Underwater hockey makes a splash on campus

Wet, wild and way more fun than studying; underwater hockey at Tech is gaining popularity with its familiar team dynamic and unique aquatic environment.

If you are wondering what underwater hockey is, then you are asking a popular question.

To better understand the sport, we must first go over the basics.

Underwater hockey is a 6-on-6 team sport played in a pool. Each player has a mask, snorkel gear, head guard, mouth guard, fins, gloves and a stick.

Resembling a curved wooden paint stirrer, the stick is used to move a three-pound plastic-covered lead puck, which is about the same size as an ice hockey puck.

To score points, players must slide the puck into the opposing team’s “gulley,” which is a three-meter-wide goal with about a four-inch ground clearance.

The game consists of two halves, each about 10 to 15 minutes in length. There is a short half time interval, and the teams switch sides after halftime.

“My favorite thing about underwater hockey is that everyone can play,” said Nicole Mazouchova, BIOL graduate student and president of the club.

Underwater hockey was invented in 1954 by Alan Blake as a means for divers to stay in shape.

Today, it is played competitively in 17 countries, recreationally in most countries and is still used by diving coaches to work out their teams.

“I started playing in 2005 at the University of Guelph in Toronto,” Mazouchova, who is also a certified scuba diver, said.

“The hardest thing about the sport is getting used to holding your breath,” Mazouchova said.

To get her team ready for play, Mazouchova works the team in a similar way to many sports. After suiting up, the team moves on to a warm-up, then works on skills and finishes with scrimmages.

“It is relatively quick to get the basics down… as long as you can swim, you can play,” Mazouchova said.

One factor that has drawn people to the sport at Tech is that the team is co-ed and is almost fifty percent female.

Another appeal to the sport is the fact that all play occurs inside a pool, where overheating and sweatiness is not a big worry.

One reason why it is so easy to start playing is that all the equipment is provided. Just show up with a swimsuit, and the rest can be provided for you.

Although the team only officially practices once per week, Sundays from 5:30–7:30 p.m., some players workout daily and also do “land workouts,” which include games like “carpet hockey.”

According to Mazouchova, carpet hockey is an effective way for the team to practice puck movement without the added challenge of being underwater and holding one’s breath.

The idea of carpet hockey was brought to the team by a visiting national player named David Kennedy, who plays in a club in Washington D.C.

The USA Underwater Hockey organization served as the connection between Mazouchova and Kennedy.

It is the major propellant of the sport in the U.S., providing support to teams across the nation, including our team at Tech.

Mazouchova says that the biggest challenge to getting the team started has been getting the word out about the new club.

However, what started as just a small group of her friends has grown into a team large enough to scrimmage each other and that is getting ready to take on other schools. The team is hoping to be ready to compete soon, as there is a national tournament in Washington D.C. in April.

Perhaps one reason why the sport is widely played but not widely watched is because it is relatively difficult to see the action as it unfolds.

While most sports are clearly visible from the sidelines, underwater hockey must either be viewed aerially or by underwater camera to get a clear view.

International tournaments are often filmed with specially made waterproof cameras or with regular cameras housed inside a waterproof casing.

The latest attempt to provide live video streaming was at the 2008 World Championship in Durban, South Africa.

So, if you are looking for a new and fun way to meet people and be active, you should check out what is becoming not only a national sensation but one at Tech as well.