Saturday, January 16, 2010

The True History of Floorball

Or Cosom and the influence from Bandy and our piece of the Apple Pie.

Several different versions of the birth story of Floorball are floating around. I myself do remember being told, early on, that the sport emerged from a manufacturer that produced plastic pipes and invented a stick just to be able to sell more pipe. They took plastic pipes, cut them up and just added a little piece of plastic that was the blade and "viola" a stick was born.
I have believed in this since... this is something I was told very early on - with certainty before 1975.

Carl-Åke "Calle" Ahlqvist is otherwise considered by many as the Swedish father of Floorball. In an interview made a few years ago he describes himself how it all started.
His brother sent him 12 sticks from Holland. This was Cosom hockey toy sticks and he let some kids at a teen center in Gothenburg, Sweden play with them and it all turned into a large success - all the kids went crazy over these sticks.
This took place in 1968. I myself claim that I played the sport the first time in 1971 - not bad huh? Most likely I am one of the oldest players of Floorball in the USA.
Anyway, Cosom were originally manufactured by an American Company, probably by the name of Manufacture Shaper CO, and similar sticks are still available on the market and today they look like this - still called Cosom.

Today people in Canada play something called Cosom Hockey. More on that later.

From here on Ahlqvist decides that there is a true need for plastic sticks and since it is most likely hard or at least expensive to order more sticks from USA via Holland he comes up with his own solution. Maybe it is here my own hearsay about the manufactuer of plastic pipes fits in?
The marketing company Unihoc was formed and most likely someone else produced their first sticks and it would not surprise me if this was Hammargren Plast, a Swedish company that at this time made a lot of consumer related plastic items. But please bear with me on this one and the manufacturer as I am only guessing rather wild.
Mr Ahlqvist did the feat you can only dream about - he started to travel to school after school with these sticks and got school after school to start with Floorball. Remember with no references to anything else, not to hockey, NHL players - nothing - just with a game that is fun to play.

At some point these first sticks was designed and developed with an open blade to let air through the blade.
More on stick development is described in the text Floorball sticks - the worlds most advanced sticks?

I think we find the true watershed or the divider as Unihoc go from Cosom to make their own first sticks with an "open" blade. Many claim that thanks to the organization and formalizing of the sport by rules and more organizational matters drove the sport ahead. This might to some extent be true.

I think myself however that the presence of the sport Bandy gave the Floorball sticks a clear direction of development. Bandy is a large Hockey related sport in Europe that is played with sticks that somewhat points in the direction of a more modern plastic Floorball stick. So the European acceptance for Bandy sticks as well as technological advances drove Floorball further into the future until the point we see today.

This development did not occur in North America. And I do believe that this did not happen since Ice Hockey is dominating like bread and butter, in particular in Canada.
The Company, or other operations, making Cosom sticks in North America instead (without influence from Bandy) became more driven towards Floor Hockey with sticks very similar to regular Ice Hockey sticks. To me this is obvious.
Also the idea lingered to play with a real puck or a ball that did not bounce or odd things like a puck rolling on the floor on ball bearings.
This idea gets only clearer as you today find online retailers in North America offering something that looks like original Cosom sticks and the rest of what they sell is either hockey sticks with a plastic solid blade on them or similar toy Ice Hockey versions of sticks in the most happy colors you can dream of.

This is my own theory and the only thing that does not make sense in this matter is why the North Americans never invented Plastic Hockey blades open to let air through thus making them better and able to shoot faster with?
Instead hockey was simulated in North America with sticks hard and stiff as real Hockey sticks. Some people claim that this is half way dangerous since there ought to be protective paddings to play with these tools. Something I do agree upon. 
This is most likely what drove sticks equipped with larger chunks of foam as a blade. Safe in school - maybe. But can you shoot or dribble with a monster like that - most certainly not. I do not honestly know since I never tried it. And why should I? I play Floorball and can both shoot and dribble with my stick.

To wrap this up. Floorball - it all started in the USA. The first whiffle ball was invented in 1953 for baseball practice. You can read more upon the Floorball ball development here. The first sticks on the market was from an American Company making Cosom plastic and very basic toy sticks. It seems like they sold the best in Canada and they do still play Cosom Hockey up there.
As I try to understand the word Cosom - and what it means today by searching the Internet it seems like it can be both Floor Hockey or Floorball. My take on this is that there is not really anything like Cosom Hockey anymore. Or is it? You can find a few retailers selling Cosom sticks, but I would consider that to be only the very basic toy stick you can find. What most others call Cosom today is either Floor Hockey or Floorball.
Ok, almost all development from the very first US inventions of the basic stick and the ball took place in Scandinavia. And this is now what is sweeping the world.

My point is - it all started in the good old USA.
But - is it not time now in 2010 that we regain our own sport and bring it in to schools on a larger scale and at full swing? 

Floorball is just like Apple Pie - more American than anything!

The name of Floorball translated straight from both Swedish and Finnish means something like Indoor Bandy or Room Bandy...

What Bandy is? Like this!

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Research suggest that eye-injuries are more common in Floorball as compared to Tennis, but less common as compared to Squash (similar to Racquetball).
To minimize this risk of injury Floorballcentral recommend: Use certified protective eye-wear (mandated in many European areas for the youth). Do not lay down on the court. Follow the rules strict on stick height.

Also if you get addicted to this sport - do not blame us!