WHAT IS PCH

Powerchair Hockey is a team sport for people with a physical disability who need a power chair to practice sport. The aim of the game? To score more goals than the opposing team!

This sport is all about speed and tactics. Two teams of five players battle against each other and use their own strategies to win. There are two kinds of players. Players who have enough strength to hold a stick in their hand, play with a floorball stick. Others play with a stick that is attached to the wheelchair, a T-stick. The ball is a synthetic, hollow, round, air-filled ball with holes. It’s easier to handle because it’s so light. This is the same ball that is used in floorball.

Each team needs to have at least two T-stick players: one goaltender in front of the goal and one player on the field. Not every handstick player has the same strength. That’s what makes this sport so strategic. Every team develops the best way to get the most out of every player’s physical and strategical strength. By combining all this together, they create the perfect team strategy.

Players drive with a maximum speed of 15km/h on an indoor playing field of 26m long and 16m wide, that is enclosed by plastic boundaries with a height of 20cm. The shape of the playing field resembles an ice hockey field. The corners are rounded and the goal is in the field, so you can also play around it.

The goal is 2,5m wide, 20cm high and 40cm deep. The goaltender protects his goal with his chair and T-stick. In front of the goal, there is a goal area. Only the goaltender of that specific goal may enter this area. Not even his teammates can enter it. The goaltender is allowed to drive around the field, but choses to stay in the goal area to protect the goal.

During each match, two referees make sure everything goes by the rules. They run on the field between all those speeding wheelchairs and keep an eye on everything, because anything can happen in just in a blink of an eye.

At the moment, Powerchair Hockey is being played in Europe and Australia. There are national leagues, European Championships and World Championships. Clubs also organize their own tournaments. In North America, they play a different form of Powerchair Hockey. In other countries and parts of the world, the sport is still being developed.

Sticks

There are two possible ways to play the ball: with a handstick or a T-stick.

Players who have enough strength in their arms and back, play with a handstick. This is an often shorter version of a floorball stick. The stick can’t be longer than 1,12m.

Players who don’t have this strength, play with a T-stick. When seen from above, its shape looks like a T. This kind of stick is attached to the front of the wheelchair. The blade of the stick has a maximum length of 30cm. There’s one pair of side-wings attached to the blade. With these wings, players can control the ball or shoot it away. It’s very difficult to score with a T-stick, because you have a lot more control with a handstick. That’s why T-stick players get the task to protect. They will guide their team to the opponent’s goal by blocking other players and will try to stop the opponent from making any goals.

Handstick and T-stick

Wheelchairs

In the seventies, Powerchair Hockey was born. Back then it was still called Electric Wheelchair Hockey. There were no sports chairs yet, so everybody played in their own electric wheelchair.

Players began adding protection to their wheelchairs to protect them from getting damaged. Since the nineties, wheelchair manufacturers have been making electric wheelchairs that are also suitable to play Powerchair Hockey with. Nowadays, there are also sports wheelchairs that only get used to play this sport with. Those wheelchairs are very light, maneuverable, fast and have protection around them. This isn’t a contact sport, but collisions happen.

Team delegation

A team consists out of 5 players and their substitutes. In case of a European or World Championship, only 10 players are allowed in a team. During a match, each team has a maximum of 5 players on the playing field. At least two players need to play with a T-stick: the goaltender and a field player. This also means there can only be three handstick players on the field. There can always be less handstick players or more T-stick players, it depends what the coach decides and what the classification of the players is. A team can have a maximum total of 11 class points on the playing field. If a player has been sent off the field because of a time penalty or disqualification, his points will still count.

In the full team delegation, there is also a coach (and sometimes an assistant coach), a team manager and team assistants. A coach stands next to the playing field and gives his team directions. He or she can also request an allocated time-out or a substitution. The coach doesn’t need to have a disability.

Each team has a captain on the playing field, who wears a captain’s band around the upper arm. The captain represents the team and may approach the referee in a correct manner for explanation of the rules and necessary information.
Before the start of the match, the captains of both teams will ask the referee to take a toss. The team that wins the toss may either select which goal it wishes to defend or to take the opening ball.

This is a mixed sport: men and women can play in the same team.

Length of a match

An international match of Powerchair Hockey is played in two halves of 20 minutes actual playing time, with a half time break of 10 minutes. After the first half, teams switch ends of the playing field. Actual playing time means that every time the referee whistles, the timekeeper stops the match clock until the match is resumed.

During each match half, each team is allowed one allocated time-out. This allows both teams 1 minute time to change tactics.

In case there is a problem with the powerchair, T-stick, handstick or belt of a player, he or she can ask the referee for a Technical Time Out. The player will be given 1 minute to have the problem fixed. If this doesn’t work, the player has to change powerchair or has to be substituted.

If a match in the Play Offs ends with a tie after the regular playing time, the match will be decided firstly by extra-time, secondly by penalty-shot-series. In the extra-time, the first team that scores, wins the match. If nobody scores in the extra-time, the penalty-shot-series will decide who wins the match.

In national leagues, the length of a match can vary. Either the match clock doesn’t get stopped during match interruptions, there are more halves or there is a longer/shorter playing time.

Speed

Players can drive on the playing field with a maximum speed of 15km/h. This is the international standard, but in some national leagues there is no speed limit. At the moment, sports chairs can drive about 18km/h.

Since 2012, there is speed control on EC’s and WC’s. Before the tournament starts, all wheelchairs are inspected. The wheelchairs will only get approved for the tournament if they don’t drive faster than 15,5km/h. The official limit is 15km/h, but a deviation of 0,5km/h is allowed.

During a match, two jury members analyse the speed of the wheelchairs on the side of the field. If they think someone drives too fast, they can ask for a speed control. As soon as a referee has whistled for any kind of reason, the player will be asked to drive on rollers that are set up next to the jury members. If the speedometer displays a speed that exceeds 15,5 km/h multiple times, the referee will show the player a red card.

Classification

All players who participate in a European or World Championship, need to be classified. Classification is a procedure where IWAS Powerchair Hockey (IPCH) Classifiers determine an athlete’s Sport Specific Powerchair Hockey Class and Sport Class Status, by conducting some sport specific tests.
IPCH Classifiers are physicians/physiotherapists/technicians in sport that are trained and certified by IPCH.

Classification is necessary to determine if an athlete can play Powerchair Hockey internationally. Depending on the outcome of the tests, an athlete will be allocated to class 1, 2, 3 or 4. The higher the class, the less limitation the athlete’s impairment has on his/her sports performance.

An athlete can also be classified as ineligible, which means the athlete will not be allowed to compete in the international event.

Classification ensures a fair competition, because each team is only allowed a maximum of 11 points on the playing field, which is formed by 5 players. Every player counts as 1, 2, 3 or 4 points (depending on the class). Since every player has been allocated a class, teams will have to create a line-up that exists out of a maximum of 11 points. This means teams will be balanced equally.

Some possible line-ups:
3 – 3 – 3 – 1 – 1
4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 1
4 – 4 – 1 – 1 – 1

Green, yellow and red cards

Players who commit an (un)intentional offence, can be punished with a green, yellow or red card. It all depends how severe the offence is and whether or not it is intentional. Some examples of offences: hitting the stick of another player, colliding into another player, moving the goal, playing the ball above a height of 20cm, driving faster than 15,5km/h, driving into the boundaries, etc.
Every card has its own consequence for the player who is being punished.

Green card: an official warning. The player doesn’t get any penalty. In case the player isn’t more careful, he or she can get another official warning (green card). Two official warnings result in a yellow card.

Yellow card: a time penalty. The player has to exit the playing field and stay in the penalty time area of his own team area for two minutes. During this time, the team has to play with one less player. A yellow card is given to someone who commits a severe (un)intentional offence, already has had a green card or who has repeatedly committed unintentional, light offences.

Red card: disqualification. The player has to exit the playing field and cannot stay in his team area. He or she is not allowed to have anymore contact with the team until the end of the match. A red card is given to someone who has committed a severe intentional offence or who has already had a yellow card.

The playing field

The indoor playing field is 26m long and 16m wide, and is enclosed by plastic boundaries with a height of 20cm. The shape of the playing field resembles an ice hockey field. The corners are rounded and the goal is in the field, so you can also play around it.

The goal is 2,5m wide, 20cm high and 40cm deep. The goaltender protects his goal with his chair and T-stick. In front of the goal, there is a goal area. Only the goaltender of that specific goal may enter this area. Not even his teammates can enter it. The goaltender is allowed to drive around the field, but choses to stay in the goal area to protect the goal.

There are different lines on the field that each have their own meaning. When the match is started or resumed, the ball will be put on a specific spot or line on the field. Where, will depend on the situation. This also means that both teams will have to position themselves at a certain spot. Some examples:

Opening ball: this is taken at the start of a match half or after a goal has been scored. The ball has to be put on the centre spot of the centre line. The team that takes the opening ball, lines up at the own match half, behind the centre point. The opposing team has to stand behind the own penalty line until the ball has been touched by the other team. As soon as the referee whistles, one player will pass the ball to another teammate. When that happens, everybody can start driving anywhere on the field, except for of course the goal area.

Referee ball: there are different reasons for this, e.g. two players commit an offence at the same time. The ball is put at the centre spot of the penalty line or at the centre spot of the centre line, depending on the situation. One player from each team takes position behind the ball at the own goal side of that line. All other players have to remain at a distance of 2 meters from the ball and the players taking the ball. Both players put their stick on their right side of the ball. When the referee whistles, both players may play or take the ball with the stick.

Penalty shot: this is awarded to the opposing team if a player intentionally commits an offence inside the own penalty area. Any player from the team can take the penalty shot, with the condition that he or she was in the playing field when the offence was committed. The ball is put at the centre spot of the centre line. The player who takes the penalty, takes place directly behind the ball. All other players, except for the goaltender who will try to stop the penalty, stand behind the penalty area of the team that takes the penalty. They have to remain there until the penalty is completely finished. As soon as the referee whistles, the penalty shot taker can play the ball. The ball has to move forward continuously, or the penalty is over. As soon as the penalty shot taker has shot on the goal or the goaltender has touched the ball, the penalty is over.