Street or Ball Hockey is a team sport and a close variation of the popular sport of ice hockey. With origins and rules tightly connected to ice hockey, the major differences are that the game is played on foot and a solid surface, most often sport-court or concrete, and a specifically designed orange ball is used instead of a puck. The object of the game is to strike the ball with the hockey stick and knock it into the opponent’s hockey net (6 feet wide x 4 feet high, 1.83 m x 1.22 m). Typically, a low-bounce type of ball is used. For added safety, hockey gloves, protective gear and helmets are used, and are mandatory in international competitions.
All ISBHF official events are held in full sized hockey arenas (generally around 200 feet long x 85 feet wide, 60.96 m x 25.91 m). When played on dry surface (no ice) of a hockey rink, six players, including the goalie, often referred to as 5 + 1, compete against the opposing team’s six players. Extra players are kept on each bench, outside the playing surface, and interchanged with the six on the floor, either during play or at a stoppage of play, to keep players fresh. However, in the game’s most basic form, any size or type of non-slip flooring can be used as a playing surface, such as dry-pad hockey arenas, tennis courts, or gymnasiums – when played on smaller surfaces, fewer players can be used during play, such as 3 + 1, or 4 + 1.
Games are played in periods of equal time, most often in the international standard of 3 x 15 minutes stop-time, meaning that the clock is stopped following a stoppage in play – after a goal, penalty, offside, flooring, ball out of play or goaltender holding the ball for a few seconds. Some of the basic ball hockey rules include:
- Offside:occurs when a player enters an opponent team’s zone (the area from behind their net to their blue line) before the ball. The ball in play must cross the opponent’s blue line first before the player or any of his team-mates.
- “Floating Blue Line”: expansion of the offensive zone occurs once a team crosses the opponent’s blue line with the ball. The attacking team will then have half of the entire playing surface within which to control the ball, from behind the opponent’s goal to the centre line of the area. If the defending team sends the ball past centre, the zone is reset to the blue line and their opponent must regain it as explained above.
- Flooring (or icing): occurs when a team shoots the ball before physically crossing the centre line and the ball passes the opponent’s goal before any player, of either team, can touch it.
- Penalties:are called when a player commits a foul. The offending player is then removed from the playing surface for a period of time, depending on the severity of the infraction, the team continues to play one player short until the penalty has elapsed.
Although the game is still very young, with the beginnings dating to 1960-70s in North America and 1980s in Europe, the sport has seen rapid development, moving from pickup games in streets and parking lots to full arenas, with thousands of fans watching and following the ISBHF World Championships. Today, tens of thousands of registered players around the world enjoy the beauty of the game. Since Street or Ball Hockey is not financially demanding and can be played almost anywhere, the fun, competition, excitement and team spirit of this sport are accessible to everyone.