A geek’s guide to Floorball

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Easily described as ice hockey on a smooth wooden indoor court, floorball has similar traits exist except its non-contact with the odd shoulder barge permitted. Never heard of floorball? Read on to discover why this game is rapidly growing in popularity.

Aim of floorball

Floorball has two opposing teams, both with five players and a goalkeeper. The game is played indoors with a plastic ball and sticks, very similar to ice hockey. Floorball matches are played in three twenty-minute periods.

The objective of the game is to score as many goals within the three twenty-minute periods as possible.

Viitakoski Valtteri (91) and Granvald Alexander (10) in action Viitakoski Valtteri (91) and Granvald Alexander (10) in action

A brief history of floorball

Floorball's origins date back to 1970's Gothenburg, Sweden, as an activity for school students to play after school. The schoolyard game developed and spread across the Nordic nations.

Floorball received recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December 2008 and is lobbying for inclusion at the 2024 Summer Olympics. Floorball is represented by the International Floorball Federation (IFF).

Equipment in floorball

Floorball is pretty simple when it comes to equipment. The floorball stick is the most vital component to play the game for outfield players. Goalkeepers have additional protective gear.

Floorball sticks

Harder floorball sticks are designed for more competitive play and to make quicker passes and more powerful shots at goal. Softer sticks are better for learning the game as they are lighter, making skill development easier.

Stick blades are curved and are used to strike the plastic ball across the floor. Unlike hockey, players are permitted to use both sides of the blade to hit the ball.

Stick's grips are designed with a textured feel to ease the hold of the stick, especially needed during fast, competitive play.

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Goalkeepers’ equipment

Goalkeepers wear helmets during games and uniquely designed shirts with padded trousers. Typically, a goalkeeper will use gloves and kneepads for protection from hard-struck balls.

Retta-Shipp Taylor (Goalkeeper)catches the ball at the gate Retta-Shipp Taylor (Goalkeeper)catches the ball at the gate

Goalkeepers can have more padding if they prefer, yet the more they have their movement is restricted to make saves. Less padding, more mobility, yet the increased risk of injury.

Rules and playing floorball

Floorball team positions

A floorball match is played with five outfield players and a goalkeeper. Interestingly to note, goalkeepers may be replaced for an additional field player if the coach seeks more attacking options. For attacking play, this can be highly advantageous with the extra outfield player.

However, the caveat is that if a team has no goalkeeper, then defensive duties can be harder to keep the ball out. Outfield players can block the shot but not permitted to touch it with their hands as goalkeepers can.

Usually teams are comprised of the following:

  • Goalkeeper
  • Two defenders (left and right defenders)
  • Centre
  • Two attackers (left and right attackers/wings)

Alongside the goalkeeper, the defender’s task is to disrupt attacking plays and pass the ball to the centre and wings. The centre provides backup to the defence and aids in creating attacking plays. The centre is required to do a tremendous amount of running in the game. Attackers, or wings, are ultimately responsible for attacking plays and strong, powerful shots to score the teams goals.

Retta-Shipp Taylor looks at the ball in the net during the USA vs Canada floorball national team match Retta-Shipp Taylor looks at the ball in the net during the USA vs Canada floorball national team match

Playing floorball

Individual substitutions occur as per other team sports, although typically due to an injury or player exhaustion. Unlike other team sports, it is not uncommon to see the entire team line-up substituted in floorball, and this can happen at any time in the game.

Floorball has a stop clock, much like futsal and unlike football where the game's clock is continuous.

The game's clock is stopped when the following occurs:

  • goals are scored
  • time-outs are called
  • if the ball is not in play
  • in case a penalty is awarded.

Between each twenty-minute period, there is an intermission of ten minutes where teams change ends. Regarding time-outs, teams are permitted one time-out lasting 30-seconds. In floorball, the two referees hold equal authority, unlike in football where the referee's judgement is paramount.

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Rules of floorball

During a floorball match, it is compulsory for players to place at least one foot on the ground at all times when receiving the ball. In other words, players are not permitted to jump in floorball. Additionally, players are not allowed to go down on two knees to block shots or make passes - except the goalkeeper, if a team has one on the court.

When players pass the ball to each other, the ball must be received by the stick below the player's knee. Should contact be made above the knee, a two-minute penalty is applied.

When players strike the ball towards the goal, the stick must remain below waist level; otherwise, another two-minute penalty is applied.

Funny enough, players can 'kick' the ball to other players and run behind the goals like ice hockey.

Disrupting opponents from receiving the ball when not in their possession is known as checking and is forbidden in floorball. What is permitted, is 'should-to-shoulder' contact when players are in possession of the ball.

Schweiz, Nico Scalvinoni (SUI) against Robin Nilsberth (SWE) Schweiz, Nico Scalvinoni (SUI)gegen Robin Nilsberth (SWE)

Other two-minute penalties are awarded when players push others who don't have the ball or lifting opponent's sticks. Moreover, any stick infringements lead to another penalty.

Committing fouls in floorball

When players commit fouls, or when referees deem the ball is unplayable, then play resumes with either a face-off or a free hit. Free-hits are comparable to a free kick in football - taken where the last moment of play was occurring and then the ball was deemed playable.

Face-offs are when players begin a game, the ball is not playable, and the referees could not determine who had the advantage of a free-hit, the ball is damaged, player injury or a failed penalty shot.

With this geek’s guide to floorball, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first floorball game. If you can follow the fast-paced, you'll find yourself hooked on watching speed-style matches with plenty of goal-scoring entertainment.

Words: David Bailey-Lauring

Images: PA

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