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Underwater hockey: All that’s really needed are healthy lungs


LOWELL — Deep in the pool are 12 college students. Diving, swimming, hustling and most importantly working together. Under the water they are playing hockey. Sort of.

Many have never heard of such a sport. At UMass Lowell they have been playing for the better part of 15 years. A sport with traits such as strategy, speed and quick thinking, along with a large set of lungs. Players work together in a similar way to that of hockey yet this is a non-contact sport.

The game was invented in the winter of 1954. The purpose of the game was to keep swimmers in shape during the cold winter months. At the time it was originally called octopush due to its creative similarities to the creature of the deep blue sea. The old rules used to allow eight players per team in the water at a time. After some rules changes, the sport was officially called underwater hockey.

During two 15-minute halves six players per team are allowed underwater at one time. Positions vary depending on the formation the team is in, but offensive positions include center, right and left wing. Defensive positions include swingback, right and left halfback.

A regulation pool for underwater hockey is 25 meters by 15 meters and eight-feet deep. It utilizes a thick puck weighing three pounds that stays on the bottom of the pool. Players also use small sticks about the size of a foot-long sub. They use pads and fins, with casts to fit one hand to serve as an underwater glove. The point of the game is to score the most goals within the 30-minute event.

UMass Lowell runs a pretty casual system during the year. They practice every Wednesday night for a few hours at the school pool. The team plays intrasquad games and occasionally will take on a local high school team. In the fall they head up to Canada for the Montreal Underwater Hockey Tournament. This a very competitive and universal tournament in which several countries make the journey for the sport.

UMass Lowell also plays in another tournament in the spring called the Potluck Tournament. They host the Potluck as a competitive match for local teams.

Diving eight-feet deep in competitive waters would make breathing just as big a factor as the competition itself. Players tend to stay submerged anywhere between 30 seconds to a full minute before quickly going up for oxygen. Every player uses a snorkel to help with breathing. Any one of the 12 submerged players can be subbed out if needed.

“You’re not supposed to check in the game but there is a lot of jostling under the water,” said Connor Ford, the president of UMass Lowell’s underwater hockey team. “You really have to prepare yourself and expect a couple sharp hits here and there.”

In every sport there are referees and underwater hockey is no different. There are two referees under the water in every competitive game. They wear orange suits and they also wear snorkels and swim with the players in the games.

Sports tend to necessitate certain skills in order to play and perform at a high level. Underwater hockey is a little different. “The only requirement that we have is that you’re capable of swimming. Diving is also a skill we try to teach and accommodate for,” said team captain Nathan Strack.

Underwater hockey does not require a lot of skill. It is mostly based around fast motion, preparation and good teamwork. Anyone who can swim can play.

UMass Lowell recognizes the underwater hockey team as a club sport similar to that of rugby. They are gender inclusive and there are no tryouts to join this colorfully aquatic team. Showing up and paying dues are good enough to join. With a growing number of participants, UMass Lowell and other colleges across the nation are spreading the sport of underwater hockey.

This is a fun and equal sport for all. Don’t be surprised to see this water sport in the Olympics sometime in the future.

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