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Rescheduled Cornwall, Ont. broomball tournament welcomes athletes from across Canada

CORNWALL, ONT. -

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Juvenile Broomball Championships are finally underway in Cornwall, Ont. 

For the Henry family, it runs in their blood.

"My father started in the 60s, he played with a stick that he cut off from the milk house, taped it up, and he went out and played broomball," said Ina Henry. 

"He sent that love to all us. We're a family of 12, we all play broomball. For myself, we have six children and we all play," she added, pointing to her niece Taylor. 

"She is fourth generation broomball player playing this year; very, very proud of all of my kids."

"I started at probably the age of 12," added Gail Henry. "Played all the way through and have been coaching since my oldest, who is 19, was 5."

Their team, the Eastern Valley Devils, who play and practice in nearby Finch, are co-hosting the event along with the Eastern Warriors. 

"This is a great big deal. We're so excited to be here," Gail added. “We put a lot work into organizing this, we love the city of Cornwall and the Benson Centre for giving us these wonderful facilities here." 

The Juvenile Broomball Championships are underway in Cornwall, Ont. after a two year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

The original event was scheduled in 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans.  

"They shut us down, we were ready to go," said co-chair of the event Christine deRepentigny. "Now it's basically like the Olympics, we're doing a 2020 version in 2022."

More than 320 athletes between 14 and 20 years old have converged on the dual pad arena, making up 16 boys and girls teams from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. 

"The Manitoba team were on a bus for 28 hours to get here, boys and girls, so 40 kids on a bus with bus driver and coaches. My hat goes off to them," said deRepentigny.

Broomball closely resembles hockey in play, using five players plus a goalie. The redline acts as offside, not the blue line, and the game consists of two 18-minute periods.  Players wear special shoes instead of skates.

"They're kind of like a sponge material on the bottom, leather shoe. They have foot protection in them for the kids." deRepentigny said. 

DeRepentigny has been around the sport for decades, playing as a goalie for 30 years. She says with the event cancelled for two years, some players could not compete in this event that qualified in 2020. 

"I was coaching at that time, my daughter aged out. Her group, there was about nine of them, aging out at that time. They really wanted to play," deRepentigny said. "But what's really fun is that they've come back this year to volunteer and cheer on the younger team."

The Bruno Axemen from Saskatchewan celebrate the winning goal to beat Manitoba at the Juvenile Broomball Championships in Cornwall, Ont. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

Cameron Muir from Chesterville has been playing for 18 years. He's coaching both a boys and girls team who are co-hosting.

"You see lots of competition on the ice but everyone else is nice and friendly off the ice," Muir said. "Everyone is having a good time, ready to have a good time playing and watching it's awesome."

Muir just finished playing in a tournament in Saskatoon, Sask. last week, adding the sport is very popular. 

"I've been playing since I was 10 years old, I'm 28 now so 18 years. (I've) been coaching for six years now and still playing," he said.  "My dad used to play and he got me into it as a child and I've loved it ever since."

"If you are good at hockey or bad at hockey, like a team atmosphere and you like to run hard, it's a great sport," Muir added. "If you're bad at skating, I really suggest trying broomball. If you like ball hockey,  broomball is your sport."

This event wraps up the broomball season, with the next major tournament in the sport - the world championships - scheduled for the fall. The city of Kingston is in the running to host that event.

"That's a senior level competition so we're hopefully going to see quite a few countries come down for that," deRepentigny said. 

For Gail Henry, she says it's a fun sport to be a part of, and encourages others to try it out if they get a chance. 

"I think they just have to come out and play," she said. "It's just one of those sports when you watch, you're not sure, but if you actually put the shoes on and come out and play, almost everybody who tries it loves it and keeps going."

The tournament began on Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday where the 2020, or make that, 2022 champion, will be crowned.

For more information about the sport, visit www.broomball.ca

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