Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Swedish Hockey

In the early 1970s, my family would often attend the 10:30 Folk mass at the University of Windsor student chapel, which featured lots of righteous guitar strumming tunes in place of the more traditional hymns, which appear to be almost universally lacking a melody meant to be sung by a congregation. But that's another story.

After mass, my dad would often take me over to the student centre for a game of "Swedish Hockey," as he called it, on a coin-operated table. I loved it, and our Sunday matches soon became one of the highlights of the week.

On Christmas Day, 1975 (I'm guessing here), my dad revealed that down in his basement workshop he had built me my own table, all-wood construction, complete with players, goals, and even a scoreboard with red and blue pegs to place in holes numbered 0-9. The construction wasn't perfect (the ball frequently got stuck in the corners), but it was pretty good, and, over the years, I spent countless hours playing with family and friends. The game was still in working order, along with the beloved ping pong table, when I went off to college.

Shuffleboard was the game at St. Mike's, but in law school, in addition to pool, we sometimes played what everyone else called foosball. My informal polls revealed that although some people were aware of different names, No-one had ever heard of "Swedish Hockey." The Wikipedia entry for foosball says this:

The most common English names are table footballfootzybar football and foosball, though table soccer is also used. Among French-style players it is known as baby-foot. The name foosball is a loose transliteration of the German word "Fußball", which itself means simply football.
In Germany and in Russia the game is most often called Kicker. In Italy the most used names are gitonibiliardino and calcio balilla. In Hungary it is called csocsó. Through Brazilian regions, it has received several names, like totópebolim or fla-flu. In Spain the game is called futbolín. In Chile the game is known as tacataca. In Argentina, table football is known as metegol. In Guatemala, the game is called futillo. In Perú the game is known asfulbito de mesa or "futbolín". In other Latin American countries, it is known as canchitas or futbolito. In Bulgaria the game is called djaga.
In Turkey the game is called Langırt. In Portugal it is called matraquilhos. In the Netherlands the game is called tafelvoetbal. In Canada it is widely known as gitoni (where a gettone or token is required to play the game), foosball and baby-foot in Quebec. In South Africa it is called Ta-Ta box. In Poland it is called piłkarzyki which means "little football players".
I can also turn up no evidence on the Internet that anyone except my family has ever used this term. I think it's hilarious. But I will always think of foosball as Swedish Hockey. Thanks Dad.
Anyway, the BG has started playing what she calls foosball with her friends, at our local pool, and wondered aloud the other day--as kids tend to do when they are angling for something--about getting her own table. I gave her a stern lecture about the importance of a quality product, letting her know that a proper table would be expensive (and not telling her about the family history of bespoke construction).
The other night, Worldwide took me down the street to show me that one of our neighbours (who we don't really know) was throwing out a dismantled Swedish Hockey table, complete with a ziploc bag of screws taped to one end. We went to the door to see if the disposal was due to structural problems, overly competitive spouses or lack of use, but no-one was home, so the reason for abandoning the game may never be known.
But the table seemed to be in reasonable shape, so we carried it home, and I assembled it in the basement. It looks pretty good. I've ordered some replacement balls from Amazon, and I look forward to testing it out with the when the BG gets back from camp next month.
In the meantime, I feel righteous and awkward about the scavenging. It doesn't fit with my minimalist approach to possesions, but the price was certainly right, and I saved some landfill space, at least for a while. And the BG will be thrilled.


  1. We originally discovered this in Ann Arbor with Buzz and Jan Holland.. they had a table.

  2. we originally discovered the game at the home of Buzz and Jan Holland in Ann Arbor...before you were old enough to play

  3. We originally discovered this in Ann Arbor with Buzz and Jan Holland.. they had a table.