Monday, January 29, 2007

UnderWater Hockey Explained

Last week I quick-posted a little thing about underwater hockey, something I've started playing here at the University of Guelph on Monday nights. I was very tired; consequently it didn't occur to me then to actually describe what, exactly, underwater hockey is.

It's really not very complicated. Briefly, there are two teams of players, equiped with a pair of fins (not flippers! Flipper was a dolphin; now he's dead), a mask (not goggles) and snorkel. Additionally, each player needs a stick, which is about 30 or 40 cm long and slightly curved, as well as one glove with reinforced knuckles and everyone here generally wears a cap with ear covers, as water polo players wear. Caps weren't worn when I played UWH in Victoria, years ago, but I gather the justification for them here has to do with preventing damage to an eardrum should a fin close to the ear cause large pressure changes. The cap is actually more comfortable than it looks. Nothing can be done about the dork-factor, though.

The other equipment in the water is the puck, generally a brass disk, perhaps 8 cm in diameter, encased in bright pink plastic, and two goals. The goals are about 2 m long, steel bent lengthwise to form a bevelled base and a trough just wider than the puck.

The puck starts play in the middle of the pool - it sinks, so generally it starts sitting on the drain in the middle. The two teams are arrayed at their respective defensive ends, and somebody yells "go". Players swim along the surface to the middle of the pool, then dive down and try to move the puck forward, either by pushing it ahead and swimming along the bottom, or by passing to other players on their team. We mark teams by stick colour - we have black sticks and white sticks. Visibility in pool water is excellent, so this presents no problem. Anybody not currently in possession of the puck is generally either on the bottom helping or hindering the person with the puck, or paddling around on the surface, looking for an opportunity.

The bottom is around 2 m deep throughout most of the pool. This means in order to participate, one must hold one's breath and dive. Pushing on the puck from any angle other than flat-on-the-bottom is very inefficient, and somebody on the other team will rapidly relieve you of puck-responsibility. So you hold your breath, dive right down, swim up to the puck, and start moving. Of course, this is pretty good aerobic exercise, except for the little detail of being physically separated from Earth's atmosphere during play. So your heart is beating hard, you're working hard, and you can't breathe - so it's passing time. Snorkel masks present a somewhat limited field of view, partly due to the physical properties of light, air, glass, and water. So you really can't see much except what's in front of you and maybe a little to the sides. This is where your teammates should be when your lungs decide enough is enough.

For myself, horribly out of shape as I am, my lungs decide it's surfacing time usually after about 3 seconds. I did not score any goals last time, though I came within 1 cm (aaargh!) and I also had one assist. Perhaps this week I will do better.


Peter Mc said...

Get on with Ph.D., man. We're not having you aboard complaining about your write-up, a all Ph.Ds seem to. Not that who gets aboard the Beagle is my fiefdom: I'm just the poor sod who had the idea. Stay in touch, send your email through the contact page. Pete.

TheBrummell said...

Wow, thanks for visiting, Peter. I'll get on that right after I inject some coffee into myself.

Project Beagle fanboyism coming soon.