A wise crab once said: “it’s better, down where it’s wetter”. He probably wasn’t talking about playing hockey, though. Because the first thought that creeps into your head when you hear there’s a sport called underwater hockey, is something like “oh no, that’s ridiculous, won’t they all drown?”. And this is a valid thought, because yes, it is ridiculous. And yes, they could all drown.
You might also think that underwater hockey was a sport conceived by a founder of a Southsea Sub-Aqua club in 1954. If you did think that, then wow, you’ve come into this article with some strong background knowledge of this relatively unknown sport. Well done you.
Did you also know though, that the original name for it was octopush? Which ranks very highly in the history of sport-naming. And it’s even better when you realise that it’s probably how Sean Connery would say: octopus. It’s a crying shame he wasn’t still Bond when Octopussy was made…
Sadly, only the UK uses octopush as a name, because the rest of the world is boring. Or maybe they thought newbies to the sport would mistakenly assume the game would revolve around pushing octopuses. Either way, the premise of underwater hockey is very much in its self-explanatory name. Because it’s quite literally hockey, that is played underwater. But there are subtle differences: the stick is now a little thing called a pusher; the puck is now made of 3-pound lead; there are no goalies; and, oh yes, you can drown. Because, y’know, it’s underwater.
The dangers of playing underwater hockey are blatantly obvious. Apart from the considerable lack of air, there’s also a risk to your little old skull. With people whizzing lead pucks around, and no-one wearing helmets, you could be struck on the head with one. In reality, though, it’s no different from land hockey where they play without helmets either. Except they do have helmets in ice hockey, the cowards (please don’t tell Tie Domi, we said that).
There is one major difference between land hockey and underwater hockey, though: underwater hockey is underwater (not sure if that’s been made clear enough yet). And being underwater for long periods of time is another hefty risk, as you tend to miss out on that helpful thing called oxygen. Thankfully, players are allowed to come up for air throughout the game, but most will wait until after they score. Because a sport isn’t a proper sport, unless your life precariously hangs in the balance if you don’t win.
— Underwater hockey (@UnderWaterH) September 13, 2017
Besides the craziness of it all, the game of underwater hockey plays out like most other sports. There’s referees, penalties, formations, time-outs, and all the other usual traits that come with a run-of-the-mill land sport.
There’s even a governing body: CMAS (although, their logo is, um, questionable), and a world championship that’s been running every two years since 1980. As you can imagine though, watching a game isn’t exactly easy. Unless they hold the tournaments in an aquarium that is. But then, the risk of a fishy pitch invasion dramatically increases.
And that’s underwater hockey in a clam-shell. The simple, insane idea of taking a popular sport, and covering it in gallons of water to see what happens. If it does eventually take-off and become a mainstream sport, expect more variations on this theme: underwater football, where diving is positively encouraged; underwater boxing, where you float like a fish and not like a butterfly; and underwater golf, where you have to repeatedly play a drop ball until everyone gives up in frustration and swims back to the surface.