When it's cold outside: Try broomball

Friday, January 22, 2010; WE23

Late last year, a few enthusiasts of an obscure winter sport took a cue from the legions of 20- and 30-something Washingtonians engaged in cutthroat kickball, dodge ball and skeeball leagues, and they decided to start a quirky league of their own. Wasn't it entirely possible that broomball -- as foreign as it was -- would find fans, too?

They launched DC Broomball, which kicked off its second season on a frigid day last week at Tucker Road Ice Rink in Fort Washington.

"I like the fact that I tell people I'm playing broomball tonight, and they go, 'What? What are you doing?' " said Ellen Turner, 27, of Annandale, who was playing only her second game with DC Broomball. A year ago, Turner, a girls' basketball and softball coach, had never even heard of the sport.

Broomball is a kind of hybrid of hockey and lacrosse -- with a dash of track and field thrown in. Here's the best part: It's played in sneakers instead of skates. (Men and women sprinted across the ice at the recent broomball game.) The name, however, is a total misnomer; though it traditionally featured players sliding a grapefruit-size ball toward the goal with brooms, most players now use $20 aluminum sticks with plastic, fan-shaped ends.

Many of the members of DC Broomball hail from New York or Massachusetts or other lands (icier than here) where broomball is far more popular. But a pickup game on a cul-de-sac on a particularly icy day in Washington isn't impossible; real brooms and a tennis ball are all one really needs.

"This is kind of like hockey, but I can't skate," said Jason Barrett, 22, of Greenbelt, explaining the advantages of broomball. "It's just a lot of fun, you can play it no matter what the skill level, and you don't need a lot of expensive equipment. It's just easy."

DC Broomball

The league's six-week season begins March 24, but you can try out the sport at DC Broomball's pickup games at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston on Saturday and Feb. 6 from 10:30-11:30 p.m. For details about the league, visit http://www.dcbroomball.org. If you just want to play with a few friends, visit Kettler on most Saturday nights at 10:30 p.m., when the ice is open to broomballers and the rink provides sticks and balls with ice time ($10). 627 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington. 571-224-0555. http://www.kettlercapitalsiceplex.com.

-- Lavanya Ramanathan

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