A geek’s guide to Bandy

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At first glance bandy could be mistaken for ice hockey, both are played on ice, with sticks, yet that is where the similarities end. Bandy is a mix of both ice hockey and football and is popular amongst Nordic countries. So, what is Bandy?

What is the aim of bandy?

Bandy is played by two teams each consisting of eleven players. Players must pass or dribble the ball amongst themselves and direct it towards the opposing team's goal using bowed sticks, with the aim of scoring goals. The team that scores more goals at the games end is declared the winner. Should both sides have an equal amount of goals, the match is tied, and a draw is announced.

Like field hockey, bandy is played on a field however as the area is a sheet of ice players have to use skates. Like football the offside rule is applied, goals cannot be scored from a corner throw or stroke-in, and then there is a goalkeeper who is the only player permitted to touch the ball with their hands, arms and head during matches.

A brief history of bandy

Baikal-Energia Irkutsk's Pavel Dubovik and Vodnik Arkhangelsk's Alexander Antonov (L-R front) struggle for the ball in their 2016/17 Russian Bandy Super League rematch Baikal-Energia Irkutsk's Pavel Dubovik and Vodnik Arkhangelsk's Alexander Antonov (L-R front) struggle for the ball in their 2016/17 Russian Bandy Super League rematch

Although similar to ice hockey, the game's concept was conceived in 18th century Russia. However, it was not until the game spread to Britain that the rules were modified as to what they are today. Even Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert couldn’t resist playing goalkeeper in a famous exhibition match in 1853 at Windsor Castle.

Due to its playing environment on an ice terrain, naturally, it was called 'hockey on the ice' until the first international match of bandy was played in Sweden in 1902. After its introduction at the 1905 Nordic games, the game has always been known as bandy.

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Playing bandy

Like football, bandy has certain positions yet apart from the goalkeeper these positions are often interchangeable.

  • Defenders − Stopping players take shots at the goalkeepers and disrupting attacking plays.
  • Midfielders − Intercepting passes, tacking players and then moving the ball forward to the attacking players.
  • Forwards − Create attacking play and to score goals.

Players can switch positions at any time within the team's formation.

Bandy is played on a field the size of a football pitch with eleven players and much like football has two 45-minute halves. Players use an orange ball instead of a puck that is used in ice hockey.

The 2016/17 Russian Bandy Super League rematch The 2016/17 Russian Bandy Super League rematch

Using bandy sticks (much like ice hockey sticks) players move the ball around the ice. Teams can also use other parts of their body except for their heads, hands or arms - only goalkeepers can use these body parts. Outfield players who use these body parts intentionally risk a five-minute penalty given by the referee.

Players move the ball around the ice either by passing the ball to a teammate or dribbling with the ball using their sticks and attempting to bypass the opposition and shoot at goal. Whilst doing this, the opposition team will try to tackle or intercept the ball.

Discipline in bandy

Like football play only stops when the ball goes out of play for a goal throw, penalty stroke or corner stroke. Physical content is permitted, but only to the extent that no one gets injured.

Whereas football has a yellow and red card system to maintain discipline, bandy has a blue and red card system. Players receiving a blue card will face a ten-minute penalty from the game and must leave the field for a period.

Much like football, a red card that is shown to players means that the player concerned is no longer permitted to take part in the game. Players shown three blue cards in a match automatically receive a red card and sit out the remainder of the game.

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Bandy playing field

Players during a bandy match as part of the 12th Altai Republic's bandy tournament Players during a bandy match as part of the 12th Altai Republic's bandy tournament

Bandy fields are 90-110 metre by 45-65 metres, about the same size as a football ground and much more extensive than an ice hockey rink. Along the fields edge is a high border to prevent the ball from leaving the ice.

There are two penalty spots located at 12 metres from the goal post with two free-stroke spots on the surrounding penalty line. Goal posts are 2.1 metres high at each end of the field.

Differences between bandy and ice hockey

Although there are some similarities between bandy and ice hockey, there are glaring differences too. Bandy is the forerunner of ice hockey and as such has comparisons with football, the game of the day when bandy was conceived.

  • A bandy field is much larger than an ice hockey rink.
  • No full-on body checking is permitted in bandy, as it is in ice hockey.
  • Bandy has eleven players, ice hockey only six.
  • Bandy plays with an orange ball, ice hockey with a puck.
  • Ice hockey has three 20-minute intervals. Bandy has two halves lasting 45 minutes each, like football.
  • Goalposts are much larger in bandy than in ice hockey, hence why ice hockey goalkeepers sit down to block shots, whilst in bandy goalkeepers stand upright, much like football.

With this geek’s guide to bandy, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first bandy match. If you can follow football and ice hockey, you'll find yourself hooked on watching this similar sport played out on the ice with football-style rules.

Words: David Bailey-Lauring

Images: PA

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