The other hockey: Get on the bandy bandwagon

The other hockey: Get on the bandy bandwagon

The sport of bandy has flown under the radar in the Twin Cities for more than 30 years. Until a week ago, I had never heard of bandy. And, unless you were raised in Sweden or Russia, you’ve probably never heard of it either.

Bandy can only be described as a sort of field hockey on skates: The game is played on an ice rink the size of a soccer field, where the players try to score goals into a wide net with a bright orange or pink tennis-sized, hard rubber ball using a bandystick. A four-foot, curved stick with the blade wrapped in leather for better spin and control on the ball, the bandystick is more similar to a field hockey stick than a hockey stick. Each team consists of 11 players including the goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the goalkeeper, they play without a bandystick and must use their hands to stop goals.

Still with me?

Hockey? Bandy? As long as we’re on skates

With Minnesota’s palpable infatuation with hockey, and deep Scandinavian roots, it’s no surprise Minnesota has fallen in love with this exciting, fast-paced and high-scoring game on ice. Minnesota is home to the USA Women’s and Men’s Bandy teams with native Minnesotans making up the majority of the roster. Both teams train, practice, and play at the Roseville OVAL which is the only facility to have a regulation size outdoor bandy rink in all of North America. Not too shabby, Minnesota.

Called the ‘fastest game on ice’, the sport of bandy is the forerunner to hockey with a surprisingly long history dating back as far as the 1800s in England. Stemming from Welsh, the word bandy means ‘a curved stick’ and in 1891 England established the National Bandy Association creating standard rules and regulations for the game. Bandy truly took off and gained popularity when the sport was introduced in Sweden, and from there spread across Europe through Norway, Switzerland, and Germany until finally reaching Russia. The sport remains incredibly popular in Sweden and Russia, drawing in crowds by the thousands to watch a match.

You can join them: Now is the perfect time for you to become a true fan with the 2018 Bandy World Championships just around the corner. The USA Women’s and Men’s teams have been training hard as they will face the best in the world. The USA Women’s team is off to compete in Chengde, China, while the USA Men’s team is traveling to Khabarovsk, Russia to play.

And, if you’re looking to play yourself, Minnesotans have easy access to the sport of bandy right here in nearby Roseville. Bandy takes incredible stamina, not to mention exceptional skating skills, but if you feel you’re up for the challenge, you can join a league and experience the fun of bandy for yourself. Or, if you’re like me and look like Bambi on ice, you can still go to the OVAL and watch a match from the stands. Check out the USA Women and USA Men Bandy teams to follow and cheer them on as they travel to Russia and China to play for the championship.