I was in the Public Library recently to research something on the
General Reference Magazine Catalogue. Before leaving I did a quick
search for unicycle articles and found the following story about
Unicycle Hockey in the March 2001 issue of Hockey Digest. The article on
the screen in the Library was accompanied by photos taken during the the
gold medal game of the Unicycle hockey tournament at Unicon X last
summer. I was able to print the article including the photos. I was also
able to forward the text to my email address. The text is below,
unfortunately it does not include photos.
InfoTrac Web: General Reference Center Gold.
Source: Hockey Digest, March 2001 v29 i5 p58.
Title: Wheel's On Fire.(unicycle hockey)
Author: CHUCK O'DONNELL
Subjects: Cyclists - Competitions
Hockey - Innovations
Electronic Collection: A69750741
Full Text COPYRIGHT 2001 Century Publishing
Unicycle hockey players all over the world are having a wheel good time,
wish you were, too
They converge every Thursday night in the fall and winter on the
public school in Toronto. It's the highlight of the week for these movie
camera repairmen, students, Website designers, teachers, and others who
the world on hold, put the nets in place, pick up the sticks, and throw
Sounds like another pickup game of deck hockey or floor hockey? Well,
It is floor hockey, but the Toronto Unicyclists hockey team puts a
on a sport in which "cycling" is a term that isn't usually meant in a
sense. Perched precariously atop one wheel, trying to negotiate a street
hockey ball or a tennis ball across a gym floor, the action is non-stop.
Having trouble visualizing this? Think of it as the X Games meets Wayne
Gretzky. The Ringling Brothers meet the Hanson Brothers. The high-wire
meets the leftwing lock. BMX meets the NHI.
[Graphic omitted]Think of it fast and furious fun played with some real
"It's really fast-paced," says Darren Bedford, a member of the club
was founded in 1987 by unicyclists who were looking to try something a
different. "There are a lot of collisions. You may turn to look for the
not see where you're going, and run into someone. You can't always
stop on a unicycle. The maneuverability [on unicycles] is harder [than
In the beginning, Bedford's crew, believed to be the longest-running
North America, would play on the playground outside. They would spend a
hours just shoveling off the snow until "we were almost too tired to
says. Surprised people would stop and ogle. "Most of the feedback we
has been very positive," says Bedford, whose club has about a dozen
between the ages of 10 and 60. "People would stop and see what we were
They were a bit curious. A lot of them couldn't believe it was possible
all that [while riding a unicycle]." They've since found it easier, and
less strenuous, to rent space in the school's gym.
And although the Toronto townspeople can't wander by and watch, they
probably be shocked to learn that unicycle hockey has been played in
countries across the globe for several years.
For instance, at the 2000 world championships held in August in Beijing,
China, 20 teams from nine countries--Denmark, France, China, Great
Japan, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, the United States, and
Unicycle hockey may be most popular in England and Germany, the only two
countries to have national leagues. The sport seems to be taking off in
Germany, in particular, where 26 teams compete in the national league.
also home to the world champs, LAHIMO, which crushed the Twin City
Club of Minnesota, 23-2, in the tournament final.
"LAHIMO started playing in 1985, so they have a lot of experience," says
Sander, a former LAHIMO member who now plays for RADLOS of Frankfurt.
have been by far the strongest team for quite a while but now there are
other very good teams in Germany. I have to admit that LAHIMO was quite
that these other clubs did not send their complete teams to the world
championships in China this year."
Sander has gone from just a unicycle hockey player to an amateur
the sport. The earliest mention of the sport he has been able to uncover
back to 1925, when a silent German movie called "Variete" shows "a short
with two unicyclists performing on a stage. One has a hockey stick, the
is swinging a walking stick. They have tiny goals and they use something
a crumpled towel as a ball."
The first reference he has found to unicycle hockey in the United States
back to 1960, when an article in The Bicycle Journal mentioned the
Unicycle Club of New Mexico had taken up the sport.
Sander says, however, that the grandfather of the unicycle clubs was
People, a group that formed in California in 1976. Playing under the
sunshine, they were trailblazers in the sport, forming many of the rules
which the game is played today. The club disbanded in the mid-1980s, but
before it was joined by other major clubs in North America such as
College Gonzo Unicycle Madness in California and Association de
Quebec in Quebec City.
Many of the rules seem to be enforced universally. You can't take part
play unless you're on top of your unicycle. So if you fall off, you have
get back on before continuing. At the beginning of the game and after
goal, all players go to their own half of the surface where play resumes
soon as a player of the team in possession crosses the center line. And
knock the ball out of the playing surface, a player from the other team
it back in from the point of exit.
[Graphic omitted]But other rules differ from club to club. For instance,
German teams play with goalies, using a larger net. The Toronto
don't use a goalie, per se, although one of the four or five players on
can go back and defend the net. Consequently, they use a smaller net,
inches high by 18 inches wide. The Germans use your average ice hockey
while the Toronto crew uses street hockey sticks with plastic blades.
Finding a stick isn't a problem, since players don't play using one of
tall unicycles you may have seen in a circus. They sit about four or
inches above the ground. "Actually, the proper length [of a stick] is
less a matter of taste," says Sander. "People who are good hockey
only mediocre unicyclists seem to prefer longer sticks. This gives them
larger action radius. Good unicyclists, on the other hand, often have
sticks because they are fast and they prefer to ride quickly to wherever
What makes a good unicycle hockey player isn't much different from what
a good ice hockey player. Sander suggests that, like hockey players who
learn to skate before learning to stick handle and shoot, the basis for
unicycle hockey player is the ability to ride well.
"A good balance between hockey and unicycling skills is necessary to
good player," says Sander. "But you won't become a good player as long
don't unicycle properly. However, even the best unicyclists are not good
players unless they practice shooting the ball and team strategy."
And of course, it doesn't hurt your chances of success if you're willing
stick your nose into the action like a Claude Lemieux or a Matthew
"Since you're moving as fast as guys on ice skates, there's less
maneuverability," says Bedford. "This leads to collisions and spills.
might get a little road rash on you arms. A few of the players wear
or gloves. No one really wears helmets."
[Graphic omitted]Says Sander: "Although bruises are quite normal, not
serious accidents have happened in the 15 years that I've been playing.
we had to go to the hospital a few times to stitch a wound. However, if
compare it to other sports such as soccer I think the danger is below
The next world championships are scheduled for Washington state in 2002.
People inside the sport are hoping flint by bringing the world
to the biggest stage in the world, the United States, that word of their
exciting sport will get out in a big way.
And as the players continue to improve and their numbers grow, players
Bedford dare to harbor golden dreams. "The International Unicycling
is hoping that unicycle hockey will be an Olympic sport someday," he
"That's their dream. They're always adding games to the Olympics. You
have 16 countries playing the sport to get the Olympic committee's
Maybe someday, that will happen. I hope so."
-- End --