COLTON - In the large scope of things, the Colton Broomball League may still be in its infancy.
But even in season one, the leagues impact on the community can already be felt widespread.
The organization, headed by Dan Murphy, officially began play on Jan. 6 as the Dirt Dogs took down Mikes Inn by a score of 3-1.
Since the season opener, the league (which consists of seven teams) has played games every Monday and Thursday night, with a mid-season tournament taking place a few weekends ago. All of the games take place at the South Colton Pavilion at Swift Field.
The league is open to any individual over 18 years of age and no previous experience is required. All equipment, helmets and insurance were provided to the players at no cost.
When we initially approached the town with the idea to form the Colton Broomball League, our goal was to try to provide a winter activity for the residents of Colton and the surrounding area that nearly anyone could participate in. We wanted it to be something that would require little or no financial investment from those wanting to play, and we have been more successful than we could have ever imagined, Mr. Murphy said.
This year we had seven teams and weve also had a couple businesses in Potsdam and Colton that want to be added, he said. We limited the number of teams because (it) being our first year, we didnt want to go overboard and not have enough (players) for each team.
Every Monday night featured one game, while doubleheaders took place every Thursday evening - one game at 7 and one game at 8 p.m. Being a seven-week regular season, one of the teams would receive a bye each week.
Mr. Murphy said that when he was creating the league, he was expecting teams to consist of far less members than what he saw at the end of the season. Additionally, the popularity of the group was not limited to participants.
It has completely been over and above what I thought it would be. We thought each of the teams would have six or seven players on them. Some teams have 15 or 16 people on them, he said. During the first few weeks we had like 35 people watching (each game.) Every week we have at least 15 or 20 people watching. That amount is over what we expected.
Like ice hockey, only six players, including a goalie, are permitted to play at one time in the game.
Mr. Murphy pointed out that various local businesses and non-profits funded the league, and are truly what made the league run in its first year.
Colton is very lucky to have a great group of small business owners that are dedicated to our community. Their generous support has allowed players to participate in the league completely free of charge, which we think has been a crucial aspect of our early success, he said.
We also think that a lot of the appeal can be attributed to our laid-back style. Our league has a feel that is more like a group of kids getting together to play pond hockey, rather than a by the book rules-driven approach, even if the majority of the kids are in their thirties, forties, and fifties, Mr. Murphy said.
The local sponsors included: Whites General Store, The Finish Line, Mikes South of the Rock Inn, The Birches, The Colton Dirt Dogs, The Corner Store, Plumley Real Estate and the South Colton Sno-Skippers. Those interested are allowed to inquire about the various sponsors if they would prefer to play for a particular team.
Mikes South of the Rock Inn is located directly in front of the arena skating rink, and is just one of the many businesses that have benefitted from the start of the league.
Its impacted our business quite a bit. So its really nice and its good for the community, even for people that arent playing. There are a lot of people coming just to watch the game, co-owner Linda Pratt said. Theyre having a blast (with the league.) Some of them come over before or after the game and have drinks or pizza or something. Since the games are Monday and Thursday, Thursday nights especially have been a big boost for us after the games.
Ms. Pratt co-owns the restaurant/bar with her husband Mike, and they are open every day except Tuesday. They may be reached at 315-262-2178.
Everybody gets together and talks and families are coming in with their kids. I think people are understanding that South Colton is alive and there is a nice family restaurant here, Ms. Pratt said.
Mr. Murphy said that they are hoping to add between four and six teams to the league next year.
The community aspect of the league itself is great, but just as important is the benefit for our sponsors. The winter months can be difficult for businesses in the north country, especially with the poor snowmobiling conditions that we have had thus far. Our league is bringing literally over a hundred people out to Colton each week, he said.
Our hope when we started out was that we could maintain enough interest to be able to continue the league next year, but we are now working with the town of Colton Department of Public Works to develop a plan for reasonable expansion next year, as well as a plan for carrying over our winter success into the summer months for some nontraditional sports leagues that our residents can enjoy, he said.
The first ever Colton Broomball playoffs will be taking place from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, as well as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.