Canadian Underwater Hockey Championships Coming to Vancouver

Photo credit: DavidUnderwater | Wikipedia

Photo credit: DavidUnderwater | Wikipedia

Turns out the playoff hockey season isn’t over in Vancouver, after all.

The Canadian Underwater Hockey National Championships are coming to Metro Vancouver. This unique take on hockey is played with masks and snorkels at the bottom of a pool. And from May 15-May 17, Canada’s best underwater athletes will converge on Coquitlam to duke it out for top honours.

The championship is organized by the Canadian Underwater Games Association. Since 1984, the association has worked to promote the expansion of underwater sports in Canada, including hockey, rugby, orienteering and even target shooting.  Currently, there are underwater hockey and rugby teams located in six provinces and one territory.  In Vancouver, teams practice several times a week at the UBC Aquatic Centre and CG Brown Memorial Pool in Burnaby. Each year, the best teams go on to compete in international competitions.

So how does underwater hockey work?

Photo credit: Wouss | Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wouss | Wikipedia

Six-player teams (each with four subs waiting on the sidelines) work to maneuver a 1.3-kilogram puck along the bottom of the pool and into the opponent’s goal.  In place of full-size hockey sticks, players use 30-centimetre sticks to slap the puck through the water.

All the action takes place underwater and players are equipped only with masks, snorkels  and fins (no oxygen or scuba gear involved). Because of this, holding one’s breath and managing time spent underwater is critical. Often, two players at a time will be underwater, while a third player ascends to get a breather before plunging back down again.

Photo credit: Hu Totya | Wikipedia

Photo credit: Hu Totya | Wikipedia

An official game lasts two fifteen-minute periods, with a pair of five-minute periods for overtime. Four referees officiate, three in the pool itself and one from the pool deck. Between the intense physical exertion and breath holding, underwater hockey is known for providing a dizzying cardio workout.

The 2015 Canadian Underwater Hockey National Championships are May 15-May 17 at Coquitlam’s City Centre Aquatic Complex.  The sport is best viewed underwater, with mask and snorkel.

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