Exhilarating screams or the crack of a stick against a puck won’t be heard at this hockey game.
A few splashes may be the only evidence that a silent, intense game continues underneath the pool’s surface.
Underwater hockey is a sport that was created in England in the 1950s, but the underwater hockey club at CSU is a more recent addition.
“It was invented in England by scuba divers looking for a way to stay in shape,” said Jeremy Eulberg, president of the club at CSU.
The players wear scuba masks, snorkels and fins while they chase after a 3-pound puck with a 12-inch wooden stick. Other than the smaller stick and being in water, “It’s pretty much like regular hockey,” said Eulberg, a second bachelor’s biology student.
The game’s goal is to move the puck along the floor of the pool and into the net-less goals. Players submerge themselves underwater, pass the puck or go for a breakaway until they are out of breath and come back to the surface for air. After grabbing a quick breath, they go underwater again.
This is the third year Eulberg has played the sport. He moved in with some friends who played and took him to a practice.
“It was fun so I stuck with it,” Eulberg said. “And now I’m president of the club.”
There are various skill levels, from beginners to a few players who have played on national teams, including non-U.S. teams.
“It’s more popular in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere,” Eulberg said.
Experience is not a requirement to jump in and play.
“You don’t need (swimming) experience to play, but it helps,” Eulberg said. “It just takes you a little longer to get used to swimming with fins.”
One member of the team is Dawn Charnetzky, a lab technician at CSU. Charnetzky has been playing the sport for 13 years, starting when she lived in Florida.
“I started off (playing) in Florida and there was a club team about a half of a mile from where I lived,” Charnetzky said. “I helped start the (CSU) club with some other people who have since graduated. It’s a little harder to teach underwater hockey here because not a lot of people snorkel here.”
A few team members went on the trip to the national competition in June 2001. Though the team did not place, it did win one award.
“We won the sportsmanship award,” Charnetzky said. “We didn’t cheat or get fouls called on us.”
Eulberg hopes the team can get together a group to go to nationals again but said it is hard to get people to stick around for practices in June.
Another three-year member is Andra Savage, a master’s student studying food science and nutrition. Savage was intrigued after one practice.
“I like all water sports,” Savage said. “But I think the people are what made me stay. It only takes a couple of practices to get a hang of it.”
In addition to practices at EPIC Ice Arena on Tuesday nights and the Moby Arena pool on Friday nights, the team usually holds a few scrimmages a semester against a Denver team.
“We try and do that every semester,” Charnetzky said.
All the members have one aspect they really enjoy about the sport.
“It’s something really fun to do in the water besides laps,” Charnetzky said. “And playing a team sport is awesome.”
Savage said she likes that finesse can put a player on the same scale as someone bigger.
“(I like) how you use skill over strength,” Savage said. “I’ve always played girls’ sports where I could use my strength. It’s usually competitive, but it’s laid-back. It’s all for fun. No pressure, or not as much.”
Eulberg likes the team aspect of the game, something not found in a lot of water sports.
“It’s a lot of fun and relies on team work,” Eulberg said. “It’s not a game where one individual can dominate.”
The hard things are also what make the sport fun.
“Getting in when the water’s cold (is hard),” Charnetzky said. “More seriously, getting used to a three-dimensional sport (is hard). You have to look up, down, side to side. Everywhere.”
The fact that the sport is unique is also difficult for new players to get used to.
“It’s such a different sport,” Savage said. “It’s not like Ultimate (Frisbee) where it’s similar and easier to pick up.”