Skate, Swim, or Sink


Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in America. For those not familiar with it, the sport involves people skating around on ice while hitting each other and trying to smack a rock with a stick into a goal. Well, when it is put that way, it sounds kind of strange, right? Believe it or not, hockey can get even stranger than that. There are tons of different variations of hockey, some of which are hard to believe.

One of these variations is a sport called unicycle hockey, which is exactly what it sounds like: people playing hockey while riding unicycles. There is also no assigned goalie position, although one of the five players usually hangs back near the net. Any stick legal in ice hockey (with the exception of the goalie’s stick) are legal in unicycle hockey. The origins of this sport can be traced back to 1925 Germany, where a silent film (“Varieté”) depicts two people on unicycles while waving hockey sticks. This sport has fans all over the world, from London to China to New Zealand. Four countries have national leagues: the UK (10 teams), Germany (53 teams), Switzerland (20 teams) and Australia (11 teams). China, New Zealand and Japan are said to have the most skilled unicyclers, since they also practice synchronized swimming with unicycles. In parts of London, young kids are recruited by unicycle hockey teams to help keep them away from gangs.

If riding around on a unicycle on land sounds strange enough, then get ready for this. Hockey has also been taken under water, in a somewhat-popular sport called underwater hockey. Known as octopush in the UK, over 44 countries have competed in the bi-annual World Underwater Hockey Championships. This sport is played on the bottom of a pool with a weighted puck. Players wear a diving mask (having their nose covered allows them to equalize their ears), a snorkel (allows players to continue to watch play while catching their breath), a tight swimsuit (allows for faster movement), and fins (again, for faster movement). Players are also encouraged to wear safety equipment such as gloves (protects from abrasions from the bottom of the pool) and hats (usually water polo caps, to cover their ears). Since underwater hockey is not very spectator friendly, spectators can put on a mask, fins, and a snorkel and enter the pool to watch the action, or they can watch the live-streamed footage, courtesy of the underwater photographers in the water.

Of course, someone out there wondered how underwater hockey could get better. Their solution? Underwater ice hockey. This sport (sometimes known as sub-aqua ice hockey) is possibly the most extreme variation of hockey. This game is played underneath the ice of pools and ponds. A floating puck is used so the puck will stay against the ice. Players do not use any breathing apparatuses, but instead come up for air about every thirty seconds. Diving masks, flippers and wetsuits are worn by the players. This sport was started by Christian Redl, an Austrian free diver. Two world championships have been held, in 2007 and 2013. Finland won the first one, while Austria won the second one.

There are even more variations than the three above. There is bandy (a combination of ice hockey and soccer), ball hockey (which is like ice hockey, except not on ice and played with a ball instead of a puck), inline hockey (hockey played on inline skates) and more. It seems natural to believe that even more variations of hockey will evolve in the future. What will they be? That is for future generations to determine.


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