Top 9.5 reasons why bandy is your new favorite sport


Swedish professional bandy teams Hammarby and Kungälv compete in Stockholm. Bandy is one of two demonstration sports for the 2014 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy of Jens Söderblom.

Swedish professional bandy teams Hammarby and Kungälv compete in Stockholm. Bandy is one of two demonstration sports for the 2014 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy of Jens Söderblom.
Swedish professional bandy teams Hammarby and Kungälv compete in Stockholm. Bandy is one of two demonstration sports for the 2014 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy of Jens Söderblom.

Minnesota has a widely known infatuation with winter sports, including hockey, pond hockey, field hockey, basketball (much more exciting on an outdoor court in a blizzard) and avoiding careening F-150’s while crossing icy streets. All of these sports pale in comparison, however, to the glorious feat of athletic performance known as bandy. Most of you probably don’t (read: you’re insane if you do) possess much knowledge about this avant-garde ice spectacle, but allow this to be your baptism by fire into what will without a doubt become your new favorite way to spend hours outside in -30 degree weather.

1. Bandy is like soccer on skates:

A bandy rink is around 110 yards by 60 yards, making it much closer to the dimensions of a soccer pitch than one of the dinky rinks that hockey is played on. The goals are 11 feet wide and seven feet tall, and the goalie doesn’t use a stick. This makes sense and also proves that hockey goalies are basically cheapskates who get to block the entire goal with their bodies and take advantage of tools available to them. Bandy is also timed like soccer, with two 45-minute halves that use a running clock. In the olden days, clubs used to have combined bandy and soccer teams that would play different sports depending on the time of the year.

2. There are only eight rules and one defined position:

For anyone who is sick and tired of constant penalty flags in football, free throws in basketball, and bogus offsides calls in soccer, bandy is the perfect redemptive athletic activity. The only real position is the goalie, and all 10 other people get to do what they want—although they usually have specialized roles. Although bandy contains some rules like offsides (can’t win them all!), it’s largely a free-flowing sport as long as time is running. The coolest rule is that substitutions can occur at any time with no stoppage of play, with up to four players on each side coming on and off the ice.

3. Bandy is a sport of internationalism:

From Sweden to Norway to Finland, people all across the world enjoy playing bandy. Although the Scandinavian nations have dominated the sport in recent years, countries as far-flung as India and Argentina have national bandy organizations that facilitate leagues. Bandy is probably so inclusive in part because no one has ever heard of it and teams need all the participation that they can get, but that’s really beside the point.

4. The 2012 Bandy Women’s World Championships was in Irkutsk, a place I thought only existed on Risk boards:

Did you know Irkutsk was a real place? I always thought it was something that they made up when they were developing Risk. It sounds like a noise you make when you sneeze. Apparently it’s one of the largest cities in Siberia and a great place to play women’s bandy. Either way, claiming all of Asia in Risk is a lot like winning a bandy World Championship: you may bask in glory momentarily, but those wily Kazakhstanis will find a way to seize your hard-earned property.

5. Bandy uses a ball instead of a puck:

Pucks are so passé, with their measurable dimensions and limited ability to fly all over the place. The small orange ball is a much more perfect object in a Platonic sense; it represents the Earth, delicious oranges, and all that makes bandy much cooler than any other sport. Imagine how crazy soccer would be if the ball was about a quarter of its size. It’d be a lot more intense, right? That’s about the size of a bandy ball, which tells you something about the frenetic pace of this sport.

6. Bandy isn’t an Olympic sport, but ping-pong is, so there’s that:

I don’t care if Forrest Gump beat Mao Zedong at table tennis and prevented World War III; ping-pong is a game closer to Candyland than a noble, athletic endeavor like bandy. I mean, c’mon, my grandma is pretty good at ping-pong and she’s like 90 years old. I’d like to see how she handles herself on a pair of skates with a 250-pound Swede coming at her. Put bandy in the Olympics. It’s the right thing to do.

7. The home of USA bandy is right here in the Twin Cities:

The only official bandy rink in America is the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval in Roseville, so I guess we win this one by default. Still, it’s pretty cool how accessible the home of a national sport is to Macalester students, and it means that you really have no excuse not to hop on the 84 North and go watch some bandy.

7.5. There’s something called a ‘stroke off’ and a ‘corner stroke’:

Nothing really of substance here, I just think it’s funny how the connotations of words change throughout history and have vastly different meanings depending on their context. Language rules! This one might only be worth half a reason.

8.5. Every single person in the US who plays bandy lives in Minnesota:

According to a 2010 New York Times piece, there are only 300 men, 50 women and 200 children that play organized bandy in the United States. All of them live either in the Twin Cities or come down from up north to support Dynamo Duluth. Talk about an exclusive club! Bandy is definitely a sport of taste-makers, as any bandy-playing Minnesotan will attest.

9.5. As it is hockey’s older, hipper cousin, acting like you know something about bandy will make you seem way cooler than you are:

Hockey already holds a privileged position in the hierarchy of sports pretentiousness because the only people that care about it are ones whose team won the Stanley Cup most recently (go Blackhawks!) and drunk Canadians. When your friend declines a free ticket to see CHVRCHES at First Ave because “nah man, Ottawa is in town and we need this win to stay on top of the Central,” then you know you’re dealing with someone who wants to sound like they know a lot more than you about sports, culture and probably everything.
Bandy, however, takes it to another level. It’s been played since the early 1800s, and was founded in England, well-known to be the most pretentious place on planet Earth. Nowadays, Bandy is mostly popular in Scandinavia, which might be replacing England on the hipness throne. So, the next time you want to sound cultured, tell Hip Hector or Pretentious Penelope that you’re going to watch the Mississippi Mojo play the Minneapolis Bandolier and laugh as they struggle to pretend they know what you’re talking about.

No, I’m not making those team names up. Those are actual names of actual organized sports teams. I know, I can’t believe it either.