Thursday, 15 November 2007

Roller Disco Hockey Players

In my continuing series of exploring other forms of hockey, today's article explores a form of hockey that should be quite familiar to most people. Roller hockey, the generic term for the sport, has built a large following across North America where summer generally means less ice. It has also gained a major foothold in markets where snow is rarely seen, with California leading the way in terms of the number of teams. There are two types of roller hockey: inline hockey and quad hockey. Inline hockey is the roller hockey that is more comparable to ice hockey in terms of play, and the better known game in North America. Quad hockey, however, is slightly different. Today, I present to you the sport of quad roller hockey.

Quad skates are used in quad roller hockey. If you have no idea what a quad skate is, that's ok. It's actually the proper name for the rollerskate. Quad hockey was a demonstration sport at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. The game is played in over sixty countries worldwide. Portugal and Spain dominate the sport, having won 15 and 13 World Titles respectively. Italy and Argentina have won four World Titles apiece, but no other country has knocked these nations out of quad hockey supremacy.

It is a hit sport in South America and Europe, with those continents having the most participating countries in the World Championships. The game is called Hardball Hockey in the United States. Europe features a European Cup which is competed for by club teams in Europe. FC Barcelona has won the most European Cups, with seventeen to date thus far.

Uniforms for quad hockey teams look like soccer uniforms: shorts, shirt, shin pads, and socks. Players also wear knee pads due to the playing surface, which I'll discuss below. Jocks and gloves are also recommended. Skates must have two pairs of wheels, and those wheels must have a minimum diameter of three centimeters. The brake at the front of the skate can not be wider than five centimeters.

Goaltenders have come under scrutiny for their massive equipment recently, and are now being monitored. The goaltender is allowed to wear padding over the torso including the shoulders, a neck guard, shin guards no longer than 75 centimeters, gloves that protect the entire forearm, and a helmet with a grid or unbreakable visor. The difference between quad hockey goalies and inline hockey goalies is that there is no catching glove. The quad hockey goalie uses a flat batting glove that keeps the ball in play by not allowing the goalie to catch and hold the ball. Rebounds are, of course, plentiful with this type of glove.

The stick can be made of any material approved by the CIRH (Comité International de Rink - Hockey), although wood is still the prevalent choice for players. It must be between 90 centimeters and 115 centimeters long, no wider than 5 centimeters across, and weigh less than 500 grams. As you can see in the CIRH logo and picture at the top, the stick looks similar to a field hockey stick.

The ball is made out of vulcanized rubber, and has a 23-centimeter circumference while weighing 155 grams. It would appear to be a ball that is similar to the one used in lacrosse.

The playing surface of the quad hockey rink is usually a polished wooden surface, but any non-abrasive, non-slippery material can also be used. Treated cement is often used on courts with heavy play in order to keep costs down. The surface is normally white or blue so that the dark ball is easier to follow, especially for television crews. Like the NHL and international hockey, advertisements are allowed on the playing surface provided that they do not interfere with the path of the ball or the skaters.

The rink is built on a 2:1 ratio, and standard rinks fall anywhere between the minimum of 34x17 meters and the maximum of 44x22 meters. Rink makers are allowed a 10% margin of error, which makes for rinks to be slightly different in each venue. The boards have rounded corners, and are surrounded by a one-meter tall wall. There is a net behind either goal that stands four meters high. The net is to prevent the ball from bouncing back off the wall and striking a player, which could result in serious injury. If the ball touches this net, it is considered out-of-bounds, similar to the netting found in NHL arenas.

The goal is recognizable due to its fluorescent orange paint. It stands 105 centimeters high by 170 centimeters wide. The netting is thick, and a bar close to ground enables the ball to be trapped inside when a player scores. Overall, the goal is 92 centimeters deep. While not attached to the ground, it is extremely heavy, and rarely does it get moved.

The game itself moves at an extremely high speed. Players don't have the same maneuvering capabilities as their inline brethren, but the game is still up-tempo and fast-paced. I don't know if it will ever catch on in North America, but, like soccer, it is a hit everywhere else in the world.

If you want to read more about quad roller hockey, here are some links you should check out:

Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports
Comité Européen de Rink-Hockey - the European Committee that oversees quad hockey.
National Roller Hockey Association - the British quad hockey association.
USA Roller Sports - the US quad hockey authority.
Hardball Hock Blog - a blog covering Hardball Hockey. - a general quad hockey information site.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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