Alan MacDuff is a broomball pioneer in Eastern Ontario.
The lifelong St-Eugene area resident and dairy farmer by trade started playing broomball in 1966, back when a league started in Vankleek Hill. MacDuff said one of the early times on the league included a team composed of local OPP officers.
He said it was an easier sport to get into than hockey because the game and practice times did not interfere as much with farm chores.
For MacDuff, joining the Vankleek Hill broomball league in the 1960s led to a 54-year playing and coaching career not just in Vankleek Hill, but also in Rockland, Embrun, and Cornwall.
Playing in those communities and in various provincial and national tournaments led to 11 gold, two silver, and two bronze medals for MacDuff. He has played the game in every province except for Prince Edward Island.
“I enjoyed the participation and meeting people,” said MacDuff.
Broomball is played like hockey, on a rink, and the players use special rubberized brooms to get the ball into the opposing team’s net in order to score. MacDuff explained that the original brooms were straw.
“You would freeze the broom,” he said, which made the broom harder for play.
Years ago, players would also glue foam to their shoes for extra traction. Today, they wear special broomball shoes.
MacDuff said the game is faster today than it was when he started playing.
In local leagues, there are generally 12 people on a team with six people on the rink at each time, the same as in hockey. At the national level, there are up to 20 people on each team.
In the MacDuff family, broomball is a tradition. Alan said his two brothers played in the 1970s, one of his daughters played, and two of his grandchildren, Amber and Hailey play.
Alan’s sister-in-law Dawn is also very involved with broomball and was involved with getting a recreational junior league started in Vankleek Hill in 2018.
“I enjoy working with her with the juniors,” he said.
MacDuff still volunteers as a referee, including with a recreational league in Finch, where he said the game is very popular.
The Canadian Senior and Mixed Broomball Championships were held in Cornwall in April. In honour of his decades as a player, coach, and referee, Alan MacDuff presided over the ceremonial first faceoff at the opening of the tournament.
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