Street and ball hockey
Although the sport is now much more organized, for many, their first experience remains the same as for those who first played street hockey, or road hockey, now more often known as ball hockey. It simply involved a few friends or family members, an open area, such as a roadway or parking lot near their home, some rocks or bricks, to mark the goal posts, a tennis ball, old hockey sticks, and the game was on.
The official version of street or ball hockey is a relatively young sport with a very short modern history, but its roots can be traced back to similar games played with a ball and stick. The first documented history of such a game, called hurling, dates back to the second millennium BC when it was played in Ireland. The word hockey derives from a similar game played by the Native Indians in North America, firstly observed in 1572. The development of street hockey has closely followed that of ice hockey, as it has spread around the world in the northern (colder) climates. Formally organized street or ball hockey leagues, in its modern form, grew independently in several countries, Canada (late 1960s), the USA (early 1970s), Austria, Czechia, and Slovakia (1980s), Finland, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland (early 1990s), and more recently in other countries. Due to its close relationship with ice hockey, street and ball hockey developed with similar rules throughout these countries. After the political changes in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, international exchanges flourished, and included cross-Atlantic competitions as early as 1991, leading to the establishment of the International Street & Ball Hockey Federation in 1993, and the bi-annual World Junior and Senior Championships. The people playing the game number in the millions, with hundreds of thousands playing in organized leagues.
Since its inception, the ISBHF has worked towards unifying nations from around the world to share their experiences, development efforts, and news. In essence, creating a worldwide street hockey network, where information can be found to create or improve programs, evolve rules, develop skills, interact in friendly competitions, and promote the sport at the local, national, and global levels.
The first international tournament occurred in 1994 in Oshawa, Canada, followed by Bratislava, Slovakia's hosting of the inaugural European Championship in 1995, and opening World Championship in June of 1996. The first World Junior Championship, for players Under-20, was held in Kralupy, Czech Republic in 2000. After staggered staging of WC's in 1996, 1998, and 1999, they settled into a bi-annual routine on odd numbered years, with the WJC's played on even numbered years.
Acting as the International governing body, the ISBHF organizes World and Continental Championships for national teams, as well as a variety of club team events each year. A series of regulations and common rules have been developed to manage international tournaments, and the interaction between members. The ISBHF also works with the International Ice Hockey Federation to further the grass roots development of hockey.
Because street hockey is so easy to play, it is quickly finding its way around the world in over 60 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honk Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turks & Caicos, Ukraine, and USA, with more than thirty of them already as members of the ISBHF.
During ISBHF international competitions of 5+1 (5 running players + 1 goaltender), all players must wear an approved helmet, ice or street hockey gloves and running shoes. Players under the age of 18 are required to wear full facial protection as well. Many nations have similar equipment requirements to protect players from injury.
Although not mandatory, it is recommended that players wear elbow pads, athletic cup, soft knee pads and shin guards. Adults should consider wearing facial protection to cover their eyes. Standard ice hockey sticks are used to play the game.
The balls are usually orange in appearance, and not much larger than a tennis ball. Two types of balls are officially recognized for play by the ISBHF. A hard (Pro) version is recommended for adult warm climate play, and is used at World Championships. The soft (Street) version is recommended for non-summer play and younger youth age groups. The official balls are manufactured by D-GEL, and display either the ISBHF logo, or that of a member nation. A list of retailers of the balls are listed by nation.
D-GEL has become a marketing partner of the sport, and in cooperation with the ISBHF, has recently created equipment specifically designed for street hockey, including a more flexible glove (Zebra), padded shorts, and the Protek shin pads. The ISBHF has recently entered into a similar type of relationships with Mylec for the manufacture of helmets, hockey sticks, and goalie equipment.
Arenas & Playing Areas
The game in its simplest forms can be played virtually anywhere that there is a flat and smooth surface, preferably with some barriers on the perimeter to prevent the ball from easily leaving the playing area. Nations without easy access to hockey arenas often construct their own outdoors, or use tennis courts, vacant parking lots, school yards, or gymnasiums.
Ball hockey rinks generally vary within the range of 24-30m wide x 48-60m long, with the larger formats preferred for higher levels of competition nationally and internationally.
Generally, where possible, programs are stratified by both age groups and ability, from recreational to elite. Groupings for youth range from 2 to 3 years depending on how many children are registered, typically you would organize them in divisions of Under-6, U-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16, and U-18. With smaller programs possible groupings could be U-6, U-9, U-12, U-15, and U-18. Adult leagues are usually open 18+ in age. Divisions for older adults are becoming more and more popular with 30+, 35+, and 40+ age levels common. In the end, you must decide what is best for the development of your members and your program. Keeping the game fun involves more than just rules for safety but also an effort to keep play fairly competitive so that all participants have an opportunity to succeed or feel fulfilled in the effort to succeed. Self-esteem is an important element of amateur sports at a recreational level, and administrators should keep this in mind when developing programs.
As the end of another year approaches, I must congratulate all the players, coaches, referees, volunteers as well as all administration and executives that make up the ISBHF family from all our federations around the World on another great season.
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