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Parks Department breaks the ice with new broomball program

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April Salmons tried her best at taking a slap shot in front of the crease of other team’s goal on a recent Sunday night.

The 36-year-old Watertown resident completely missed the bright orange ball and fell on her, well, buttocks. She laughed before getting back to her feet during a pickup game of broomball at the Watertown Municipal Arena.

“Get the ball into the net,” yelled out one of her teammates.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has put together a broomball program at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds ice rink for every other Sunday night. The next session is on ice for 8 to 9:30 p.m. today. The cost is $4 per player.

Broomball, a recreational ice game that began in Canada, is a derivative of hockey. Under the rules, each team has six players: a goal tender and five others. It’s played on roughened ice, so there’s no need for a Zamboni, Parks and Recreation crew chief Jerome E. Romig said.

Instead of hockey sticks, players use “brooms,” which consists of a wooden shaft with a rubber-molded triangular head in the shape of broom at the end of it. Pucks are replaced by what look like small orange soccer balls that players try to hit into goal nets.

And players don’t wear skates. (There are special rubberized shoes you can buy, but most people just put on a pair of sneakers.)

The rules are simple. No sliding on the ice, checking or high-sticking. Brooms must be kept below the waist at all times. And you can’t throw the ball; it must be hit with the broom.

The Parks and Recreation Department spent a couple of hundred dollars buying the initial equipment from broomball.com, the Duluth, Minn.-based company that is the world’s largest supplier of broomball equipment.

This season, the staff replenished about 20 broken sticks and bought a fresh new set of balls. Sticks cost $15 to $17 apiece and the balls are $26 each.

The program began last year with just a couple of sessions. One night, about 20 Watertown High School students from the Venture Club showed up to play.

Parks Department program manager Celia E. Cook said she hopes to get enough interest that the ice rink can be divided up into three games going on at the same time. Maybe a league can be formed, she said.

“It’s a fun activity for people who love hockey but don’t like skates,” she said.

More communities also are adding broomball programs at their ice rinks, said Erin E. Gardner, the city’s parks and recreation superintendent. Syracuse has one of the area’s biggest leagues.

On this Sunday night, Miss Salmons, the manager of the Lipsy women’s fashion and clothing store opening in the Salmon Run Mall, got her six employees to play as a “team-building activity,” she said. Ranging in age from 19 to the mid-30s, none of them had played before.

After about 30 minutes, the nine Lipsy employees called it quits. They called it a good workout.

“It was fun and exhausting,” said Sandra Torres, 35.

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