‘What good inventions have ever come out of Canada?’, my friend asks when I tell him I’m going to Dubai Ice Rink to try broomball, the latest icy activity arriving in Dubai from North America. I ponder. ‘Moose?’ I say, hopefully. ‘They don’t count,’ he replies, ‘they were there first.’ Cogs turn furiously but, alas, to no avail. A cartoon light bulb appears above my head when I suddenly remember reading something about Michael Bublé being Canadian, but I decide to keep this quiet – in no way will that piece of information help my case.
On paper, broomball doesn’t sound too enthralling. I find myself questioning the purpose of an icy game lacking in the sensible evolutional changes that brought regular hockey to the rink. You wear trainers, not skates. You use a ball, not a puck. And all the protective gear, designed to cushion painful falls onto the ice, stays safely in the locker room. Nevertheless, three games and seven goals later, I’m hooked.
Upon arrival I’m greeted by a pair of studded rubber grips to slip over my trainers, giving me better traction on the ice, and a ‘broom’ (read: stick with a rubber head). A quick question about how the game works before hitting the ice prompts the following response: ‘There’s the ball, there’s the goal, hit it in.’ Curt? Not at all: one of the great things about broomball is that it really is that simple – anyone can play (skating prowess counts for nothing) and beginners are most welcome; it’s up to you how seriously you want to take it.
Thirty seconds tottering precariously around on the ice like a little girl in her mum’s high heels is all it takes to adapt to my new slippery situation, and the grips under my shoes mean that I’m soon sprinting across the rink with little difficulty. Stopping said sprinting is the harder part, and I began to understand the interesting challenge of playing a ball game on ice. Needless to say, I’m the first to lose my footing, although I’m speedily back on my feet and back in the game.
My (not half bad) efforts at dribbling and shooting have roots in many Wednesday afternoons spent on the school hockey field, but my teammates, who are as new to hockey techniques as they are to the ice, are having just as much fun. The sound of a small yelp, more lupine than human, suggests that being hit in the shins with a broom hurts, but with the wounded soldier in question hurtling after the ball seconds later, I figure it isn’t too grave an injury.
After the first 20-minute game, I’m dripping in sweat. The perspiration confirms either a serious cardio workout or my shameful levels of fitness (let’s go with the former), but my eagerness for the whistles marking the start of the rounds is much less ambiguous. A group of insurers take to the ice after us and they leave panting and high-fiving an hour later, certifying that it was the most fun they’d had as a team. The consensus is that they’ll definitely book another session in the future.
‘So, is it worth asking the million-dollar question again?’ enquires my friend after my broomball trial. ‘Has anything good ever come out of Canada?’ ‘Look,’ I snap defensively, ‘Canada is awesome. Broomball was ace and, well, apparently Michael Bublé is Canadian.’ My outburst is met with an icy stare. What? I don’t have to defend myself. Broomball is fantastic – and as for Michael Bublé? Well, there are worse sins.
Origins Broomball’s history is not fully known, although its roots are thought to lie in a bloody Viking game called knattleikr, in which men are known to have died. The modern version came about at the end of the 19th century in Canada and has since spread worldwide.
Highlights The ability to get stuck in right from the start, and proving old PE teachers wrong with my man of the match goal-scoring.
Lowlights My one bruise.
Cost Rink hire with a referee and gear costs Dhs1,000 per hour outside of mall hours and Dhs3,000 during mall hours. Team sizes are flexible – you can have as many as eight players per team, which brings the cost down.
Contact www.dubaiicerink.com (04 448 5111).