DEVELOPMENT OF FLOORBALL
Scandinavia is generally considered as the birthplace of floorball. Just few people know though, that it was originally invented in USA. In the state Minnesota, to be exact, in a factory called Cosom, producing plastics in Lakeville. Primacy belongs to the local workers, who produced plastic hockey sticks to play with balls for fun in 1958. In USA and also in Canada school kids and students played with these plastic sticks in the 60’s of the last century. This new invented game was called floorhockey and soon there were first tournaments overseas. The biggest was the yearly Floorhockey tournament, which took place in the 60’s in Battle Creek, Michigan.
This new sport experienced its massive progress after the Cosom plastic sticks were brought to Europe, in 1968 to Scandinavia, to be exact. In Sweden, a country with enough gyms and players crazy about ice hockey, bandy hocky and suchlike, this fresh, innovative game found suitable conditions for its development. At the beginning of the 70’s the magic of the Innebandy, how they called it, was discovered by Swedish ice hockey players in summer season inside the gym or on outside playgrounds. Floorball has thus arisen as a modification of ice hockey in lots of variations with different types of balls and light pucks.
In the middle of the 70’s the idea of merging into one contact-less sport broke through. The first special inflexible sticks were invented. The ball was taken over from a lite type used in USA for winter inside trainings of baseball pitchers. The Americans discovered that on a perforated ball applies a lower air resistance and despite its low weight preserves high-quality fly characteristics. And Swedish began to play floorball with it. Soon it attracted people interested in hockey-type sports and its popularity quickly spread into neighboring Finland, there under the name of Salibandy.
Upon this day Sweden has a privileged position in the floorball world and sets the direction of its evolution in many ways. Its federation was the first established one in 1981 (Svenska Innebandyförbyndet – SIFB) and is mainly connected to the initiators Crister Gustafssin and András Czitrom. A remarkable thing is that the second association was founded two years later in far-away Japan. With the creation of the federation the first official leagues started to be played in Sweden and five years later there were over a hundred clubs active. From Scandinavia floorball started extending into southern European countries and in the new century it’s spreading worldwide.
In Switzerland there is a tradition of different types of sports using goalkeepers with a stick and also a team game on a smaller playground with only three players. Lower leagues are until today played in 3+1 system in a smaller gym (Kleinfeld), the regular floorball 5+1 on a larger ground (Grossfeld), the sport itself is called Unihockey. Nordic countries got in touch with Switzerland and in 1986 they founded the International Floorball Federation (IFF) in Huskvarna, Sweden. The head of the federation was until 1992 András Czitrom and soon the federation achieved the unification of floorball rules.
After the strong trio other member states started to join – Norway, Hungary, Russia and the Czech Republic. In the same year Sweden hosted the first international event, The European Champions Cup. Since then this event took place every year and its name was changed to Champions Cup or European Cup. Currently a change in its form is being put together, both in women and men category. The winners of their home leagues of the four best positioned nationalities at the last WC will compete in the Champions Cup, the qualification becomes the European Cup with the participation of the competition winners of other countries.
The first European Championship took place in 1994 in Finland, one year later there was the first one in women category. The year 1996 was in the token of the first official World Championship (WC), the Nordic final has been watched by over 15000 spectators in Globen Arena in Stockholm. Ever since the World Championship takes place every year, in uneven years women are competing for the medals, in even years men. In 2010 the championship went through a change, the so far existing B and C divisions were replaced by the qualification for the World Championship and the number of participants has been raised from 10 to 16. In the new century also began the World Championship of U21, both in boys and girls category, as well as the University World Championship and even the World Championship of Highschools in 2007.
The number of member states was still increasing, let’s name for example Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Slovakia or Slovenia. Outside Europe already mentioned Japan, USA, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Brazil and more. There are also Continental confederations being created, for example the Asian and oceanic floorball confederation (AOFC). At the turn of the century the floorball federation had registered 22 member states, and more than 160 000 registered players in approximately 3000 clubs. These numbers increased every year. In 2010 IFF registered 52 member associations, more than 4000 clubs and about 300 000 registered players. The number of non-registered, recreational players worldwide is estimated in millions. The third and current president of IFF is since 1996 Tomas Eriksson from Sweden, who took the place of Finnish Pekka Mukkala.
The International Floorball Federation is now situated in Helsinki and aims for worldwide progress. In 2008 they achieved a success on the diplomatic field. Floorball recieved recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This fact opened the doors to the Universiade and is therefore the first step to be added to the program of the Summer Olympic games, which IFF is naturally trying to achieve.
After Sweden and Finland the most advanced country is Switzerland, followed by the Czech Republic. This lay-out reflects especially in the quality of leagues and therefore of course in the results of national teams. The most respected league is the Swedish SSL, where two out of fourteen teams reach the play-off finale and compete in one match to earn the champion title. The Finnish Salibandy Liiga is compered to the Swedish competition more offensive, the variable game flow is attractive for spectators and two digit results aren’t exceptional. Also the Swiss Mobiliar League is keeping a significantly higher level compered to the Czech Extraliga.
The growth of floorball in other countries is also progressing dynamically, resolving in gradual equalization. Younger floorball states are evolving in mile steps. The Czech Republic is trying to reach Switzerland and the position of Sweden mostly thanks to neighboring Finland losing its exclusivity. Among women the strength is distributed differently. The primacy lays in the hand of Sweden, thanks to a huge base and high-quality league. Finland was able to reach for second place at the expense of the Czech Republic. In the future we can expect the equalization of the world leaders and more involvement of other floorball nations.