Underwater hockey

Underwater hockey was created in the mid-twentieth century, by those that found ice, street and field hockey all to unexciting. It seemed that the only things left unchallenged in hockey were air and water. Thus, this game removed the first, and added the latter. Underwater hockey is held at the bottom of a swimming pool 2-4 meters deep. The 6 players in the water must hold their breath while playing, but there are 4 substitutes that may be used freely. Players wear masks, fins, snorkels, protective gloves, headgear/ ear protectors, and mouth guards. Sticks are 11 inches long and are used to pass a 3.5 pound metal covered puck into a 3 meter goal. World-class payers are able to “flick” the puck off the bottom of the pool more than 15 feet to a receiving player.
Underwater hockey is a non-contact game, and the players do not generally leave their “zones” to play the puck. Because no player can hold their breath forever, scoring relies heavily on team effort. The players exert themselves to exhaustion, so this limits bottom playing time to less than 30 seconds. Brute strength is of lesser importance than ice or street hockey because the water lessens body mass and calls for torque and quick movements. Games have two 15 minute halves with unlimited substitutions. Two referees are in the water and one is on deck who assess penalties of up to 2 minutes to be spent in the penalty box (“sin-bin”). Just like the “power plays” in ice hockey, the team who suffers the penalty plays short during this time. Unlike soccer or ice hockey, the goalie is not limited to a certain place.
June of this year marked the 10th Biennial World Championship Underwater Hockey Competition. Teams from 20 countries arrived at the San Jose University. This event was hosted by the Underwater Society of America (USOA), and sanctioned by the World Underwater Federation (CMAS). The first 5 days were reserved for practice and the remaining eight for competition. There were four different divisions competing: Elite men, Elite women, Masters-mixed teams over age 35, and Women’s masters over age 32. Some countries that attended this game were Australia, South Africa, Britain, New Zealand, Germany, Turkey, Argentina, Canada and Slovakia.
This sport is important to sport history because it deviates away from the norm of hockey. It creates a new type of skill needed to play hockey- endurance under water is very different from endurance on land. This also brings together many countries from around the world- and the people that believe that sports don’t have to just be what has always been. And as Patrick Partington (underwater hockey enthusiast) said, in this game “air is a privilege, not a right!”.
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