Broomball first came about in Canada somewhere around the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th, either as a hockey variant for people who couldn't skate, or as something for women to do while the men played the much more violent hockey. The exact origins, however, are lost to history.
Just like ice hockey, it is played on an ice rink by two teams of six players each (generally, three forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie), and the object is for one team to shoot an object into a net more times than the other team within a certain time limit. But there are some differences:
- As the name implies, the implement in the players' hands in broomball is a broom. While it most likely would have been an actual broom in the early days, these days, it's a wedge-shaped piece of plastic on the end of a wood or fiberglass stick, so it only looks like a broom if you squint.
- As the other half of the name implies, the object in play is not a puck, but a ball, about half the size of a volleyball.
- Players wear rubber-soled shoes, which usually equates to the sneakers they came into the building wearing, although the sporting goods industry being what it is, there are of course special broomball shoes.
- Games tend to be shorter, with the official standard length two 20-minute periods divided by a 5-minute or 10-minute halftime.
- Broomball is technically a non-contact sport, although there tends to be plenty of incidental contact in a game.
Penalties are pretty much the same in broomball as they are in hockey, including icing, offsides, and the various 2-minute minors and 5-minute majors that earn a trip to the penalty box and a power play for the other team.
That said, since broomball is played mainly as a club sport or a college intramural sport, there may be various house rules in various locations that differ somewhat from the above.
A surprising number of ice rinks in the United States have broomball sticks and balls available for use by groups willing to put down a wad of cash to rent out the rink. I've been playing very informal games (a lot more than 12 on the ice, no referees and no penalties, and no set time limit) with a group once a month or so at a rink in Burbank, California, for about four years now.