Monday, 12 November 2007

Hockey And Water

Great conversation has developed over NHL expansion on this blog over the last couple of days. I like talking about the options that the NHL has, and will certainly reopen this discussion again with more articles. If you'd like to comment on it, please feel free to join the discussion. Today, however, I present to you a picture that may not look like normal hockey, but it certainly is hockey. Underwater hockey, also called Octopush, is a phenomenon that seems to be growing in popularity, albeit slower than its frozen cousin. However, that hasn't stopped the growth of sport in several markets across North America.

At first, I was skeptical of this game actually being as popular as it was. Being that Hockey Blog In Canada's premise is to cover all forms of hockey, I decided to check this sport out, but only as a spectator. The premise of the game is to put a weighted puck into a three-meter long trough at the opponent's end of the pool. The pool is required to be 300 square-meters, normally between 12-15 meters wide and 21-25 meters long. The depth of the water is normally between two and 3.65 meters. There are six players on either side, and the puck is moved by swimming with it, and by passing it.

All you need to participate is a few items of equipment. Obviously, some sort of swimwear is vital. Beyond that, players wear gloves and carry a stick, most of which can provided by your local underwater hockey group. A mask, swim fins, and a snorkel are your main pieces of equipment in playing the game.

There is no body contact in the game, aside from incidental contact when attempting to corral the puck. This is most notable in the shallow end of the pool. Bodychecks, holding, and blocking are not allowed, though, and are routinely the most common penalties assessed to the players. Most games are self-refereed, but tournaments feature three officials who watch the action for any violations. There are coaches that provide assistance, and they have tactics for competition.

Other than that, the game is empirically the same: put the puck in the net more than your opponent does. Exciting? As a spectator sport, I have to say that it feels like water polo. If you like water polo, it probably is exciting, and the players seem to get right into the action. I found it to be different than normal hockey, but different is good.

After all, as I described in the article entitled Hockey's Manifesto, you cannot understand the culture unless you are immersed in it. And I took my first steps in joining a new culture.

For more information, here are a pile of places you may want to check this sport out:

a) Octopush Central - the most complete, updated and visited site on Underwater Hockey.
b) Ottawa Underwater Hockey - an underwater hockey club based out of the Ottawa, Ontario area.
c) Whitehorse Loonies Underwater Hockey - an underwater hockey club based out of the Whitehorse, Yukon area.
d) Calgary Underwater Hockey Club - an underwater hockey club based out of the Calgary, Alberta area. They claim to be the best UWH club in Canada.
e) Vancouver Underwater Hockey - an underwater hockey club based out of the Vancouver, BC area.
f) Underwater Hockey Australia - the Australian UWH website.
g) American Underwater Hockey - the American UWH website.

More Water Issues: According to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, written by Times' reporter Lisa Dillman, Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera has found that the new Rbk Edge jerseys pose a bit of a problem for players that sweat more than mannequins.

"I sweat a lot. I'm kind of known for it," LaBarbera said recently. "I've always been like that. I've noticed it more so in my gloves this year than anything. You can feel it dripping into your gloves."

He has noticed it a bit, stating that "he probably doesn't shoot the puck quite as well at the end of the period because of his slippery hands". LaBarbera has been rotating gloves going to solve the problem, and switches gloves after each period.

"I leave one on the dryer for the whole period," LaBarbera said to the Times. "I don't mind switching gloves. It's probably better that I do. In years past, I would get it dried and then it would still be kind of wet. Then by the third period, it was mush."

He has found one good thing about the new jerseys, though. "I will say this: when you're wiping your face, it's a lot softer on your face than the old jerseys," LaBarbera joked. "It used to be like sandpaper."

Back To The Future: This year's outdoor game featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Buffalo Sabres will show off some retro jerseys for both teams. The Penguins announced on their website that they will be wearing their baby blue road jerseys that were worn by the 1968-73 version of the Penguins. The Sabres, meanwhile, will be wearing their white home jerseys that were worn by the team from 1978-96.

Good on the NHL for this move. I would have preferred the black-and-yellow version of the Penguins jersey, but this will bring back that nostalgic feeling in the game. My only wish is that the NHL would call the game "The Heritage Classic" every year, instead of this year's name of the "AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic". Otherwise, I am excited for the January 1, 2008 outdoor game from Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

Oh, and since the Barney Rubble Hairpieces decided to wear their original jerseys with their gorgeous original logo, they will be called the Buffalo Sabres when referring to this game on this blog.

Stars Become Legends: Congratulations go out tonight to five people who made hockey much better with their play and contributions to the game. Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnes, and longtime NHL executive Jim Gregory were inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame this evening, and their inclusion is certainly deserved. Each had long and storied careers in all forms of hockey, and they represent the best class of inductees the Hall of Fame has ever had.

While there has been much speculation over who gets in and who doesn't, I will weigh in on the Eric Lindros debate on whether he should be a Hall-of-Famer. My thought is yes, but only if Igor Larionov, Dino Ciccarelli, and Glenn Anderson get in first. If those three aren't inducted before Lindros, the Hockey Hall of Fame becomes a farce.

Larionov was a part of the Soviet powerhouse in the 1980s, and turned that into a successful NHL career. Part of the fabled KLM line with the Soviets, no one advanced hockey more for Russian players in the NHL than Larionov did, and his contributions cannot be overlooked.

Ciccarelli scored 608 goals and 1200 points over 1232 NHL games. Most of those points were scored with teams that had less-than-average talent. He never won a Stanley Cup, but Ciccarelli was always a nose-to-the-grindstone player who gave it his all in every game, no matter what the situation.

Glenn Anderson was part of the dynasty in Edmonton, helping the Oilers win five Stanley Cups. He went on to win another with the NY Rangers, before retiring with 498 goals and 601 assists over 1129 NHL games. Anderson's contributions on the international scene are also a big factor for consideration, having helped Canada win the 1987 Canada Cup.

If these three men are inducted to the Hall of Fame, I would say that Lindros should be included as well. However, if these men are forced to wait on their inductions, Eric Lindros has no business in being in the Hall of Fame.

But then again, that's just my position on the debate.

In the coming dates, I'll have another form of hockey I want to bring to light, and I plan on looking at some other issues that are swirling around hockey as well. I'll also do some blog-walking this week, and give some other bloggers some hype for the great work they are doing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

Eric was an excellent player. I already knew that he's built a great career , but I got very impressed when I watched this video today with his career stats about games, goals, assists and points Did you know that he scored almost 1000 points? His retirement is a pity, we will miss his talent in NHL.

Teebz said...

I have no problem with Eric being in the HHOF. However, what he accomplished is just as impressive as what the other three players did. In fact, Larionov should be a no-brainer.

I stand by my view that Eric should get in only if the other three get in, especially Larionov. Otherwise, he's no better than Anderson, Ciccarelli, and Larionov in terms of career achievements.

Connie said...

Did you read that post on On Frozen Blog where Ovechkin goes through two pairs of gloves PER period. Sounds excessive but apparently you can get infections from damp gloves??