By Caitlin Slater
Underwater Hockey (UWH) also known as Octopush could be the perfect sport for Arizonians to escape the summer heat. I know what you’re thinking right now.
Underwater what? UWH was first established as a winter sport to help keep scuba divers in shape. Though largely popular in the United Kingdom, Octopush has made its way across the Atlantic and into the pools in our own backyards.
Sports360AZ.com talked with UWH player Taylor Snow from New Zealand to fill us in on the sport.
According to Snow, the primary goal of UWH is the same as ice hockey. The main difference is it’s played at the bottom of a swimming pool.
“The main objective is to get the puck from the middle of the pool where it starts to the goal at the end,” Snow told Sports360AZ.com in a recent interview.
Similar to ice hockey there are six players playing at one time, but in UWH they push the puck along the bottom of the pool. Typically there are two forwards, a center, two backs and a goaltender.
As far as rules go, in the pool a player is only allowed to touch the puck with their stick. The puck, made from lead, weighs three pounds. Instead of a long hockey stick, you use a stick about the size of a dinner knife.
Essentially UWH is a non-contact sport, unlike ice hockey, however there are times when the waters get rough and people get kicked or worse, a puck to the face. Ouch!
To keep from getting an injury players wear flippers, snorkel, mask and gloves.
But, if you move the puck with your gloved hand that is considered an illegal advancement of the puck. A player must hit the puck first before their opposition’s stick, that way you aren’t pushing them off.
Other than major differences in attire and the state of H2O, another difference is the goaltender’s position. Snow says, “The goalie isn’t like a regular goalie, they move about. They follow the play but remain at the back.”
In addition, the clock runs a lot quicker than the average hockey match. Snow says it is, “Less of an endurance sport like soccer or football where you play for a long amount of time. It’s more like intense spurts where you sub out players all the time. One game is 18 minutes long with nine-minute halves.”
Though Snow is able to hold his breath for over a minute while playing, he says the trick isn’t how long a player can hold their breath. In fact, players usually hold their breath for 10 to 20 seconds constantly coming up for air. The key is to be quick and agile in the water.
Whether you enjoy playing ice hockey or underwater hockey it’s all about escaping the heat this summer. In recent years UWH has made a big splash in the Sonoran desert.
In June, Phoenix Underwater Hockey took second place in their division at Nationals in Denver. The team gets together every Monday evening at the Mona Plummer Pool. They welcome anyone interested in giving this fun aquatic sport a try. All you have to do is contact William Cleveland through their Meetup page, grab your snorkel gear and head out to the pool!