Oct 152002
Authors: Joelle Milholm

There have been some interesting mixes in the sports world: Frisbee and golf (Frisbee-golf), dancing and skating (figure skating), soccer and baseball (kickball). There’s even the reduced-movement creations of sports being played on a table, like ping-pong and foosball.

But none can compare to the combination of hockey and snorkeling, or underwater hockey.

Evidently there are multiple teams throughout the U.S. and tons of international teams. The sport is so big in Australia and New Zealand, that it is played at many high schools.

In the team’s second competitive year at CSU, graduate students Dave Wiles and Jorge Filevich have taken it to a higher level. There is a limited amount of competition, so the team plays against Denver and travels to tournaments.

Filevich, an Argentina native, learned about the sport on a snorkeling trip and has been playing for 10 years now.

“The purpose of the CSU team is to get as many people out as possible to learn about it and play,” Filevich said. “It is a lot of fun.”

As soon as I heard that CSU had an underwater hockey club team, I knew I had to check it out. So I found out where they practiced and I thought I would just go and watch and see what it was all about.

Little did I know that underwater hockey is not much of a spectator sport. The entire game takes place on the floor of the pool and is impossible to see unless observers are equipped with full snorkeling gear.

So there I was, just a reporter who has only snorkeled as a kid in those rare ocean vacations. I thought I would try to get a better look at the tropical fish, but almost drowned when one of those huge waves came out of nowhere and filled my lungs with water.

I had to get in, and not just to watch, but to get the full experience and play.

As I armed myself for this brave new world, I was informed of the basic rules of the game. It is a co-ed, non-contact sport involving six players on each team who try to push and pass a three-pound puck to the other side of the pool with wooden sticks about a foot long. Once the team has gotten the puck to its offensive side, it shoots into a goal a few feet wide.

The objectives of the game are very similar to hockey, but with one major twist. Even though the players wear snorkeling gear, pool depth for a match is seven to eight feet, and snorkels just are not that long. The challenge is to watch the puck while floating on the surface, then dive down, use puck handling skills and different maneuvers until running out of oxygen, and then return to the surface for air.

The move must be made quickly because there are no goalies. Breakaways and defense are a major part of the game.

Normally the team has an average of 12 people at practice, but the day I went there were only six. With the limited number of people, they decided to play a three-on-three scrimmage using only half of the pool.

So they gave me a stick and we started the game. Between following the puck and making frequent surface visits for air, it’s even harder to see who is on your team. We played black sticks versus white sticks to make things clearer.

The game was very much like the street hockey I played as a kid, and when I got the chance to shoot, I thought I could just send one soaring through the water into the goal about 10 feet away. I was wrong.

With those little sticks, my slap shot just wasn’t as good as it used to be. I soon learned that only the most skilled veterans can shoot like that and even when they do, the maximum distance is around 10 feet.

So I restructured my game plan to passing and swimming as close to the goal as possible before taking the shot. This tactic worked much more efficiently and I ended up scoring, although I think the team was taking it easy on me. And for this I am very grateful.

So, CSU has an underwater hockey team and it is actually a very fun and interesting sport. The players’ experience levels range from six weeks to 10 years, and they are always looking for more people.

For those interested, they can check out the Web site at www.uwhockey.org/csu or jump right in and attend one of the practices held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7-9 p.m. in the Moby Pool.

Joelle is a sophomore journalism major

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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