Underwater sports are getting immensely popular in different parts of the world, particularly in regions where the oceans are clean and safe. One of those sports is underwater hockey.
Nobody would have thought that hockey would be played underwater someday, but the fact that this innovation makes the game more interesting must have played a big role in this unique sport’s development.
Underwater hockey was invented in the 1950s by none other than British, their navy came up with an interesting idea to keep their divers in shape and improve their efficiency in the water. But then, the game soon caught the attention of several other nations including Australia where it is quite popular now.
This sport is a combination of both ice hockey and swimming, impeccable swimming skills and agility is required underwater to compete in this unique sport.
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Object of the Game
The object of the game is to score as many goals as you can using the hockey sticks. Of course, to do so, players have to remain underwater and they only come on the surface whenever a goal is scored or a foul is made by a team.
In general, the game of underwater hockey is played in a certain timeframe and the team scoring more goals in that time is deemed the winner.
How to Play?
Underwater hockey is played inside the pool with a referee swimming inside along with players. It is played with a small stick and a puck which is to be sent in the opposition’s goal area in order to score a goal. Both teams have their separate goal areas to protect, players also wear protective equipment to stay safe and comfortable under water.
As compared to field hockey, underwater hockey has more fouls and rules dictating how you can hit the ball and what kind of tackling is prohibited. Find out everything in the later section of this article.
General Rules of Underwater Hockey
- Each team plays with 10 players for a game.
- Only 6 of them stay in the pool at a time.
- The remaining 4 can be used as substitutes.
- Players are given underwater hockey sticks and they can maneuver the puck (we have a puck here instead of a hockey ball) in the pool by using a stick only.
- No body contact is allowed with the puck.
- Also, you can’t make physical contact with your opponent unless he is in possession of the ball.
- Pushing, shoving or fighting with any opponent in the pool is strictly prohibited.
- In case of minor offenses, referees give advantage to the non-offensive side. In such instances, they can push back the offending side 3 meters away from the puck while the other team gets the possession.
- In case of serious infringements, like deliberately trying to injure your opponent or cause obstruction when he is almost on the verge of scoring a goal, this can result as a penalty given to the non-offensive side and the player can be sent out from the pool for a certain time period.
- If the player ends up actually injuring his opponent, he can be sent out of the pool for the rest of the game.
- Referee swims with the player underwater and ensures that players comply with the rules of the game.
Time Duration of a Match
The game of underwater hockey is played in two different halves – each of 15 minutes – and between these halves, players get a 5-minute break to take little rest.
As the name suggests, underwater hockey is played in a pool usually around 25m in length, 12 m wide and 2m deep. Ropes or leads weights are used as a goal at both ends of the pool.
For a professional level underwater hockey game, you need the following equipment.
Generally, there are no such restrictions on what to wear in the game but baggy style trunks or shorts are not recommended because they can affect your swimming speed in the pool. Normally, male players wear swim briefs or jammers and female players wear two-piece swimsuits with drawstring bottoms.
A diving mask comes handy because it allows the player to equalise his ears. Moreover, unlike swim goggles, this mask sits outside the eye orbit and reduces the effects of any impact. According to the published rules of underwater hockey, the mask must have two lenses to reduce the risk and extent of possible injury from puck impact.
Snorkel allows the player to watch the progress of the game without having to lift his head from the water to breathe. It allows him to keep the position on the surface and join any time his team mate needs him. To maximise the efficiency of breathing and reduce drag, underwater snorkels are often short with a wide bore and may include a drain valve.
As per the published rules, the snorkel used in underwater hockey must not have sharp edges and points.
Quick movement under water is impossible with fins. They allow a player to swim faster and move around quickly. As per the published rules, the fins without sharp edges and corners are allowed in the game. Mostly, plastic and rubber composite fins are commonly used by players to swim quickly.
The sticks used in underwater hockey are smaller than traditional hockey sticks and light. Players of both the teams use one specific colour of stick in order to easily identify their opponent and team mate.
As per the published rules, the stick (including the handle) must fit into a box of 100 mm × 50 mm × 350 mm (3.9 in × 2.0 in × 13.8 in). Construction material can be wood or plastics.
Instead of a hockey ball, a puck is used in underwater hockey. The idea behind using it is to stay down on the floor easily and players can easily maneuver it around. It weights around 1.3-1.5 kgs and is encapsulated or surrounded by a plastic covering. This plastic covering is always performance-matched to different pool bottoms.
Wearing gloves underwater is mandatory. These gloves are worn to protect the playing hand against pool bottom abrasion and protect knuckles during the shot. An important rule regarding the glove here is players can;t wear the same colour gloves as of the puck. This helps the referee to ensure that players are not touching the puck by hands.
One referee supervises the game by swimming under the water with players. His job is to detect fouls and punish the offensive side by various means.
Famous Underwater Hockey Tournament
The World Underwater Hockey Championship is held after a 2-4 year gap. This championship is held in countries where underwater hockey is popular like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Unfortunately the game doesn’t have an exclusive governing body at international level but it comes under various other governing bodies like World Aqua Challenge.
The good thing is, despite the dispute, the world underwater hockey championship is held and different countries participate in the tournament due to collaborative efforts of different associations governing the game in different regions.