Underwater Hockey is alive and well in the City of Toronto and more and more, people are becoming involved in playing the game. In a town where hockey disappointment is the status quo, these players are taking the game into the pools and having fun countering the reputation in the area for crushing loses.
It’s a tough and physically demanding sport and although you won’t see the games televised, they are drawing the interest of many players who describe the sport in a positive light. One player is a gentleman named Marc Porter who a fit and chiseled forward who has only been playing for a short time. He describes the game as fascinating and joined after seeing a flyer in the community centre where he works out in west Toronto. Porter also plays the sport on ice and was rather amazed by the physicality that was demanded from the underwater version. He says that playing has really elevated his cardio health and endurance and that has a positive impact on his ice game. Porter says that he has to bring 100 per cent to his games and when he does score, the feeling is incredible.
Another player, Jun Cheng, got involved in the Toronto Underwater Hockey Club in its renaissance in that last couple of years. She attended a workshop that was held by Emmanuel Caisse from Montreal at her diving club as the game often attracts divers. Cheng says that now that she’s playing underwater hockey, she can easily the two activities as very different. She enjoys the competitive aspect of the hockey game that doesn’t apply to scuba diving where the primary goal is to challenge yourself. The teamwork aspect involved in the game lends a new element to the underwater hockey. She also makes commentary on the breathing limitations that one must work on developing to play and she contends that her abilities have improved dramatically and she can now swim the length of the pool more than twice before coming up for air.
Cheng says her initial involvement was recreational and she is now becoming more serious, attending games at least twice a week while trying to recruit friends to practice with her at her condo pool. She works out by attending training sessions held by Caisse and want to become a stronger player. She is happy to invest much of her free time to developing her game.
Roy Hulli was recruited to the game by a friend with whom he plays soccer and he been attending scrimmages at Trinity Community Recreation Centre for the last six months and is paying forward the recruitment process by introducing at least 10 new players to the game himself. He says that many of those friends were not able to meet the physical demanding quality of the sport and didn’t pursue it to the extent that he has. He says that there’s no point in complaining and that you just have to dive in and enjoy it even as he is sporting some scrapes that he just got from the pool surfaces while playing.
Everyone that plays does share the sentiment that the game is tough and one cannot simply jump into the pool and expect to be an expert immediately. It requires practice and physical training and the ability to be strategic while still remembering to breathe and stay controlled. There is an intensity to that which is far more challenging to the game that is played on ice and the Toronto enthusiasts hope that the game continues to grow in both player and fan popularity.