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The Other Side Of The Ice: Check Out These Underwater Hockey Players
February 21, 2013
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Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

In this country, it's no secret we love hockey. And we take great pride in braving sub-zero temperatures, playing for hours on a frozen body of water.

But what about playing a game under the ice, in the water?

That's what happens in the Underwater Ice Hockey Championships, held earlier this month on Lake Weissensee in Austria.

Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

As you might expect, there are some obvious differences between pond hockey and the underwater variety.

For one thing, the puck is 10 inches wide and made out of styrofoam so it will float instead of sinking.

Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

And the rink is a little smaller than in the NHL: it's three by six metres square.

There are also fewer players on the ice: each team only has two players, with a whole bunch of safety officers rinkside in case anything goes wrong.

All the players wear full wetsuits and take warm-up breaks between periods. They also need to take surface breathing breaks whenever a goal is scored, because they play without a breathing apparatus.

Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

The players are apnea divers, also known as free divers or breath hold divers. So, along with the challenge of playing upside down in cold water, they have to make sure they have enough air in their lungs to play.

Despite those differences, the basics are the same: each player has a stick and has to try to score on the other team's net. And it's played on ice, albeit from the other side.

Safety precautions are a big part of underwater hockey. Before each game starts, one of the rescue divers uses a chainsaw to cut holes in the rink so the players can get in and can get out.

And there are very specific rules about getting out if something goes wrong.

Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

"In case of emergency when you can't get to the surface - you must stay cool and go back to the entrance you came from," one of the rescue squad members told Reuters photographer Michael Dalder. "This is a massive psychological step for divers."

"So far we have brought everyone back out again," according to the same squad member.

Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters

In case you're wondering, the winner of the Championship was Austria I, which beat Germany in the final to take the whole thing.

Although the Championships are played in Europe, this sounds like something Canadians should consider getting on board with.

If we may, here's a proposal for our national team's theme song:

Via Neatorama


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