When I applied for my first job at Waterville Valley in May 1981, the woman interviewing me seemed less interested in my college degree, work history or job skills and more interested in my skiing and broomball playing ability.
“Well, I’m a pretty good skier.” “Check” went the interviewer’s pen.
“But…I don’t know what broomball is.” Down went the interviewer’s pen.
However, I quickly interjected, “My fiance might know how to play broomball!”
I was hired.
That first winter in Waterville Valley my fiance – now husband – Harry was recruited to a broomball team. Back then – before the indoor ice arena was built – two of Waterville Valley’s tennis courts were flooded to create an outdoor rink. Various Waterville Valley businesses and organizations put up teams to play in the broomball league. These teams were a mix of youthful resort employees (that’s the category Harry fell into) and seasoned older players. The league was co-ed and a minimum of two women players had to be on the ice at all times (probably why my employer was so interested in my broomball ability!).
In those early days, broomball players used real brooms and wore Sorel boots or sneakers. Nobody wore face masks. No plexiglass separated spectators from the game. Players were fueled by pre-game beers.
The very first game I attended was memorable. Players slipped, slid and crashed into one another. The small, hard ball was whacked all over the ice and repeatedly flew into the crowd of spectators, who were mostly standing atop snowbanks looking down on the ice rink. One wild ball flew into the crowd and hit a girl in the face. Blood spurted everywhere as she was led to a nearby car and driven to the local hospital. One aggressive player body slammed another right out of the rink. The player jumped back into the rink with fists flying. It was madness and mayhem! I LOVED it!
Nowadays, broomball players wear special rubber-soled shoes and helmets. The “brooms” have a wooden or aluminum shaft and a rubber-molded triangular head. Referees maintain tight control of the game ensuring safety and enhancing the integrity of the sport. Plexiglass separates the players from the spectators.
One thing hasn’t changed, though. Waterville Valley’s broomball league players are just as serious and passionate about the game as they were in the early 80’s, and it’s still fun to watch.
You can catch games on Thursday nights from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Waterville Valley Ice Arena. Admission is free.
By the way, although the history of broomball is sketchy, recent research indicates that a sport similar to broomball, known as knattleikr, was played in Iceland in the 10th century. The sport was almost considered warfare, with the occasional death not uncommon, and games could involve whole villages and last up to 14 days. Writer Hord Grimkellson reported that, in a game between Strand and Botn, that “before dusk, six of the Strand players lay dead, though none on the Botn side.”
What did I tell you? Madness and mayhem!