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WePuckHere : #15 Czech Republic

Published 28th February 2023

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In some parts of the world, a few die-hard hockey players share their passion, even going so far as to create clubs. From Africa to America via Europe and Asia, focus on these little-known countries in underwater hockey. Fifteenth episodes with the Czech Republic.

In the end of the 1990s, in the Czech Republic, and more precisely in České Budějovice, underwater hockey was born. The sport was discovered by scuba divers from the city’s university, after “seeing hockey matches I don’t know where, in a foreign country” explains laughing Katrina Hnilicova, player of the Narwhals Prague team. The members of the diving club then started playing hockey.

České Budějovice, the city where it all began

Like a symbol, it was natural to found the first underwater hockey club in České Budějovice. The first hockey players met in the town’s swimming pool to play “I started hockey about fifteen years ago” says Katrina Hnilicova. Gradually, other people started playing the sport, so it was logical when new clubs appeared: the team from Plzeň and the team from Prague. Since 2022, the national league of the Czech Republic has been played between the country’s teams. However, there are some particularities in the game because “we have special rules, we play in 4 against 4”, reveals Katrina, due to the limited number of players. She also adds “there is a women’s league as well as a mixed league.” There are also other competitions like the Pragadise Cup in Prague and the Bud Pig Cup in České Budějovice. To play hockey more frequently, they participate in tournaments in some European countries such as “Slovenia, Germany,France, Hungary or even Belgium” says the Narwhals Prague player.

The Czech Republic national team

Like many countries playing hockey, the Czechs have a men’s and a women’s national team. In 2008, for the first time in the country’s history, “the Czech women’s team was in Turkey for the European Championship”, Katrina reveals with a smile. They also participated in “the European Championship in Portugal in 2011”, says the Czech player, nostalgically. In the next few months, in April 2023, “we are planning to go to Berlin for the Euroclubs with the girls,” says Katrina Hnilicova.

The objective of Czech hockey

With the limited number of players in the teams, the principal objective is “to continue the Czech national league and to make tournaments” to preserve a regularity. To keep hockey alive “we want to push young players”, a challenge that fall through due to “the low number of free pools and the high prices” deplores Katrina. The Czech Republic wants to find new players and transmit the passion for hockey to the youngest players in order to preserve the sport because “at the moment we have 15 players in Prague”. She adds that sometimes “we play six against six, when we are lucky, but sometimes we can only play three against three”, says Katrina Hnilicova. The lack of visibility of the sport in the country is affecting the clubs, which are trying to attract players, but “it’s quite difficult”, says Katrina. This is a major common challenge shared by players in the Czech Republic, who hope to continue playing hockey.

Credit : Facebook Underwater hockey Narwhals

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  1. Pingback: WePuckHere : #15 la République Tchèque – UWH News – Le média du Hockey Subaquatique

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