As the Men’s USA Broomball National Championships drew closer, some of the Indiana Invaders players joked about winning a national title.
As the tournament progressed, they were no longer joking.
The Invaders, based out of Hamilton Center Ice Arena, captured the Men’s Class D national championship on March 22 in Fargo, North Dakota.
“They were kind of joking about being national champions, but no one took it seriously or believed that was actually a possibility,” team member Tom Kubat said. “Then, it got closer and closer and we started thinking, ‘Hey, we can actually be national champions.’”
This was the fifth year a team from Hamilton Center had attended the national championships, and the title was their first. The team had been practicing for nationals since October.
“This year, we actually set time aside, an hour every Sunday that we’d do nothing but practice our systems that we’re going to run for nationals,” team captain Dane Bremer said. “That was our long-term goal. We’ve been working on our defense, working on offensive systems, working on neutral zone traps and anything else we liked to work on — power play, penalty kill — every system there was.
“I don’t know if the actual goal this year was to win,” he said. “The goal was just do to the best that we can. If we can get a win, great, but the goal this year was to get organized, get a group of guys together that is going to stay consistent and committed to playing broomball.”
That wasn’t easy. The 13-player team had one player from Indianapolis, one from the Cincinnati area and one from Michigan. The other 10 live in Columbus, and eight of those players work at Cummins.
“In years past, we kind of just played in a league, taken some of the guys we knew from the area, maybe some guys from Ohio that we knew and a couple guys from Michigan,” Bremer said. “In years previous, we never had that experience or had the time to actually take the guys that are going to go as a team.
“We had a really hard time with guys in the past wanting to kind of come and go and not so much stick to a program year to year,” he said. “I think it’s expensive for guys that have families with the travel and everything.”
The sport of broomball is similar to hockey. The positions, penalties and scoring are the same as hockey, but the equipment is a little different.
Players use brooms, which are actually aluminum or wooden sticks with a head. They play with an air-filled ball and special shoes.
“The difference is, you can’t cut as fast,” team member Rob Jones said. “You have to be able to think ahead a couple extra steps because of the delay of being able to move your feet.”
Broomball goals are 6 by 8 feet, which is a little bigger than hockey goals. Helmets are required, and most players wear shin guards, elbow pads and a face mask.
“I would say strategy changes quite a bit, as well,” Bremer said. “Since you can’t move as fast and cut and turn as fast because you’re limited on traction with your feet, the speed kind of slows down. Some guys will try to run around you, but it’s hard to beat somebody by running around them because it’s too hard to change directions.
“Change of direction needs to be thought out way ahead of time,” he said. “Passing and team communication is huge as far as being able to move the ball around and passing a bunch.”
Bremer was swimmer and runner in Bay City, Michigan. He is in his fourth year of playing broomball and also plays softball.
Kubat ran cross-country, pole vaulted and played football growing up in Chicago. He is in third year of broomball and also races dirt bikes with Bremer.
Jones played hockey in Wheeling, West Virginia. He is in his sixth year of broomball and also does martial arts.
‘A terrible start’
The road to victory was a bumpy one for the Invaders. They lost all three of their pool play games by one goal, including two in overtime.
“We had a terrible start,” Bremer said. “It was just bad luck, bad bounces, and we had some bad calls go our way with a couple of goals that weren’t counted.”
That left the Invaders to play No. 1-ranked North Dakota State University in the quarterfinals. Following a 2-1 victory, the Invaders beat the Fargo Warriors 4-1 in the semifinals.
“Everything by that point really seemed to be clicking,” Bremer said. “There were very little mistakes. We were controlling the ball very well, moving the ball well, setting up plays.”
The Invaders finished off the championship with a 3-1 win against Omaha United in the finals.
“That was probably our best game of the weekend,” Bremer said. “It really clicked. We dominated them from start to finish. They got one lucky goal on us, and then we rallied back.”
Bremer said the entire team did a great job of staying positive all weekend.
“Even though we were playing these games that we should have been winning and kept getting beat, it’s hard to keep your spirits uplifted,” Bremer said. “Everybody on the team did a good job of keeping a good attitude, keeping their spirits high and never getting down on themselves ever. Once the goals started coming and we started clicking, it all went our way from there. Momentum was on our side.”
So, too, was victory.
“The feeling afterward was relief,” Bremer said. “We struggled all season working on systems, and it seemed like all the systems we were working on finally came together right there at the end of the weekend. What we had worked on so hard for finally was real.”
“I was absolutely ecstatic,” Jones said. “We had gone up the year before, and we knew what kind of competition we were going to be seeing. After that first day, we were like, ‘OK, everything is going well. We just need to keep working our stuff in that last day.’ It was absolutely an amazing feeling to see everything that we had worked for a year-plus on finally come together.”
Members of the Men’s USA Broomball Class D national champion Indiana Invaders:
Dane Bremer (captain)