The British Navy invented underwater hockey in the 1950s to keep their divers fit and to improve their ability to move and work efficiently under water. The game has evolved into a fast, dynamic sport played in more than 20 countries. Underwater hockey is played in a 25 X 15 yard pool that is normally 6-8 feet deep, with a goal tray on the bottom at either end. The puck is either of lead or brass, is coated with plastic, and weighs about 3 pounds.
Two teams vie to move the puck into the opponent's goal. The goal is 3 yards long and has a trough along the back into which the puck must land to score. Players wear fins, mask, and snorkel in addition to a team bathing suit, a mouthguard, and headgear. Players also wear thick gloves to protect their hands. The puck may only be moved by a black or white hockey stick each player holds. A team consists of 10 players, 6 of whom may be in the pool at any time. Team categories are 'Under 19', 'Open Mens', 'Open Womens", 'Coed', and 'Masters'.
The game has two 15 minute halves with a 3 minute halftime, but each team is allowed one 60 second time out per half. The clock is temporarily halted for goals, rule violations, or injuries. There are 2 referees in the water and one on deck who operates a buzzer that halts play. Play starts with each team at its home end of the pool with one hand on the wall and the puck in the middle of the pool. Players may be penalized for infractions and spend 1, 2, or 5 minutes out of the pool. Underwater hockey is a non-contact sport, so players may not interfere with other players in any way.
This is a very fast moving game, quickly building swimming and skin diving capability. Individual strength is less of an advantage than in many other sports. The water nullifies pure mass advantage and emphasizes use of torque. Strategy is similar to basketball or soccer. Players generally cover zones around the puck and scoring ultimately depends on teamwork. Different positions are forwards, strike, wings, backs, halfbacks, and fullbacks. The high exertion shortens bottom time to less than 30 seconds, and players are usually underwater for 5--15 seconds. Passing the puck is very common and is done by throwing the puck off the stick with a flick of the wrist.
A World Championship is held every year. The 2017 championships will be in Australia. Teams are now forming and tryouts are being held. The 2018 championships will be in Quebec. International information can be found at www.cmas.org/hockey.
The US holds three national tournaments yearly. After the US championships in Denver last June, talk led to scheduling an 'Old Timers' fun meet at the same pool. This well be held Sep. 17-18. Go to www.usauwh.com for national information.
The Pacific Coast Championships will be held in Santa Clarita October 15-16.
Club Puck, located here in the bay area is the largest U/W hockey club in the United States. They are playing regularly in Los Gatos and sometimes in Menlo Park. Get more information from their website, www.clubpuck.us
In San Francisco, the S.F. Sealions are playing regularly and the MLK pool. Look them up at www.sfuwh.org
In Sebastopol look for the Sebastopol Sharks at www.suwh.us
Hockey is also played in Santa Rosa.
Contact Carol Rose with your U/W hockey questions. She is a hockey referee and very knowledgable in the sport.