Hockey is a popular game. And it comes in many flavors. It all began with what we today call field hockey, where people used to run on the ground with staves—And today, we have no less than three major variations of the game!
In this guide to the most popular hockey subtypes, we’re going to cover field hockey, ice hockey, and para ice hockey (and inline sled hockey) to talk about the many differences in these distinct sports. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it!
1. Field Hockey
In the majority of the world, the word “hockey” means field hockey. For example, hockey in the Olympics has been a field hockey sport since the beginning, and the Hockey World Cup is related to field hockey.
More recently, however, sports organizations are making the distinction between field hockey and ice hockey because of the increasing adoption of the latter.
The sport is a fast-paced and action-packed one with two teams trying to score goals against each other. As all players need to run and maneuver while holding the hockey stick, the game demands exceptional athleticism and coordination apart from team strategy.
There are many countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and parts of Africa and the Americas that play field hockey with both men’s and women’s teams competing at various levels, from local clubs to the Olympic Games.
The pitch is typically 100 yards long and 60 yards wide, and the plastic ball can vary in weight and size depending on the level of play.
Just like other hockey sports, the objective is to score goals by hitting the ball into the opposing team’s goal area using the hockey stick.
2. Ice Hockey
In Canada, the United States, Russia, and the vast majority of Eastern and Northern Europe, the word “hockey” means ice hockey as these countries have large frozen areas, and ice hockey is more accessible than field hockey.
Though neither is “better” as both have different dynamics, rules, and history—Ice hockey is generally preferred for its higher competitiveness, making it more like a team game such as American football, baseball, or basketball than field hockey.
In fact, NHL is one of the most popular professional ice hockey leagues in the world, whereas no field hockey league with active teams and a passionate fanbase exists today.
This also reflects on related aspects such as annual TV viewership or sports betting, where ice hockey is more popular. For example, if you check the current hockey bets on a popular sports betting platform, you’ll find they’re mainly listing ice hockey matches under their hockey section because that’s where betting is even feasible.
You’ll find names such as Toronto Maple Leafs with +250 odds and Montreal Canadiens with +8000 odds in the Atlantic Division of NHL later this year, which basically means that out of the two legendary teams, the odds are in favor of the Leafs.
Here, the “+” sign denotes the underdog or the team considered more likely to lose. Teams marked with a “-“ are the favorites. The higher the number, the more underdog they are or, the more favorite they are, so an odd of +8000 means a lower likelihood of winning than an odd of +250.
Though ice hockey is very different from field hockey, it could be called the colder climate version of the latter.
3. Para Ice Hockey
Para ice hockey or sled hockey is a modified version of ice hockey. It’s specifically designed for athletes with physical disabilities that make them unable to play ice hockey. Anyone with a mobility impairment can participate in sledge hockey, and the sport has become quite big and competitive today.
As the name suggests, the game is played on sleds. These are specifically designed sleds with two skate blades underneath. They also have a seat and a backrest.
Players use the sleds to move across the ice using their arms and specially-designed hockey sticks with a blade on one end and a pick on another. The blade end handles the puck, and the pick end is used to propel and maneuver the sledge.
Sled hockey on inline skates instead of ice, such as in indoor roller rinks or courts, is called inline sled hockey. It’s only the surface that’s different—The rest of the rules, equipment, etc., remain the same as sled hockey.
Whereas the origins of field hockey are not clear, the origins of ice hockey (and, therefore, sled hockey) are in Canada—Dating back to (arguably) 1875 in Montreal!
Ice hockey, para ice hockey, and field hockey are the most popular subtypes of hockey. All have their own set of rules and regulations, as well as a thriving fan base. They might differ in the competitiveness offered, but they are all shared the common goal of hitting something with a stick!