People playing street hockey in an outdoor rink.
|Highest governing body||International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (International)
American Street Hockey Institute (United States)
Canadian Ball Hockey Association (Canada)
|Nickname(s)||USA = dek hockey / Canada, Europe, Asia = ball hockey (some parts of Canada call it "road" hockey)|
|Categorization||Primarily outdoor, indoor|
|Equipment||Required = A ball or a puck (most players use a ball but a small percentage use a puck), a hockey stick, a net. Optional = shin pads, gloves, helmet.|
Street hockey (also known as dek hockey, ball hockey, and in some parts of Canada "road hockey") is a variation of the sport of ice hockey where the game is played on foot or inline or roller skates with a ball or puck. Both ball and puck are typically designed to be played on non-ice surfaces. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team by shooting the ball or puck into the opposing team's net. Street hockey in pickup form is generally played under the following guidelines, since there are no "official rules" for local pickup hockey:
- Physical contact between players is extremely limited to avoid injury.
- Minimal amounts of hockey equipment by the runners are worn depending on player preferences.
- Players agree whether or not to allow slap shots and raising of the stick, both of which can incur serious injury to players since there is minimal equipment worn.
- Players determine whether to use a ball or a street hockey puck.
- There is no referee, except when agreed upon by both teams.
In its most pure form, street hockey is always played on an outdoor surface (very often a street, parking lot, tennis court or other asphalt surface), thus the genesis of the name street hockey. Teams can be selected by various methods, but usually are selected by captains via alternate selection of available players. Alternatively, all the players put their sticks in a pile and the sticks are tossed out of the pile to opposing sides. In more organized forms, it is played in rinks which often were designed for roller hockey and can be indoor or outdoor rinks. There are also rinks built specifically for hockey played on foot, and these are referred to as dek hockey or ball hockey rinks. These rinks can also be used for roller hockey games.
The term street hockey was started in Canada at some point in the early 20th century, although a search of records both on the internet and in several libraries by fans of hockey in general has not turned up an exact year. The sport and thus the term street hockey eventually spread South to the United States. Most people who play the sport generally agree that no single person or entity invented the term "street hockey", but rather it simply invented itself just like the term "ice hockey" since it is describing a form of the sport of hockey. People would literally play the game out in the street, thus they had to ask people to play by asking them if wanted to play hockey out in the street. Some regions in North America use street hockey in reference to roller hockey, where inline or roller skates are worn to play otherwise the same game. Street hockey is generally played on foot, and when players use inline or roller skates to play, the sport becomes roller hockey or inline hockey. All this terminology can seem confusing to non-players and the general public, but ultimately is a simple case of semantics. General consensus among players of the sport is as follows:
Street Hockey has variations called dek hockey, ball hockey, and floor hockey. Dek Hockey is used almost exclusively in the United States, and Ball Hockey is used primarily in Canada, Europe, and Asia. Dek hockey got its name when street hockey leagues began playing in indoor and outdoor rinks, and the flooring or playing surface was referred to as "the dek". An example would be two players speaking about a dek hockey game - "John had a great game playing center tonight out there on the dek."
Ball hockey got its name when people started forming street hockey leagues where they played with a ball rather than a puck. In order to recruit players, league leaders and players needed to be specific about what type of street hockey they were asking people to play. An example would be one player speaking to another potential player - Bill - "Hey Joe I think you would be a good player in my street hockey league." Joe "What type of league is it? Ball or puck?" Bill - "It's a ball hockey league."
There are difference between dek hockey and ball hockey in terms of how the games are played, but these differences are strictly a matter of rules and regulations that are invoked during tournament play.
Dek Hockey rules stipulate the following:
- The center line is considered the offsides line.
- You are not allowed to raise your stick above the shoulder at any time except when in the act of shooting or moving around another player while running.
- You cannot close your hand around the ball.
- Official rink dimensions are a minimum of 160 feet in length by 80 feet in width.
Ball Hockey rules stipulate the following:
- Offside is determined by a "floating blue line". The concept can be difficult to understand for non-hockey enthusiasts, but the simplest explanation is as follows: When the ball crosses the blue line, the attacking team is onside. They have the entire zone up to the center line with which to work the ball around and still be considered onside. Once the ball crosses the center red line the attacking team's players must clear the defending team's blue line and have the ball enter past the blue line to be considered onside again.
- You can raise your stick above the shoulder to call for a pass.
- You can close your hand around the ball provided that you bring the ball straight down to your feet and do not change the direction you are moving in.
- International rink dimensions are the same as international ice hockey rinks 197 ft × 98.4 ft.
- North American rink dimensions are the same as North American ice hockey rinks 200 ft × 85 ft.
Roller Hockey is divided into two categories which are based on the type of skates used: Roller hockey (Quad) and Inline Hockey. This image provides a visual explanation for the various forms of hockey that all fall under the umbrella of street hockey:
Street hockey is based on ice hockey, and the overall purpose is the same: to score more goals than your opponent by shooting the ball or puck into the opposing team's net using your stick. It is typically played on foot on some outdoor asphalt, cement or modular sport surface. The most popular balls of choice are orange "no bounce" plastic balls that are specifically made for street hockey, as well as tennis balls. Pucks are rarely used due to the playing surface, but, in some instances, a special puck designed with bearings for roller hockey can also be used. If a puck is used, generally the players agree for safety purposes to make every effort to keep the puck on the ground since the players generally don't wear protective head gear and if a puck were to strike a player in the head it could cause serious medical injury and damage. Generally, street hockey is played with little to no protective equipment, therefore intense physical contact is usually prohibited, and levels of physical contact are agreed upon before hand by the participants. The game does permit a level of physical contact similar to that allowed in basketball. Rules and playing styles can differ from area to area depending upon the traditions a certain group has set aside. In informal play, the game often begins one of two ways: 1) a so-called "NHL face-off", in which the two opposing centers hit their sticks against each other three times saying "N", "H", "L". Immediately following the "L" the two players fight to see who claims possession of the ball or puck 2) One team simply takes the ball or puck out from behind their own goalie net, similar to how a basketball game resumes when one team scores a basket. When street hockey is played in rinks, whether outdoor or indoor, it is often called "dek hockey" or "ball hockey" depending on where in the U.S. and Canada it is being played. An overwhelming majority of Americans refer to it as dek hockey, while an overwhelming majority of Canadians, Asians, and Europeans refer to it as ball hockey. Specifically speaking however, dek and ball hockey are played under organized rules if they are not already being played as part of an organized league which has an official set of rules (see the section Leagues and governing bodies below). In other words, if you say you are playing dek hockey or ball hockey, both have specific meanings as to the type of rules you are playing under.
Street hockey can also be played on indoor basketball courts and/or gymnasiums. This type of game is called floor hockey and in organized leagues often has specific rules in place that differ slightly from outdoor street hockey. The walls or fencing of these "rinks" serve to keep the ball (or the less often used puck) in play similarly to the boards of an ice rink. Floor hockey also has its own variations called Cosom Hockey and Floorball. It must be noted however that floor hockey, cosom, and floorball are not considered formal subsets of street hockey since they have such different rules.
A fairly new and popular alternative to playing hockey on the street in Canada is to play in outdoor lacrosse boxes. The lacrosse boxes contain the same asphalt surface as the streets, but offers a more realistic feeling of hockey since the playing area is larger than the average street, in addition to having boards that surround the lacrosse box. Players also do not need to worry about traffic and pedestrians. However, one downside to this is the smaller size of in-place lacrosse nets.
Similarly to lacrosse boxes, outdoor roller hockey rinks are becoming quite popular in public areas around the United States. These rinks allow for a place to play off of what can often become dangerous streets. Outdoor roller hockey rinks are usually covered in a sport interlocking plastic tile surface so equipment does not wear down as quickly as on asphalt. Some are concrete which is painted with a special paint designed to provide traction for feet and roller blades. Many rinks are also covered to allow play during wet weather, and lighted for nighttime hockey. There are also a large amount of indoor rinks sprinkled throughout the United States and Canada. No official tally has been made as to the number of indoor rinks but the unofficial count is over 500 combing Canada and the United States.
Overall, equipment for street hockey is based on that of ice hockey, but due to the general prohibition of body checks, most of the pads and other safety equipment used for ice or roller hockey are not worn or required to be worn in street hockey games. In pickup style games, most "runners" and/or "skaters" tend to play with some combination of the following: hockey gloves, shin guards, eye protection, athletic support, and mouth guards. Shin guards are often of the soccer type when the game is played on foot, though several companies now manufacturer and sell shin pads that are lightweight and durable which have been specifically designed for and are marketed for street and roller hockey. Goalies still typically wear equipment similar in appearance to their ice hockey counterparts for safety but partly also to help block more of the goal area. However, such goalie equipment used in street hockey is generally lighter than that used in ice hockey due to the reduced weight and density of the ball (or puck) that is typically used in street hockey as compared to the hard vulcanized rubber puck used in ice hockey.
A street hockey stick is similar to an ice hockey stick in shape and size, but made of materials that will better stand up to use on asphalt or a similar playing surface. It has two main parts, the shaft and the blade. The shaft is often made of aluminum, graphite, or wood. The blade is usually made of some type of plastic, typically a blend of polyurethane, and attaches to the shaft by insertion into the shaft, with the inside of the shaft being coated with a specialized type of glue that requires heating to settle and solidify. Other shafts are designed to have the blade screwed onto the shaft and secured in place with screws. Some street hockey sticks are made in one-piece form and are made out of plastic, polyurethane, graphite, aluminum, wood, or a blend of these and other materials. Ice hockey and inline hockey sticks can also be used. However, street hockey sticks are usually cheaper and more durable for playing on asphalt and concrete, and as such are more common for this reason where the game is played on those surfaces. In organized dek and ball hockey leagues, most players use more expensive sticks as the quality of game play is much higher than pickup street hockey and the sport court surfaces the games are played on allow for the sticks to last long periods of time under regular use. These sticks also provide players the ability to shoot faster and more accurately due to their construction methods. Elite players at tournaments where radar guns have been present have had their shots clocked between 120-130 mph. By way of comparison, the fastest ice hockey shots rarely break 100 mph. Most professionals average around 80-90 mph. The physics of shooting a ball versus a puck allow for balls to be shot at much higher velocities. This is due to the amount of surface area being contacted between the ball and the stick versus the puck and the stick. All other factors being equal, a ball will travel faster because the more surface area of the ball that comes into contact with the stick, the more energy is transferred from the stick to the ball, thus propelling the ball at greater speeds then a puck. also some balls are made of concrete and may need to be cracked in order to playsafetly.
In 1970 Raymond W. Leclerc of Massachusetts created the No Bounce Orange Ball. Some of these balls are partially filled with liquid, which reduces bouncing. With the success of the widely used orange ball for street hockey, many different color varieties have been introduced, such as yellow, red, pink, and even a glow in the dark ball. Several ball manufacturers now market the balls with the temperature range the ball was designed for on the packaging itself. Although there is no certified industry standard for the balls since no street hockey standards organization exists, all hockey ball manufacturers sell their balls according to the following temperature range: red/orange = hot/warm above 60 degrees, pink = cool - between 40-60 degrees, yellow = cold - below 40 degrees. A tennis ball or whiffle ball can also be used as an alternative to the orange ball for street hockey, as it is much softer than the orange ball, therefore reducing the risk of injury.
The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation, the world wide governing body of official street hockey tournaments and leagues, officially recognizes two types of ball for play: a hard (Pro) version for adult warm climate play and a soft (Street) version for non-summer play and younger youth age groups.
History of the sport
It is believed that street hockey began when roads started getting paved in wealthier parts of North America around the turn of the 20th century.
In the early 1970s, Raymond W. Leclerc (the creator of the No Bounce ball) and founder of the Mylec Corporation, along with several prominent players in the Northeastern United States, established organized basics and rules for the game:
- A rink measuring 160 feet long by 80 feet wide
- Special lightweight protective equipment
- An organization called the American Street Hockey Institute to promote the game
- An organization to organize the game for leagues and tournaments called the International Dek Hockey Tournament Association
After a few years of experimenting with all the dynamics, Mr. Leclerc built a model site in 1974 to play and advance the game, known informally as "The Home of Street Hockey" in Leominster, Massachusetts. It consists of 3 outdoor rinks, 2 of which are regulation size and one smaller sized rink for younger players. Mr. Leclerc is often regarded as the founder and father of organized Street Hockey in the USA.
The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation is officially recognized as the governing body of the sport by the International Ice Hockey Federation. The non-profit was founded in 1993 and has provided international competitions since 1995.
The Canadian Ball Hockey Association  is the official governing body of ball hockey in Canada as recognized by the I.S.B.H.F.
The American Street Hockey Institute  is the official governing body of street and dek hockey in the United States as recognized by the I.S.B.H.F.
Europe and Asia
Several European and Asian countries have their own governing bodies where the sport has enough players to have a national following and presence. Generally, these countries have rule books based upon either the Canadian, American, or I.S.B.H.F. rule books, or a combination of some type of these.
The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation holds several international tournaments with most being broken down by age groups. These tournaments are typically bi-annual, such as the Men's and Women's 20 and over, the Men's and Women's Under 20, and the Men's and Women's Under 18. There is also a Men's Masters Tournament for players aged 40 and over.
There are a few tournaments held throughout North America every year. Typical tournaments start on a Friday and end on Sunday evenings.
Notable tournaments include:
- US Nationals (est. 1976)
- Canadian Nationals (est. 1986)
- Street Hockey USA Men's C, D & Novice National Championship (established 1995) - Pittsburgh, PA
- Maple Leaf Cup & North American Youth Championships (est. 1980) - Niagara Falls, ON
- I.S.B.H.F. World Championship - Various Locations (est. 1997)
- World Outdoor Ball Hockey Championship (established 1995) - Barrie, ON
- North American Championships - Harrisburg, PA (est. 2005)
- Super Bowl Bi-Week Invitational - Harrisburg, PA (est.2006)
- Sin City Shoot-out - Las Vegas, NV (est. 2006)
- World Outdoor Youth Ball Hockey Championship - Brampton, Ontario, Canada (est. 2009)
- Sunshine Shoot-out - Tampa, FL (est. 2007)
- USA Street Hockey Cup @ Disney World - Kissimmee, FL (est. 2007)
- Lafanut Cup - Bridgeville, PA (est. 2009)
Street hockey is played in over sixty countries worldwide, and more than thirty of these countries have leagues that are members of the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation.
Leagues have become very popular in the sport over the last 20 years, and in turn this popularity has lead to much growth in the sport by helping to organize it and attract new players. Leagues are generally very easy to join in comparison to ice hockey because of the minimal equipment requirements and players not having to pay for expensive ice rink time. Leagues are broken down into skill levels of the players:
A/B: The highest skill level players. C/D: Experienced players. E/Novice: Least experienced and newer players. Coed: Men and Women.
Since Canada is the birthplace of hockey, street hockey in all forms is the most popular sport in the country by far. There are over 1000 local leagues scattered throughout the country. Some of the more popular leagues include:
- York Central Ball Hockey League
- Ball Hockey Ontario
- Ball Hockey International
- SWO Ball Hockey
- Alberta Street and Ball Hockey
- Newfoundland Street and Ball Hockey
- RBHL Ball Hockey
- Play Safe Ball Hockey
- Saskatoon Ball Hockey.
- 202 Street Hockey Association - Orange, MA
- Leominster Dek Hockey - Leominster, MA
- National Dek Hockey Center - Winchendon, MA
- Elite Dek Hockey - Hudson, MA
- Hockeytown USA Street Hockey - Saugus, MA
New York and New Jersey:
- Marlton Street Hockey - Marlton, NJ
- Nassau Street Hockey - Long Island, NY
- Central Jersey Street Hockey - Central New Jersey
- Egg Harbor Street Hockey - Egg Harbor, NJ
- Buffalo Fusion Dek Hockey - Buffalo, NY
- Syracuse Hockey Association - Syracuse, NY
- The Hockey Dek - Aston, PA
- Pittsburgh Dek Hockey Center - Pittsburgh, PA
- Butler Dek Hockey - Butler, PA
- Philly Street Hockey Association - Philadelphia, PA
- Northeast Racquet Club League - Philadelphia, PA
Mid Atlantic Region:
- Raleigh Street Hockey - Raleigh, NC
- DC Metro Street Hockey - Washington, DC
- Sportsplex Maryland, - Frederick, MD
- Orlando Dek Hockey - Orlando, FL
- Tampa Bay Ball Hockey - New Port Richey, FL
- South Florida Dek Hockey - Hollywood, FL
- Metro Atlanta Street Hockey - Atlanta, GA
- Southwest Ball Hockey - Chicago, IL
- RAT Hockey Chicago - Chicago, IL
- Dryland Hockey - Lakeville, MN
- QC Dek Hockey- Bettendorf, IA 
- Bay Area Street Hockey - San Francisco, CA
- SoCal Street Hockey - Orange, CA
- Phoenix Street Hockey - Phoenix, AZ
- Seattle Street Hockey - Seattle, WA
- Las Vegas Street Hockey - Las Vegas, NV
All of these leagues are played either indoors and outdoors, some leagues both, usually in rinks with sport surfaces ranging in size anywhere between 160–200 feet long x 70–85 feet wide.
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