Speed and stamina on wheels


A general love of sport leads one to get excited watching and learning about all the sports that are on offer in our wonderfully diverse community.

In a country arguably obsessed with rugby, most other sports only get a look in once every four years, and lucky for the non-rugby obsessive, that Olympic feast is very soon to be here.

One sport which has yet to make the Olympic programme, (although with sport climbing and surfing knocking that door down it may not be far away) is inline hockey. From a layman’s point of view, this appears as basically ice hockey without the ice but seemingly just as cool.  Also without the freezing temperatures which require wearing a puffer jacket indoors.

In fact, if you watch video (and you can watch the entire NZ men’s national final at inlinehockeynz.org.nz). You have to look carefully for the rollers on the skates otherwise you may as well be watching the NHL on ESPN.

Astoundingly, the first English game recorded of “knocking a ball around with sticks on roller skates” was reported in 1885 in London. It was played with a tennis ball and ordinary walking sticks or umbrella handles. Technological advances brought inline skates and the whole NHL padded kit into the modern mix.

Any research into the physiology of inline (roller) hockey proves it to be a rather unique offering when it comes to sport. Training for inline hockey inherently covers off all of the components of fitness – muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, body compositional change and flexibility.

Additionally, its limited stress on joints and thorough use of all of the muscles of the hip, leg and core provide a possibly superior mode of exercise than running or cycling which most would think tops the pops when it comes to fitness and body composition changes.  Due to being on rollers as opposed to blades, inline hockey power output needs are greater than on ice, with an estimated 45 percent of the energy output of an athlete being lost to friction.

One of the only studies undertaken into the physical demands of an inline hockey game shows average heart rates of 176bpm and that at least 20 percent of a game is spent at high intensity – ticking the boxes for the need for high intensity intervals as part of a healthy exercise regime. And a study that compared ice skating and in-line skating in division I collegiate hockey players in Canada showed skating on wheels proves a higher metabolic cost to the athlete than on ice. Tougher than ice hockey then, which is probably saying quite a bit.

A quick search into the number of people that play at all ages in Waikato is astonishing.  In the modern age of inactivity, the need to find sport and recreation options which can be enjoyed by all ages, and for the activity to be regularly participated in for a long enough time to make a difference to fitness, (which is more likely to happen when the activity is fun) is paramount.

Not only does inline hockey appear to cater to this, with competitions being a built in goal to be trained towards, but it develops new skills, builds new social networks, aids balance and co-ordination and if you really need it, provides an outlet – top speeds of 28 km/hr and smacking a puck with all your brute force has a likely appeal for some.

In a search for injuries related to inline hockey it interestingly turns up the risk of dental injuries, when broken limbs might be expected, and the sport isn’t even a nominated option on the ACC form.

Additionally, and likely contrary to popular belief, the rules state “Any overt or intentional contact that is designed to apply physical force to an opposing player (without trying to get the puck) shall be penalised”. All due respect to the referees then.

So in seeking out new sporting and spectator experiences in honour of the upcoming Olympics, here we find a family-friendly, non-ageist, relatively contact free, fast, fun and skilful sport that provides for all the theoretical components of fitness.

And the best bit? There’s an inline hockey stadium right here in Waikato; Hamilton Inline Skating Club in the Eastlink Sports Centre, where the National Inline Hockey Champs are to take place at the end of September.  No puffer jacket needed.


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