The Story of the Broom-I-Loo Jersey on Display at The Military Museums
This unusually named sport is a military tradition for one Prairie-based army unit that’s been playing it since the 1920s.
The Broom-I-Loo Jersey of Charles England is on display at the military museums as part of their Play Hard, Fight Hard exhibit.
Photo by Andrew Guilbert
The Military Museums latest exhibit, Play Hard Fight Hard: Sport in the Canadian Military, explores the link between sports and military service and has brought more than 200 army artifacts to Calgary. The collection spans the history of the Canadian Armed Forces and includes old wooden discus, Paralympic torches and a hockey jersey signed by Don Cherry.
One article that naturally draws the eye is an old purple sweater, its fabric torn in more than a few places, labeled with the unusual title of “Broom-I-Loo Jersey,”
Which immediately prompts the question: what is Broom-I-Loo?
A sport created in the 1920s by and for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (a unit mainly based in Western Canada), it is loosely based off the sport of broomball, which was popular at that time in the Prairies.
In Broom-I-Loo, two teams of four forwards, three defenceman and a goalkeeper face off with the objective of getting the ball into the opposing team’s net using their broomball sticks, which resemble, you guessed it, brooms.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PPCLI Archives
Members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry playing Broom-I-Loo in Germany in 1965.
The earliest recorded instance of the sport is a match played on Regimental Day, March 17, 1924, when it was played with a football and actual brooms.
The game has substantially evolved over the years to the point where it barely resembles the hockey-like rules of broomball.
Today, the sport has become full-contact, players can now pick up and run with their balls, and even the terrain – typically an open-air ice-rink without skates – has seen changes according to Sergeant Brad Lowes and long time member of the PPCLI who has played the game in Afghanistan, Bosnia and here at home.
“It’s usually played on an open air ice rink. We’ll set up boards and flood the thing. A lot of times that wasn’t really practical. It was always snowy in March, so we would just play in slush or mud,” says Lowes. “If we had a good day and it was almost summer weather, we’d flood the field the night before, so it was still all mud.”
Photo courtesy of the PPCLI Archives
Muddy, slushy terrain (and players) are commonplace in Broom-I-Loo so much so that members of the PPCLI have been known to flood dry fields of play for that sought-after sludgy feel, as seen in this undated photo.
Lowes says that the PPCLI play the game every March 17 at their bases in Edmonton, Shiloh and wherever they’re deployed in honour of their namesake’s birthday. It was tradition for the PPCLI to dress up their teams any way they choose, which is how the purple jersey now on display came to be.
Though the tradition of making custom uniforms has fallen to the wayside in favour of wearing physical training gear, the friendly rivalry between ranks still holds true today, with matches pitting privates and corporals vs. master corporal as well as the all important officers vs. senior non-commissioned members.
“That game was always the most important because no one wanted to lose to the officers,” says Lowes. “We’d line the field with soldiers and if any of us officers ever came close to the crowd, the crowd would grab the officer, pull him in, sometimes strip him down to his boxers and throw him back to the field!”
To learn more, visit the Play Hard, Fight Hard Exhibit at The Military Museums, 4520 Crowchild Trail S.W. or visit themilitarymuseums.ca.