Professional floorball -- also known as unihockey in some circles -- has been around for a lot longer than most people realize.
Experiencing its debut in Michigan, the first recognized floorball tournament took place in 1976. Its beginnings stretch even further back to the 1950s though, back when it was known as floor hockey. Since then, the sport has continued to evolve, growing with an enthusiastic audience acceptance. As floorball spread across Europe in the 1980s and ensuing decades, the traditional plastic puck was replaced by a plastic ball. The stick used is shorter and rounder in form than the one used in ice-hockey as well.
Though not considered as mainstream as the other major sports categories, floorball's been recognized by both the International Olympic Committee and General Association for International Sports Federation as a viable sport. Yet many don't see it that way.
Reasons abound why some overlook the professionalism of both the sport of floorball and its players. Low equipment costs, imitation equipment, amateur competitions, international development, amateur association endorsements, accessibility, recreational school programs, player appeal, imitation hockey, and media coverage all play roles in floorball not getting the recognition it deserves, but a closer look at the details reveal why floorball should be considered up there with the rest of the sports considered elite:
- Nature of the sport: Floorball is played in a rink similar to a hockey rink; three 20-minute periods, established rules for the game. The rink is surrounded by 50 cm high plastic boards.
- International Teams: As floorball has grown, there are annual championships for men’s and women’s teams, respectively.
- The sport requires basic equipment: Players generally wear jerseys, shorts, and indoor athletic shoes as uniform. Goaltenders wear a mask, chest-protector, and kneepads.
- Athletic Cross-training: Both National Hockey League players and European-born hockey players engage in floorball to further enhance their skills.
- Recognition by major sport venues: Floorball has its own organizations in the USA, Canada, and As the sport is played in over 50 countries, the International Olympic Committee recognizes it as a viable competition.
- Team Membership: Organized floorball teams may have a roster of 20 members each. This coincides with other professional sports played across North America.
- Format of the Game: Floorball is less physical compared to ice-hockey, play is more continuous, and arguably faster in tempo.
- Game Characteristics: Floorball reinforces player respect and fair play like other professional sports.
- Operations: Players, teams, and organizations are funded through competition ticket sales and other professional means.
- Employment: Floorball is a highly accessible game engaging men, women, children and those using wheelchairs.