, James Spencer, Nathan Mazurat, and Reg Robidoux, as well as McCreary's own Joey Poncsak, all went to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first ever best-of-five series between the two countries. Robidoux, Poncsak, and Mazurat were a part of the men's team, while Spencer and Szoradi joined the mixed roster.
"It was really good. I've played at the national event before, and it's a very good pace, but when we went down to play against the U.S. team, it was almost a whole different level," Szoradi explains. "It was short and sweet, we had three games and we were only down there for a weekend. It was very nice to experience that type of broomball down there."
Szoradi says the American teams had been practicing together already for months whereas, the Canadian rosters were picked more recently. The St. Claude native also says this was kind of the start to the season for most of Team Canada's players as the national tournament took place in April with the new season still a month away.
Despite the setbacks, all the teams competed well, with the women's team losing their series 3-0, the mixed squad also losing 3-0 but taking the final match to overtime, and the men's team kept it close, falling in the final contest.
Szoradi says he's hoping to attend the event again next year but notes there will probably be some changes to the format.
"Being that it was the first year this year, there are quite a few things that they're going to do differently. With small-town broomball, a lot of farmers play. Being that they had it smack dab in the middle of farming harvest, it limited a lot of the top players due to small-town farming," Szoradi continues. "The plan is to host it in November/December next year. For us in Canada, that'll give us a chance to get more into shape and into that broomball mindset. For most of us, this year, it was the first time we stepped on this ice since April."
Broomball is somewhat of a niche sport but has been growing quite extensively in small towns in Canada, according to Szoradi. It has a lot of similarities to hockey but uses bigger nets and swaps out the puck for a ball close to the size of a dodgeball. Instead of skates, they use shoes with foam on the bottom for grip on the ice.
While the sport is full contact (except for the mixed league), they play with less equipment. Szoradi describes some of the rules.
"Offside is the red line instead of the blue lines. Other than that, it's pretty similar to hockey. Icing is still in there so are high sticks and penalties. We fight, which there aren't many of but I've seen a few. That gets you five minutes or gets you ejected depending on the situation."
He outlines how he got started in the sport of broomball.
"I played hockey from kindergarten to Grade 6, so I was used to playing ice sports already. When I got to Grade 5 or Grade 6, it became a more intense league, and I just didn't like the constant travel part of hockey," Szoradi explains. "In Grade 8, my two younger buddies were joining broomball, and they told me about it. We went out there, threw on the gear and started playing. I realized how similar it was to hockey but at a slower pace and had more of a fun aspect to the game compared to the league of hockey that I would have been in. I turned out to be half decent at it from the get-go, so I really liked it that way."
Szoradi notes while he is playing at a high level, he plays in St. Claude on a weekly basis in a drop-in league. He says there's a league for the junior players as well as men, women, and mixed.
For competitive players, they play in a few tournaments ahead of the national event, which Szoradi says will take place in Montreal in 2023.
The St. Claude product is looking forward to the season ahead and is thrilled to have been able to represent his country.
"To be able to say that I made Team Canada and played against the United States, it's a great feeling. Even though we did lose, that experience was worth it."