Underwater Hockey was developed in 1954 by Alan Blake, Secretary of the South sea British Sub-Aqua Club of Portsmouth, England. He felt that an underwater sport was needed to improve SCUBA divers’ skills. The game came to Canada via Norm Liebeck, an Australian SCUBA instructor who introduced the sport to the Vancouver Vanquatics SCUBA Club in 1962. Today, the sport is played in more than 20 different countries including Australia, New Zealand, France, Holland, South Africa, USA, Sweden, Hungary, and Japan.
Internationally, the sport is governed by the Underwater Games Commission of the Confederation Mondiale des Activits Subaquatique (CMAS), the world diving organization. In Canada, the Canadian Underwater Games Association (CUGA) is our national contact and the Alberta Underwater Council acts as our provincial body.
Underwater Hockey is a relatively inexpensive sport to play. All that is required is basic snorkeling equipment: mask, fins, and snorkel. Sport specific gear includes a water polo cap for identification and ear protection, a glove for the shooting hand, and a wooden or plastic stick about 25 cm in length. Teams are distinguished by the colour of their sticks and caps.
Teams of six players, with four ‘spares’ on deck, push, pass, and swima 1.5 kilogram plastic covered puck (a little larger than an NHL puck) into a three meter goal at the opposite end of a 25 meter pool. The ideal pool is flat-bottomed, tiled with slippery ceramic or glass tiles, and is 1.5 to 2 meters in depth. Games consist of two 10 or 15 minute halves, with a three-minute break between halves. Formal games include two water refs, a deck ref, time and score keepers. Tournament games can go into overtime, but “sudden death” has no more sinister a connotation here than in any other sport! Water is a great equalizer, allowing both men and women to play equally together or against each other. This game depends a lot more on finesse, skill and teamwork than on brute strength. The game is non-contact and a lot faster than one might expect.
The Edmonton Octopushers is the proud result of efforts by Jim and Janet Jones who, along with many local SCUBA divers, dive clubs and shops, started the club around 1983. With a lot of support from UWH clubs in Calgary, Saskatoon, and Vancouver, the taste for serious competition was developed in the “home town” crew. The Octopushers competed in many regional and local tournaments in Western Canada and enjoyed themselves so much that they hosted their first national tournament at the Kinsmen Pool in 1986.
We hosted the Canadian Nationals again in 2001 under the expert tournament coordination of Jacques Toupin, recently arrived with his family from Yellowknife, who has a wealth of experience and is a wonderful asset for our group!!
Many other of our current members have given a guiding hand in the development of the club. Wayne Keith, Matt Twigg, and Chris Alenuik are among our past presidents and biggest supporters. Big Jim Luettgen imparted a club spirit that is still growing. Luke Larson created our first Web site in 2001. Gilles and Connie Benoiton Joined in 1999 their team-building skills are already legendary. In 1999 they started the kids club (Amphibians) Youth underwater hockey continues. Look for groups starting in your area! Since 2002 Many Edmonton Players have attendended World Championships in every category and bring the skill level in Edmonton up yearly although there is still place made for the novice.
We are grateful to you all. Thank you so much!