By James Reid
“It’s a fun, indoor version of ice hockey”, says Anton Tavitian, president of Durham University Floorball Club, the newest addition to Durham’s sporting scene.
Hockey is one of Durham’s most popular sports, ranging from those competing at international players to numerous college sport sides, but until now it has only been the field version.
But that is set to change with the creation of Durham University Floorball Club, which will make its debut to Durham’s sporting scene this summer; this is hockey as you’ve never seen it before.
Most popular in Scandinavia, but also played in central and eastern Europe – and increasingly across the world – floorball is a fast-paced indoor sport similar to hockey that has its own professional leagues and World Championship.
Teams are six-a-side, including a goalkeeper, using a hollow ball and sticks reminiscent of the plastic ones you might have used in PE on an indoor pitch about the size of a basketball court.
Tavitian, a third-year at Hatfield, picked up the sport in Brussels thanks to his Swedish friends and played all the time before moving to Durham for university including representing Team USA at the Under-19 World Championships.
Having been thinking about setting up a club since his first year, after missing the sport dearly while in the North East of England, it was during the pandemic that he finally decided to try and set up a club, “There was nothing better to do so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
The club’s first training sessions will take place during June with the aim of organising a game against another university by the end of term, with universities such as York already having a floorball team.
While there are some leagues in the UK, including a small university league, the club is in no rush to get ahead of themselves and is simply looking to get a good number of members with Tavitian emphasising that the club is very much for everyone, no matter their prior experience of floorball or any other hockey-style game.
“It’s the kind of sport where you improve quickly, especially if you have prior hockey skills,” says Tavitian, who is also keen to encourage complete beginners too. “It’s extremely fun, especially if you get the right vibe and attitude where the game is played in a fun spirit.”
Indeed, for now, the emphasis is on getting as many people involved as possible, especially as people return to team sports after the pandemic.
“If quarantine has got you bored and lazy, this will be an effortless way to get fit and have fun,” says Tavitian when asked to sum up why people should try floorball.
“It’s not dangerous, you don’t get hurt and it’s much faster than field hockey with lots of short sprints so it’s great for cardio.”
Training sessions will be free with all equipment provided in a further attempt to grow the sport in Durham. Such efforts mirror those across the world, particularly in the USA where there is a conscious effort to grow the sport as an alternative to ice hockey.
It made its debut at the World Games in 2017, and while the likes of Sweden and Finland, where matches are often televised with capacity crowds, still dominate, it has been increasing in popularity across the globe, with the new club in Durham hopefully a small part of that.
The club have already had around 20-30 sign-ups but Tavitian says they are looking for even more, hoping that people will be looking to try something new after exams.
So if you’re at a loose end, looking to meet new people, try something new and get fit, then floorball could be the sport for you.
Durham University Floorball Club’s training sessions will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4 and 6pm at Maiden Castle.
Image: Anssi Koskinen via Flickr