Pat Root was in ninth grade when he was first exposed to floorball.
Root played hockey every Tuesday and Thursday morning in gym class. One day, his teacher decided it was time for a change. That’s when floorball made its way to St. Andrew’s in Ontario.
Little did Root know, he would go on to play for and captain the Canadian U-19 floorball team twice and compete in an international adult world championship. He helped floorball – a game with elements of ice hockey, box lacrosse and field lacrosse – gain popularity in Canada. Now, with lifelong experience playing a variety of stick sports, Root starts at long-stick midfield for Drexel.
“I think floorball has the same effects as hockey would have on playing lacrosse,” Root said. “The idea of having the stick in the hand and that motor skill is all the same throughout those three sports.”
The main differences between indoor hockey and floorball are that the boards around the rink go up to one’s knees and the stick can’t come up above the knees, Root said.
Despite Canada’s ties to hockey, floorball was an entirely new game to the country when Root first found out about it in gym class. He and his teammates played three nights a week and two hours a night, just for fun.
That was just the beginning, though.
Because of the sport’s lack of popularity, they were able to form a Canadian national team – 80 percent of which comprised players from St. Andrew’s – to compete at the world championships in Finland. The players knew they were in for a challenge, but they didn’t know just how strong the competition would be.
Canada got destroyed, finishing near the bottom of a group of about 25 teams, Root said. The players lacked the floorball finesse that European teams had mastered. Accustomed to indoor hockey and ice hockey, Canada’s physical style of play frustrated opposing coaches and didn’t bode well with referees, Root said.
“In Canada, when we’re born, they give us a hockey stick,” Root said. “The kids that we were playing on the German teams, on the Finnish teams, they get a floorball stick when they’re born. That’s what they do. That’s what they play.”
But Root wasn’t done. He used that failure as fuel for next year’s world championship. Assembling a team of both Canadian and European players who were cut from their own teams, the Canadians formed a more formidable squad heading into the tournament.
Playing in front of 3,000 raucous fans in the quarterfinals amid a memorable run, Canada still lost, but it put up a fight, falling to the heavily favored host Germany by just two goals, Root said.
“It’s kind of hard to compete with, but eventually, I think you catch up and you make that gap a little bit smaller,” Root said. “I think getting to the quarterfinals showed that North America is developing to play the sport with the rest of Europe.”
Root went on to play defense for the men’s national team and was its youngest player. He said his team lost one game to No. 2 Finland 14-2, but he scored a top-corner goal.
While floorball was a key component of Root’s life, it wasn’t the only sport he played growing up. He also excelled in box lacrosse since the age of 6. In ninth grade, he tried out for an American field lacrosse team and got cut, motivating him to improve. Root eventually made the Ontario-based Edge Lacrosse team, which is when Drexel head coach Brian Voelker first saw him play — Root’s floorball prowess in the back of his mind.
“We kind of found out about it while we were recruiting him,” Voelker said. “I don’t think anybody here really knew what it was. All the coaches got on the Internet and looked up some YouTube stuff.”
After breaking his arm on the third day of practice last season, Root redshirted. This year, he plays long-stick midfield and is first on the team in caused turnovers with 10 and second in groundballs with 21.
Fellow defender Matt Dusek has been impressed with Root – one of seven Canadians on Drexel’s roster – so far. He said playing floorball likely helped hone Root’s stick skills.
“He flicks the ball to the spots where nobody is and then picks up the groundball easily,” Dusek said. “With things like that, I think it helps him out a lot.”