When you think of hockey, do you ever imagine a swimming pool? There is a sport called underwater hockey and, while it has only been around for a short time, it is growing in popularity all over the world. Also called Octopush, the sport was started in the 50’s as a means of helping scuba divers fit in the off season in the United Kingdom and since then it has gained recognition. Underwater hockey involves two teams that are challenged to score goals by pushing a heavy weighted puck along the bottom of the pool. The game adheres to a strict no contact rule and involves a competitive level of fitness and strategy. Teams are outfitted in snorkeling gear such as masks and fins, with short, blunt sticks and work in conjunction with 5 other team members to score in the opposing net. Additionally, the uniform requires protective head gear and rubberized gloves used for both protection and control. It’s a rapid action sport and requires frequent surfacing for breathing purposes so players must react quickly and rely on other team members to step on to complete plays.
With play happening on the bottom of the pool, players are required to build on skills of underwater volition, quick diving abilities and practiced breathing control. There are also the competitive aspects of the game involved to control and transport the puck, strategize against the opposing team’s defense and maneuver to stop the other team’s offense as the game does not include attending goalies.
The area of play measures 15 metres wide by 25 metres long and is best played at a depth of over 2 metres. Play begins with an audible signal mobilizing the traditional face off with the puck stationary on the pool bottom in the designated play area and teams race from the opposite walls of the pool in an attempt to take possession of the puck, somewhat different from the traditional hockey face off. Each team has a goal comprised of a metal trough measuring approximately 3 metres wide. Team members are furnished with a heavy wooden or polymer stick, about a foot in length, coated in a tough durable plastic. With bevelled edges to create a slight scoop and a curved handle to improve control, it resembles an arched paddle and enables players to push, rather than shoot, the puck around.
To score in underwater hockey, players must work as a team as it is virtually impossible for a single player to complete a play due to breathing requirements. Plays must be strategized by members in advance and modes of non-verbal communication between team members are essential in advancing in the game. Underwater hockey encourages limited contact with players.
As can be assumed, the sport is not the best game for spectators. Unless the pool that is housing the game has an under surface viewing area, it is rather difficult to watch from the edge of pool and thus a live fan base is seldom engaged. At this point in time, filming of the games is also somewhat limited but with technology continuously making dramatic strides, methods for capturing the sport for viewing enjoyment is improving and will soon be more widely available.