Introduction to Underwater Hockey

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Those who have even a passing interest in ice hockey but live in those parts of the world where ice, let alone ice rinks, are sparse should take a look into underwater hockey.

Those who have even a passing interest in ice hockey but live in those parts of the world where ice, let alone ice rinks, are sparse should take a look into underwater hockey. Underwater hockey can serve as an excellent supplement or even a component of any exercise regimen, and can be played anywhere one can find a good swimming pool.

A fast and exhilarating non-contact “puck” sport played by holding one’s breath, underwater hockey is a good example of a cross between anaerobic (without oxygen) and aerobic (with oxygen) workout. On the surface & underwater, the player sporadically uses his leg, arm & body muscles at great force and at a high speed for short periods of time. Both anaerobic and aerobic exercises are important in developing divers’ physical fitness. Being a team sport, underwater hockey is also a great way to develop team skills and strategy, often without the use of one’s voice.

History

Originating in the United Kingdom during the early 1950’s, underwater hockey was previously known as “Octopush”, with the name stemming from the original rules of eight players (octo), and the use of the tiny shuffleboard stick known as “pusher” (push). In those early years, divers played underwater hockey to keep fit for scuba diving during winter.

Nowadays

Underwater hockey has already spread its reach, or should one say “spread its fins” to even non-winter countries across the world: In Africa – Republic of South Africa; in America – Argentina, Canada, Colombia and U.S.A.; in Asia – People’s Republic of China, Japan, Lebanon, Philippines and Singapore; in Europe – Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Netherlands and Turkey; and in Oceania – Australia & New Zealand.

CMAS

The Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) otherwise known as the World Underwater Federation, is the governing body for underwater hockey and other sub-aquatic sports disciplines. Continental tournaments are conducted annually by member nations and a biennial CMAS World Championship is hosted in one of the continents. Events played are open men and women’s teams and the master’s teams (over 35years old for men and over 32 years old for women).

Game overview

Underwater hockey is played in a 25m x 15m x 2m pool. The game consists of 15-minute halves and a 3-minute break during halftime. Each team is allowed one-60 second time-out per half. The game clock stops for any infringement in its last 2 minutes.
Players

The original 8 players of the 1950’s has been increased to 12. Thus, 12 players compose each team of Black & White. However, only 10 are allowed to play during each game:

  • 6 players are in the pool
  • 4 act as substitutes who can replace any player at any given time.

The general team formation is

  • 3 forwards – a centre-forward with 2 wings; and
  • 3 backs – a centre back and 2 half backs.

Each member covers a circular zone with interlocking similar to the Olympic rings.

How to Play

Teams start at each end of the pool above their goals. With one hand holding the pool wall, players wait for the referee to blow the whistle signalling the start of the game. It is then that the action begins. Both teams race frantically and fast dive to the middle of the pool to have possession of the puck. The puck can only be played with regulation sticks coloured either black or white in order to distinguish the two teams. 3-meter-long sheet metal goals are located at each end of the playing area.The players flick the puck either to pass to their team-mates or to make a goal using hand sticks. Flicking is done with the wrist, allowing the puck to travel along the length of the front edge of the stick. Good players are able to make the puck fly up to 3 metres distance going over another player or a metre off the bottom of the opponent. The winning team is always the one that has the most possession of the puck outwitting the opponent with individual puck handling skills, fast finning, and well-coordinated team play. The losing team is definitely the team that gave the winning team a hard time with its own strengths but only to a lesser degree than that of the winners.

Penalties

Unlike ice hockey, underwater hockey is a non-contact sport. Use of the free hand to grab an opponent or the puck, obstruction, charging, are all foul calls judged by two underwater Referees who signal the topside Referee to sound the underwater signal which stops the game.

The Referees can choose from among the following penalties:

  • award a free puck giving a 3-metre advantage to the disadvantaged team
  • eject players for one or two minutes or for the rest of the game
  • award a penalty shot having two offenders to one defender if a foul was committed while goal tending within 3-metres of the goal
  • just award a penalty goal.

Equipment

The standard equipment for underwater hockey is as follows:

  1. full-foot fins (no buckles, not too long or short)
  2. low volume split lens diving mask (centre post acts as a safety guard from puck)
  3. shortened flexible snorkel (less drag and safer than hard plastic)
  4. a latex top coated glove (protection from pool tiles, stick & puck)
  5. water polo cap (protects the ears, black or white team colour)
  6. mouth guard (attached to the snorkel mouthpiece to protect mouth)
  7. swimsuit (racing type)8. plastic coated, lead puck weighing 1.5 kg.
  8. regulation sticks (black or white)10. three-metre sheet metal goals

Conclusion

Underwater Hockey is inexpensive. It is great sport for anyone who wishes to be physically fit underwater and at the same time be a good team player. All divers should try and learn this underwater sport as it gives guaranteed full satisfaction to its players.

As an addendum, I speak as the collective voice of my co-players in the sport. I would like to say that I first tried this sport 27 years ago, and I must say I am hooked. Or should I say, “hocked”?

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