Saskatoon Seals underwater hockey club bridging cultural divides

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Saskatoon Seals underwater hockey club bridging cultural divides
WATCH ABOVE: The Saskatoon Seals underwater hockey club is one of the most culturally diverse sports organizations in the city. Ryan Flaherty finds out how a common passion is bridging cultural divides – Apr 22, 2016

SASKATOON – The Saskatoon Seals are Saskatchewan’s only underwater hockey club, but their members come from all over the world. French, Vietnamese, Slovenian and Norwegian are just a few of the languages spoken by the Seals players, who are united by a common passion for one of the world’s more unique sports.

The objective of underwater hockey is simple. Two teams of six compete at the bottom of a pool using special sticks, or ‘pushers,’ to maneouvre a three-pound puck into their opponents’ goal. Players wear snorkels and fins to help them stay underwater longer and move faster. At the end of the game, the team with the most goals wins.

The sport was conceived in England in the 1950s as a way to keep scuba divers active during the winter months. The first world championships were held at the University of British Columbia in 1980, the same year Seals player and coach Jacques Toupin played underwater hockey for the first time.

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“It’s the most diverse hockey club I’ve ever seen and I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with,” said Toupin, who has been a member of clubs in Calgary, Edmonton and Yellowknife over the years. “What’s interesting is there’s a lot of these guys, two, three years ago couldn’t swim a stroke. They joined with us because they saw us playing at the ‘Y’ and wanted to learn how to swim.”

READ MORE: From Edmonton to Saskatoon, Grandma Rush supports her team

In addition to the basic equipment, players also need a positive attitude. A little humility doesn’t hurt either.

“I’m still learning the sport until now. (I’ve got) three years of play but there’s lots to go,” Seals defender Joe Moroch said. “It’s like golf, you know? It takes a lot of play to get good at it. Every day I learn something new.”

The club is always looking for new members, and with that in mind they hold a weekly session exclusively for beginners.

“As long as you show up and you show some interest and are willing to put the effort in, everybody on this team will support you,” Toupin said.

After all, learning together is what the Seals are all about. That, and having a lot of fun.

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“It motivates me to life. It honestly keeps me going with work, with my morale, health. It gives me that push and drive,” Moroch said.

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