The first season in NAFL history is in the books - how did it go? Was the mission of the NAFL accomplished? What's been happening since the league ended?
It's now been seven weeks since the end of the inaugural NAFL season...and in between that time, US Floorball pivoted to the US National Championships in Utah, and the US Men's U19 also faced Canada to qualify for next spring's World Floorball Championships in Denmark. Oh, and during the NAFL season we took a break to host the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, where the US played the top teams in the world - including some NAFL players!
By any account, it's been a hell of a summer for US Floorball.
The season was such a whirlwind that it was difficult for our family to keep up news posts, social media, and web. Somehow we managed to keep up with Instagram, but between the travel and trying to still do our careers here at the Radichel household made for an interesting summer. Still, the NAFL completed all four weeks with a lot of high-energy, highly competitive matches between the four teams. The mission of the NAFL was to show American fans how fast and exciting the game is when it is played at a high level, and to grow the skill and depth of the US floorball community.
The floorball at the league level was unlike anything I'd seen live before. It was fast, physical, and intense! A couple of Lone Star Brahmas season ticket holders stopped by on our first night at Nytex during our home weekend and wound up coming back the rest of the weekend to support the team. They asked me "why haven't we heard about this sport before? It's a lot of fun to watch and it's so fast!"
First part of the mission was definitely accomplished, I'd say.
While the league had a good start, the Jags unfortunately fell short in the Troy Cup final, falling to the Florida Vikings. I'm proud of the team and our coaches and how hard they worked during the year. Second place on our home floor after such a promising start hurt, but the team went down fighting. We finished 10-4 on the season and got a lot of playing time for our domestic players (more on that in a bit).
That was the second goal of the NAFL: grow the American domestic talent so that when the Europeans went home, the American game would be better. One of the things the entire league was based on was our desire to improve US Floorball. Every team had to have 25% of the dressed players on the bench be based in the US so that they would learn the way the Euros played and how the highest levels of world floorball practiced, coached, and performed.
Did it work? Well, a month after the NAFL completed USA Floorball held the US National Championship in Salt Lake City. I'm proud to say that our local club, North Texas Floorball Association (NTFA) took home the gold for the second time in club history! On that team were a few Jaguars: Isak Angerstig, Matthew Yonai, Jari Voutilainen, Dan Torretta, and Alex Gross. I spoke to Alex after the tournament in SLC and he commented how much the game had slowed down for him after the NAFL season.
Later that night, the US won their first-ever qualifying match against Canada in the Men's U19 division. One of the U19 starting goalies was Jaguar Rylan Rasmussen. Rylan said after the match in which he held Canada to 5 goals over 60 minutes that it was entirely due to the work he had put in this summer that made it so much easier for him to play at that level! Other big contributors on the US side were Fresno Force forward Max Blanco, Utah Raptors forward Janis Tveten, and Florida Vikings defender Hugo Rouvinen. Oh, and the Canada coach was Matt Smith, Fresno Force captain in the NAFL.
I'd say the second part of the mission was also successful!
US Floorball is on the rise, and now we turn to the fall season in many home clubs. There's quite a bit of excitement now that a few new clubs have formed over the last year in Nashville and Birmingham. The NAFL is considering expansion as we turn to our offseason and winter meetings. NAFL players are getting signed to new and higher leagues as they go home to Europe. Our resident Jaguar blogger Sami Illonen just signed with SB Vantaa in Finland. Jaguars defender Onni Forss plays for the Finnish Men's U19 National Team, and of course our Finnish Legion from the Westend Indians is still together, running up the score on their opponents.
World floorball just had a great Women's U19 tournament, and we're getting ready to watch the Men play their world championship event this fall...and cheer on Canada as Matt Smith leads them out on behalf of North America.
There's so much more to talk about and I will share more over the next few weeks as the fall progresses. Locally, NTFA opened their league play last night, and in the second of two matches Jaguar goalies Gross and Rasmussen faced off in a great nail-biter of a game, ultimately finishing in a 3-3 draw. We even had a new player join us from the Nytex crew who got interested from watching the Jags play this summer!
Are you ready to try floorball? NTFA plays every Monday night at Elzie Odom Rec Center in Arlington at 7:30 and 8:45. Match results can be found at www.ntfa.us. The season runs for 14 weeks. There's also pick up games at the Community Activities Center in Flower Mound on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. Contact the CAC for details. Stop by one of the pickups and try the game, or come down to cheer on the four teams that play within NTFA. I guarantee you'll be surprised at how fast and exciting our sport can be.