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News and Notes From the Inaugural USBA Tournament

Editor’s Note: This is a revised version of an article that was briefly posted to Broomball Central on 03/10/2021. At the author’s request, we removed the article until he had time to update it with a more complete version of events. We stand by this author and his words, and greatly appreciate his continued coverage for Broomball Central.

By Grant Dawson

Wow! What a weekend. Perfect weather, a festive atmosphere, smiling faces and some pretty darn good broomball. Here’s my recap of the United States Broomball Association’s inaugural tournament.

Congrats to Arctic Blast (lady champs!), Kelly Lake (man champs!) and Rockpile (co-rec champs!) for bringing home the bigtime hardware. Kudos also to all of the Challenger Cup champions: Storm (womens), Lake Josephine Blizzard (mens) and Terminal Frost (co-rec).

Both facilities get a thumbs up. Yes, there were issues with the ice conditions in the Sunday championship games, but overall, the Recreation Outdoor Center (ROC) in St. Louis Park and the Braemar Ice Arena in Edina were spectacular outdoor venues. Loved the crackling fire pit at the ROC. Played a beautiful sunset game at Braemar. The USBA brass gets a tip of the cap for lining up both venues.

The outdoor ball got mixed reviews all weekend. Because the weather was so balmy, the paneled ball really flew. Players of all skill levels struggled to keep shots on net, passes on target and stick-handling consistent. A reliable source tells me there was even discussion among the USBA leadership of changing to the indoor ball in the middle of the tournament. I am glad they stuck to their original decision. Consistency matters, even if the consistency amounts to shagging balls out of the stands every couple of minutes.

Refereeing was clearly a challenge. I do not blame any of the referees that gamely tried to keep up with a much higher level of broomball than they were used to officiating. Some really rose to the challenge!

During the tourney, I openly wondered where the usual referees were and was told by at least two sources that USA Broomball banned their referees from taking part in this USBA event. USA Broomball vehemently denies this, claiming that all of the referees who regularly officiate high-level games hosted at the Blaine Super Rink, Augsburg Ice Arena and the All Elite
Broomball tournaments chose on their own to boycott the event out of loyalty to their most consistent employer. Whatever the case, the USBA should concentrate some resources on making sure the officials from this weekend are further trained, supported and compensated. The game needs them!

Over and over again, I heard praise for two teams: Ice Mafia and the Lake Josephine Blizzard (or, more accurately, “those Bethel boys”). Ice Mafia continues to prove that practice pays off. They beat out veteran teams like the Flames and the Wolves for a spot in the upper playoff bracket, and brought their hard-nosed, high-effort style to their quarter-final loss to the Chiefs. The future is bright for Ice Mafia, especially if their forwards can find a finishing touch. The Lake Josephine Blizzard surprised everybody by beating both the Flames and the Wolves to win the Challenge Cup. If these young guns can stick together, they might be knocking on the door of the upper championship game in a few years. Loads of raw talent there, which is so much fun for this old Bethel alum to see.

Hurray for the volunteers! Scorekeepers, welcome attendants, broadcasters, event organizers and ball chasers… Thank you! Most players don’t vocalize it, but deep down, we’re all incredibly grateful for the time and effort that gets put in behind the scenes to make these tournaments possible. They’re complicated, multi-day events and to have this inaugural tournament get
carried off as smoothly as it did is a huge credit to those many hours of volunteer work.

What do we make of Kelly Lake’s legacy? They’ve won, by my quick mental count, multiple Minnesota class A state titles, a couple of Meltdown tournaments, the Internationals, the Augsburg regular season title, the Augsburg playoff title and this first USBA tournament. They also loaded up their squad with some additional talent and won the Canada Cup in 2019. They’re clearly really good. Maybe they’re all-time good. However, they’ve never won a national championship. In fact, they’ve never even made a national championship final. They didn’t show up to the 2017 Nationals in Pittsburgh. They were knocked out in 2018 in the semifinals by Furious, and again in 2019 by Legion. Both were hard-fought games against tough opponents. In 2020 there was no national tournament due to COVID-19. I don’t see a national championship tournament happening this year either. If some combination of tough losses and cosmic bad luck keeps Kelly Lake from ever winning a national title, are they eliminated from discussion as among the best teams ever?

What’s next for the USBA? They put on a smashing inaugural event. They seem to have good leadership at the top. Can they live up to their own high expectations? I’m rooting for them. In closing, the best part of the weekend was seeing so many friends gathered in one place. It has been a long time since that felt possible. Even if we were all still wearing masks and
standing at a distance, we were together. At the risk of sounding sensitive inside of a tough community, there is magic in that togetherness. Yes, we all compete against one another. Yes, it gets serious and heated and we even sometimes fight. But last weekend proved once again that we’re all on the same team.

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