The second floor of the Garlington, Lohn and Robinson building in downtown Missoula reeks of stale sweat. The dull thwacks of broomsticks echo off drywall. Attorneys in track shorts and T-shirts smash into one another, slipping on the dust-slicked concrete floor. Several have duct-tape wraps on their fingers. Everyone has a bruise or two.
Broomball's an unforgiving sport.
Just over a month ago, GL&R attorney Charles Hansberry approached his colleagues on the third floor with a proposition: Face off, floor against floor, in a friendly game of broomball, a sport somewhat akin to hockey. They laid out a court using tape and proceeded to snap a number of Wal-Mart brooms in half one Thursday night.
"I arched my eyebrows a bit when Chuck first told me about this," says GL&R business manager Doug Maves.
What began as an internal office league has since expanded into the broader Missoula legal community. Hansberry "just started calling other firms," asking if they'd like to play. They were blowing through brooms quickly, until the team from Crowley Fleck showed up a few weeks ago with regulation broomball brooms.
Tonight's bout, against administrators from Community Medical Center, is Maves's first night with a broomand he's not doing badly. It's also the first game Hansberry's group has played against a non-law team.
GL&R's broomball games don't subscribe to many rules. They don't play by any clock, just until somebody calls for a beer break. There don't appear to be any personal fouls, either. Hansberry says he picked up broomball during the off-season with the Missoula Maggots rugby team. That goes a long way toward explaining the bruises. "It's fun," says Renee Kjelsrud, a paralegal. "But it's a lot harder than it looks."
The Community Medical Center game drags on for a brutal two hours, with Alan McCormick taking a number of fantastic spills for GL&R. Hansberry's team loses for the first time.
Hansberry says he hesitates to make the league a bigger deal than it already is. He wants to keep it "playground-based."
That seems to be working. Even over victory beers, nobody tonight can remember the final score.