It’s hockey, but underwater. You’ve probably never heard of Octopush, but guess what—today you’ll learn. Octopush (also known as underwater hockey) requires players to move a tiny sliding puck while holding their breath underwater. I don’t know about you, but just running to the beach while fighting ocean waves is completely exhausting and slow going—and I don’t have to hold my breath. Can you imagine doing this underwater? This sport is definitely for athletes who want to push themselves physically and in a whole new way.
How Octopush Started
Alan Blake created the sport in 1954. According to the Edmonton Underwater Hockey Association, Blake was the Secretary of the South Sea British Sub-Aqua Club of Portsmouth, England, and devised underwater hockey as a means to improve SCUBA divers’ skills and offer an alternative to open-water diving in the winter. Today it is played worldwide and is gaining popularity.
Arena & Equipment
Octopush requires a pool, usually measuring 25 meters by 15 meters and between 2-4 meters deep. The puck is the same size as an ice hockey puck, but it is weighted so that it sits at the bottom of the pool and glides around with help from small handheld sticks. Players maneuver these sticks with one hand.
Although a seemingly complex sport, the equipment players need is relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated. Players are on their own for air supply. They are equipped with a mask and snorkel, which does not help them hold their breath. These pieces of equipment simply help them watch the play while they are on the surface of the water catching their breath. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, they are completely self-propelled with only the help of fins. Other equipment includes ear protection, gloves, swimsuits, and caps, often colored or patterned to represent individual teams.
How to Play
Teams play 6-on-6, but can have up to 10 players on a team. This allows them to make substitutions and take breaks as needed. Unlike traditional hockey, there is no goalie, and the goal area on each side is simply a three-meter-long painted trough. Despite its similarities to hockey, it is considered a limited-contact sport. Players cannot fight each other for the puck, nor limit the movement of other players with their free hand.
Play requires a significant amount of teamwork, as players can only hold their breath for so long. Therefore, players cannot hog the puck simply due to air supply and must rely on their teammates to advance the puck.
The game starts with players from each team touching the wall on their side. A buzzer sends all players rushing to the puck in the middle. This same setup reoccurs after each team scores a goal and at the beginning of each half.
The game is typically broken up into two 15 minute-halves, with a three-minute break in between. Matches may have up to three referees who help officiate the play, make sure rules are followed, and keep track of time.
A Growing Sport
You may not have never heard of octopush, but the game is popular. USA mens’ and womens’ national teams play in world championships every two years against about 25 other countries. There are also under-19 teams, masters’ teams (men aged 35+ and women aged 32+), and the sport is played at a variety of levels—from club levels for fun all the way up to the professional team.