Hugo Rouvinen may reside in the land of hockey, but for the East Ridge High School junior, floorball is life. And if Rouvinen gets his way, others will soon see his point of view as he works to grow the sport in the U.S. and, hopefully, start a professional team in Minnesota.
Hugo—who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Finland—started playing floorball at 7 years old. At the time, his family lived in Finland, where the sport is wildly popular; in some cases, even more so than hockey. “Friends got me interested in [floorball],” he says. “I wanted to try it out.”
Floorball, which was invented in Sweden in the 1960s, is a noncontact sport that resembles floor hockey with players wielding sticks to score goals. Instead of a puck, a small plastic ball with holes in it (think Wiffle ball, but slightly smaller) is used. Each team has five players and a goalie on the floor. “It is very fast paced, very much like hockey, very entertaining and fun to play,” Hugo says.
In the U.S., Hugo plays floorball two to three times a week with some local clubs in the Twin Cities. The 17-year-old, who is most often found at the position of left or right defender—and, from time to time, left or right forward—is a rising star in the sport. “I would like to think my strength is in stick handling and shooting,” he says.
In January 2020, Hugo played his first game on the U.S. National U16 Team in Sweden. “I have been part of the team ever since,” he says.
Last summer, he was invited to join the Florida Vikings—one of four semi-professional teams in the North American Floorball League—during the league’s first season of play. After the six-week season ended, the Florida Vikings took home the Troy Cup.
In April, Hugo will represent the U.S. at the U19 Floorball World Championships in Denmark. “We just beat Canada for the first time in the history of USA floorball and qualified for World Championships,” he says. “I am very excited to represent the USA in the World Championships.”
Though massively popular across Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland and Germany, floorball is still relatively unheard of in the U.S. But Hugo is working to increase the game’s visibility. “I would like to see floorball grow and expand in Minnesota and in the USA,” he says. “I think [in] Minnesota—being the hockey state—floorball could gain tremendous interest … It is a great alternative or even an off-season practice to hockey.”
“Many of the [NHL] players and almost all the Finnish and Swedish players use floorball as part of their regular practice routine,” Hugo says.
Last fall, Hugo worked to offer open floorball practices and games in Woodbury. He is also hopeful that the North American Floorball League’s next expansion will feature a Minnesota team. (There are currently teams in Florida, Utah, Texas and California.) “We might have a team in Minnesota, which will make it easier for me to have games closer to home,” he says.
North American Floorball League; nafloorball.com