By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Ice and the Florida summers don’t exactly mix well. But thanks to a partnership with the Florida Panthers NHL team, students are learning the fundamentals of ice hockey by playing a similar sport sans ice: Floorball.
The sport doesn’t need ice, but the idea is the same.
“Everybody can play it,” Physical Education teacher at Boca High Wanda Carter said. “It’s not dangerous.”
She said her students enjoy the game and often times when she gives them an option of what sport to play, they request floorball.
Instead of a puck, floorball uses a ball similar to a whiffle ball so if it hits you, you don’t get hurt. The sticks are lightweight and can be used by players who are left or right handed. The game can be played with or without a goalie. The idea is to score the ball into a floor net.
Carter said she opts to play five on five matches with no goalie with her students.
“It’s easy to play,” she said. “A lot of students that aren’t comfortable in some other sports, they jump right in. They feel comfortable playing.”
Thanks to a grant from the NHL, the Florida Panthers was able to provide equipment and training to schools who wanted to incorporate floorball into their PE programs.
Matt Janusz of the Panthers said the program is in its third year.
“Our main goal was to get hockey in PE programs,” he said. “It’s really important to our ownership that we are involved heavily in our community. We want to be an impactful partner with our community.”
He said with just a few ice rinks in South Florida, many kids are not exposed to hockey. Through floorball, he said kids can learn about the fundamentals of the game and even become fans of the sport.
He said floorball was selected because it is a safe sport for kids of all ages, skill level and ability. The program is located in schools throughout the Tri-County area and players are as young as
Kindergarteners and go up to high school seniors.
If a school selects to bring floorball to its campus, teachers participate in a training at the BB&T Center.
They learn how the game is played, techniques and play themselves. They leave with a bag of equipment to bring to their students that has 50 sticks, 50 balls, 4 nets, a guidebook and drill posters.
Teachers have access to someone from the Panthers at all times to ask questions about the game.
After students complete a floor ball unit in their class, they will receive a completion certificate. That certificate can be traded in to redeem tickets to a Florida Panthers home game.
“They get the opportunity to go to a Florida Panthers game on the Panthers,” Janusz said. “They can come watch hockey at the highest level. We want to give that experience to these kids.”
The organization said its goal is to keep training teachers and eventually have a floorball program at every school in the Tri-County area.
“We have gotten great feedback from the students who have gone through it,” Janusz said.