Two Rochester residents recently returned from a trip to the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy, where they enjoyed the regional cuisine and took a private tour of a mountaintop castle.
Oh, and they also won an international broomball championship for Team USA.
Eric Mackey, 25, a 2011 JM grad, and Chase Laures, 25, a 2011 Mayo graduate, were part of an all-Minnesota squad that represented the United States in the European Broomball Championships, held Nov. 2-4. Competing in the international club team division, Team USA played three games of pool play, then won three games in the championship round, beating a team from Italy 2-0 in the final game.
Theirs was the only American team at the tournament, and Mackey said they were welcomed warmly.
“Everyone was happy that we were over there, just to see how we played,” Mackey said. “I think some teams were a little intimidated by us, and they didn’t know what to expect. It was interesting to play against these teams, but all of them were very classy. At the end of almost every game, we took a photo at center ice with the other team, and really, everyone was very nice and welcoming toward us.”
Laures said the tournament hosts did some little things to make the Americans feel welcome. “They kept playing AC/DC songs and a lot of other American music during the breaks in play,” he said. “It was kind of a neat touch.”
Still, it was broomball, and Mackey said that the competition did get rather intense. “There weren’t any bench-clearing brawls, but one game did get a little bit chippy,” he said. “In the semifinals, when we won 3-1, that game got pretty physical, but the refs handled it pretty well. That was another Italian team. The best teams we played were definitely from Italy.”
Laures and Mackey both play broomball in Rochester’s outdoor winter league at the Withers complex off Mayowood road, but they find higher levels of competition in the Twin Cities.
“Some of the best teams in the state are fast like top high school hockey teams,” Mackey said.
A LOT LIKE HOCKEY
Hockey experience, Mackey said, is a big advantage for broomball players.
“A lot of the movements and rules are the same,” he said. “The main thing is getting used to the ball. You kind of play with a small soccer ball, kind of, and the stick is a bit different than a hockey stick. Stickhandling is different, and keeping your shot down is the big adjustment for me. Otherwise, the style of play is very similar.”
Those skills served Mackey well in Italy, as he was named the offensive MVP of the club division.
He kind of shrugged off that award, saying that he scored just two goals and had a couple assists, but Laures was willing to talk up his friend.
“Those two goals he scored were some of the most important goals of the tournament,” Laures said. “Eric has really good ball-control skills, and he kind of ran our power play most of the time.”
Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without great food and some sightseeing, and Laures and Mackey enjoyed both.
“There was this castle kind of overlooking the city of Salorno, where our hotel was,” Mackey said. “We hiked 20 minutes up the mountain to it, but when we got up there it was closed. We started walking back down the mountain, and there was this car driving up the road. The driver didn’t speak any English, but eventually we managed to ask if we could get into the castle. It turns out that this gentleman ran the castle. So, he let us in for our own little private tour.”
As for the food — well, both men raved about the pasta and the pizza.
“It was kind of a rural area, and all of the ingredients were really fresh,” Laures said. “The sauce on the pizzas was just excellent.”
Mackey called the whole experience “the trip of a lifetime,” but he won’t necessarily be one-and-done with international competition. The 2018 Broomball World Championships will be played in Blaine next fall, and Mackey plans to be on the ice.
Outdoors & Sports Reporter
Eric is the Post Bulletin outdoors editor and also is a sports reporter and columnist. He has a master’s degree in American literature from the University of Kentucky and began working at the Post Bulletin in 2000. He’s an avid hunter and angler.