Is Street Hockey a Sport? Let’s Find Out!

Is Street Hockey a Sport? Let’s Find Out!

Playing Street Hockey

You likely have heard of ice hockey, popular in the midwest and the northeast United States, and most of Canada, but what about its more recent counterpart: street hockey? This game is popular on all play levels and is known by several different names, such as ball hockey, dek hockey, and road hockey.

Street hockey is a sport very similar to its iced equivalent. Players from two teams compete for a higher score, earned by getting an orange ball in a net. The competition can range from a few neighbourhood kids to a world championship title.

The chances are good that you have seen street hockey played in your neighbourhood, on TV, or as you stroll through a park. However, if this is your first time learning about this thrilling sport, you have come to the right place. This article will discuss why it can be classified as a sport, a brief history, the street hockey world championships, and more.

What Defines a Sport?

You can define sport in a few different ways, and you probably will not be surprised to learn that there are debates about whether poker, hunting, and cheerleading can be considered a sport. However, no matter how you define it, you cannot argue whether street hockey is a sport because it meets every definition of the word.

One definition says “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”, which of course is street hockey to a tee. This sport requires hand-eye coordination for passing and receiving the ball, specialized skills to get past opponents, and intense physical conditioning to play for the duration of the game.

Another definition, this one from Oxford Dictionary, says that a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”. While this definition is similar, it highlights the competitive nature of the sport. With leagues all across the country and a goal to get into the Olympics, competition is a large component of street hockey.

What Is Street Hockey?

Street hockey is an exciting and fast-paced game dating back several decades. It is accessible to children and youth at all levels of play because you can play on almost any concrete surface with little gear. It is also an attractive option for elites, with leagues open across the United States and Canada.

Be sure to read our article on thirteen reasons why we think hockey is such a fun sport. Most of the reasons translate well over to street hockey as well.

Continue reading for information about street hockey history, an overview of the game, and information about the sport’s largest governing body.

History of Street Hockey

Rumour has it that street hockey originated in Canada and the United States when roads began to get paved, especially in wealthier areas. However, it was only about 40 years ago that the game got any real structure. It was an excellent alternative for players who had no access to the ice during warmer months and wanted to maintain their fitness and skills.

In 1970, a man named Raymond Leclerc, along with a few established ice hockey players from Canada and the United States, began to form rules and regulations for the game, making it a more organized sport. Leclerc, who became known as the Father of street hockey, is also to thank for the invention of the sport’s classic, no bounce orange ball.

You could previously see children, teenagers, even professional players all across North America play street hockey with a loose structure in streets, parking lots, and playgrounds.

As soon as they officially developed rules, teams all over the United States and Canada began to form, with particular popularity in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. By 1974 the United States had its first official street hockey rinks, thanks to Leclerc. A few years later, Canada legitimized the sport by implementing state and national level tournaments and the Canadian Ball Hockey Association’s founding.

If you’re interested in more details on hockey’s origins in general, make sure to read our article looking into if hockey was initially invented as a Canadian sport.

Differences Between Ice Hockey and Street Hockey

There are a few key differences between ice hockey and street hockey, but the most prominent one is, of course, the playing surface. Rather than on an ice rink, street hockey is played on a concrete or asphalt surface similar to an ice rink, but without the ice.

You might see a game played on a tennis court, playground, or parking lot of a church in more informal games. Official league games are played on a standard hockey rink. Players also wear street shoes and sometimes rollerblades or inline skates to make it a little more challenging.

Because the rules of street hockey grew out of ice hockey, you can expect that they are very similar. The game’s object is to score as many goals as possible using sticks and an orange ball. A specialized puck made to glide across asphalt is occasionally used in street hockey, although it is a lot less common than the ball.

The standard number of players per team is six, including one goalie. The equipment is also similar to ice hockey, with players needing a stick designed especially for hockey, elbow pads, knee pads, mouthguards, and a helmet. Goalies need a little extra protection, including a face mask, chest protector, blocker, gloves, and specially designed stick and shin pads.

The game is played for two or three 15 minute periods with a short break between each. The number of players can vary as well, with as little as three players plus a goalie per team. These versions also have slightly different rules. Regardless of the time or the number of players, the primary objective is to get the ball into the net or goal.

International Street and Ball Hockey Federation

The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) is the worldwide governing body of the sport, created to unite all countries in the rules and regulations of play. Beyond that, it is an important organization because it brings together athletes from all of the world at all levels of play, even organizing international competitions for club level teams.

The ISBHF is located in Prague, Czech Republic. The organization hosted its first-ever world championship in Slovakia in 1996, with Canada taking the gold medal and earning the World Champion title.

They organize global competitions for players of all ages, including juniors, seniors, and masters. They are currently becoming recognized by the Global Association of the International Sports Federations (GAISF) and becoming eligible for the Summer Olympic Games.

We’ve also written an article describing different international tournaments that the USA and Canada play against each other in the youth ice hockey realm.

World Champions

Both the men’s and women’s world championships are held every other year in the odd year. An exception has been made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and both leagues will return to the world competition in 2022. Slovakia has been the reigning men’s world champions four times in a row, holding the title since 2013. Canada is the most recent winner for the women’s league in 2019, followed by the silver medal going to the United States.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, no matter how you slice it, street hockey is a sport requiring coordination, skill, and physical fitness. It also involves competition at multiple levels of play. The sport has an interesting history, dating back several decades and incorporating various countries.

Street hockey is a beloved sport, bringing friends and neighbours together for a quick pickup game in the church parking lot. You can also count on it uniting fans from across the globe during the world championships in 2022 and beyond. If things go as planned, hopefully, you will see street hockey in the Olympics soon.