The Most Bizarre Hockey Variations in the World

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Most people think of hockey as the coolest game on ice. It turns out there are some pretty bizarre ways to play the game.

Hockey, in all of its forms, is one of the most popular and varied sports in the world. While field hockey may be the most feasible in terms of equipment and format, there’s a reason ice hockey has become a global favorite. It turns out there are some pretty bizarre hockey variations being played out there.

Like roller hockey, ice hockey adds an additional element of technical skill and risk by requiring athletes to skate rather than run. Aside from horse racing, no other sport introduces such a demanding element. As such, ice hockey (and lesser-known roller hockey) stars are revered as some of the most talented athletes in the world.

Not surprisingly, ice hockey leagues have more than a handful of strange aspects. First, fans tend to throw some crazy things on the ice in honor of their favorite players and teams (think of the octopus-throwing Red Wings fans). Second, it features a list of bizarre hockey rules, from hand-passing in a zone to goalies having to use a knob of white tape on the top of their stick that is a minimum of one-half inch thick. Third, it is one of the only sports that still tolerates players to square off by having fisticuffs on the ice.

Some might even say ice hockey is political. Many believe the sport played a role in beginning the thaw of Cold War hostilities between Russia and the U.S. Meanwhile, certain players like Maurice Richard literally became political icons for their athletic skills.

But it’s not always about ice hockey. While free bets from sportsbooks tend to cover leagues like the NHL and KHL, and broadcasters stick to major leagues and events, there have always been defectors. And they’ve been deeply and truly dedicated to bringing some of the strangest hockey variations to the public. Some of the more wackier ones are listed below.

Underwater Ice Hockey

Perhaps one of the most bizarre hockey variations—if not sports—ever, underwater ice hockey is played upside down beneath an 18’ by 24’ rink in a frozen lake, pond, or swimming pool. Most rinks are 9’ × 18’, with each side fronted by a goal that is fastened to the ice underneath the surface.

The air temperature is generally around 23°F (-5°C), while the water temperature can be 36°F (2°C). Those who wish to play underwater ice hockey can do so, as long as the ice is frozen, naturally or not.

Ringette

Ringette is one of ice hockey’s closest cousins—in fact, some might not realize they’re not watching hockey when stumbling on a ringette match. The sport was conceived by Samuel Jacks and Mirl McCarthy in the early 1960s as a non-contact variation of ice hockey created for women.

Rather than shooting a puck, players use straight sticks to maneuver a rubber “donut” into the goal. This Canadian variation of hockey also strictly bars physical contact, including checking. Since its existence, ringette has seen massive expansion throughout Canada and Finland. Official leagues are organized in both countries, as well as in the U.S., Sweden, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

Bandy

The origins of bandy are unclear. While some contend it’s a modern variation of an ancient Russian game, others trace its history back to England in the 1800s. In fact, the sport’s rules closely resemble association football, hinting that the English had a long-lasting effect on bandy.

The sport is played on ice with a stick and ball, which the players attempt to score with. However, the sticks and balls more closely resemble the equipment used in field hockey. As mentioned above, the sport is organized like football, including two 45-minute halves, the number of competitors, and field size.

Fourteen countries currently have organized bandy leagues, from Mongolia to Ukraine to Canada.

Unicycle Hockey

Though it may sound like a circus routine, unicycle hockey is a legitimate sport that closely resembles ice hockey. Players use sticks to maneuver a ball toward their opponent’s goal, but instead of using skates, they navigate the field with a unicycle. Unlike ice hockey, there’s no goalie. Typically, a defensive player will fall back into the position as necessary.

As of 2015, the International Unicycling Federation released an update to its current rulebook. However, the sport has been around for much longer. The first record of unicycle hockey emerged around the same time as the unicycle itself, in the mid-1920s. Today, there are official leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and Australia.

Octopush

Octopush is the name for underwater hockey, which isn’t to be confused with underwater ice hockey. Underwater ice hockey requires players to compete under a pond by standing upside-down on top of the ice, which involves diving masks and floating pucks as well as breathing breaks every thirty seconds.

Octopush, on the other hand, is more focused on fun than survival. Competitors use small sticks that can be held with one hand to push their puck into their opponent’s goal. Like underwater ice hockey, competitors must come up for air. 

Since it gained popularity in the 1950s in England, Octopush has become hugely popular. There have been World Championships held every year since 1980.

Bizarre hockey can take many forms, and only a few have been listed here. We’ll be sure to let you know of more variations as we discover them!

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