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Ice hockey
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Ice hockey

Ice hockey, known simply as "hockey" in areas where it is more common than field hockey, is a team sport played on ice. It is known as the fastest team sport in the world with players on skates capable of going high speeds along with shots of the play object going sometimes over 100 km/h.

Table of contents
1 Game
2 Penalties
3 Tactics
4 Periods and overtime
5 History
6 Women's Hockey
7 Hockey Terminology
8 External Links


The objective of the game is to score
goals by playing a hard rubber disc, the puck, into one of the nets placed at opposite ends of the rink (the playfield). The players may control the puck using a long stick with a curved blade at one end. Players may also redirect or kick the puck with a skate (but not kick it into the goal) or with the hand (without closing the hand). A player scoring three goals in a single game is said to have scored a hat-trick. A "natural hat-trick" is when the player scores three goals consecutively.

A team consists of at most 22 players of whom two have to be goaltenders. At most six players from each team may be on the ice at the same time. Usually one of the six is a goaltender (or goalie) who wears special protective clothing and is positioned in front of the net. The goaltender is allowed to immobilize the puck with his hands or body.

The other five players are divided into three forwards and two defensemen. The forward positions are named left wing, centre and right wing. Until recently forwards typically were played as units or lines, with the same three forwards always playing together. It is becoming common, however, for only the wingers to play together consistently. The defencemen usually stay together as a pair but may change less frequently than the forwards. Another innovation in lineups was the "torpedo" system which the Swedish briefly toyed with; it consisted of four defensive role players, and a torpedo who cruised near the off-sides line, even when the play was in the team's defensive end. The four defensive players would then essentially play the game as they would a power-play, hoping to capitalize on a quick liberating pass to their torpedo, to give him a one on zero opportunity. This innovation enjoyed limited success for them, and has largely been dropped, as their opponents found ways to de-claw the system.

Ice hockey is a fast-paced game and player changes may happen every few minutes and often without an interruption in play.

The remaining characteristics of hockey often depend on the particular code of play being used. The two most important codes are those of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and of the North American National Hockey League (NHL), the world's top professional league. North American hockey codes tend to bear much more resemblance to the NHL code.

The area of play is called a rink, which is 61 m (200 ft) in length and 26 to 30 m wide (85 to 100 ft) wide, with the corners rounded with a radius of 8 m (28 ft).

The rink is enclosed by boards that are between 1 m and 1.2 m (40 to 48 in) high. Most North American rinks are narrower than rinks elsewhere, typically about 85 feet (26 m) wide compared to about 30 m on other continents. Shatterproof glass extends above the boards, except in front of the players' benches. In most of North America -- including the NHL, where it is now mandatory -- nets are suspended at each end of the rink to keep pucks from entering the crowd.

The surface of the ice is broken up into different sections by lines painted beneath the ice surface. The red goal lines are located at various distances from the end of the rink, depending on the code of play, and extend across the rink. International hockey dictates they be 3.5 m (10 ft) from each end of the rink, while NHL rules dictate they be 13 ft (3.96 m). The opening of the goals is located at the centre of the goal line, which means that there is an area behind the goal, which is rare for a team sport (box lacrosse, for one, also has an area behind the goal). In international play the goal 1.83 m wide and 1.22 m high, which is virtually identical to the North American specification of a goal 6 ft wide and 4 ft high. The goalposts are joined by a crossbar.

Attachments to the tops of the goal posts extend backwards towards the boards and permit the hanging of a net to catch pucks which cross the goal line between the goalposts.

The area just in front of the goal, which is restricted to the goaltender, is marked by another red line, and is called the goal crease. The dimensions of the crease in the National Hockey League and in international hockey differ. In international play the crease is a semi-circle with a radius of 1.8 m. In the NHL the crease is 8 ft (2.43 m) wide with sides 4.6 ft (1.4 m) long, and the front edge is a section of a semicircle 6 ft (1.82 m) in diameter. The surface of the concrete under the crease is painted light blue.

Two blue lines are drawn across the rink, dividing the rink into three parts. In the National Hockey League the blue lines are 60 feet (18 m) from each goal line, while in international play they divide the rink into three equal parts.

The central part is known variously as centre ice or the neutral zone, while the other two zones are known either as the end zones or as the attacking and defending zones. The end zones are equal in size. One function of the blue line is to determine if the team with the puck is offside. A red and white checkered line (the red line) extends across the width of the rink and up the boards at centre ice, dividing the rink in half. This line is also used to determine if play is offside, as well as if the puck has been iced.

A player is offside if:

Icing consists of driving the puck from one's own side of the red line across the farther goal line without scoring and without the defending team having a chance to intercept it (in North American pro leagues a defending player must also touch the puck behind the goal line before an attacking player does). Once icing occurs play is stopped and a face-off (see below) is held in the end zone of the team that iced the puck.

Play begins with a face-off at centre ice. The puck is thrown sharply to the ice between the centres of the opposing teams, who then attempt to play it. When play is stopped it is resumed with a face-off unless a penalty shot has been called. Face-offs are conducted in five face-off circles – one at centre ice and the other four on opposite sides of each end zone – at four dots, one at each end of each blue line in the neutral zone, or at other points as required by the rules.

The face-off circles have a radius of 15 ft (4.57 m) in North America and 4.5 m in international play. There is a dot at the centre of each circle on which the puck is dropped. Only the centres may enter the face-off circles before the puck is dropped. Face-off tactics and strategy are extremely important parts of the game.


In men's hockey, but not in women's, a player may use his hip or shoulder to hit another player if the player has the puck or has just passed it. This use of the hip and shoulder is called body-checking. Expressly forbidden are:

Other serious infractions include delay of game (shooting the puck out of bounds, for example, or deliberately dislodging the goalposts), diving (attempting to draw a penalty or embellish an existing penalty typically by the action of diving) and holding the puck if one is not the goaltender. The penalty for these infractions is the removal of the offending player from the ice for a set period during which his team may not replace him. That is, they must play shorthanded until he returns. A minor penalty is removal for two minutes or until a goal is scored by the unpenalized team.

In the NHL, a double minor penalty is assessed for head-butting.

A major penalty of five minutes is assigned for more serious infractions, including checking from behind and causing injury while committing a penalty which would otherwise be punished with a minor penalty; the player must serve the full five minutes regardless of the number of goals scored against his or her team. A misconduct penalty is given chiefly for disrespect to the officials; it lasts ten minutes, but the player's team does not have to play shorthanded. Game misconduct and match penalties (for attempting to injure an opponent, kicking, etc.) result in the expulsion of the player from the game.

A penalty shot is awarded in the National Hockey League for offences such as fouling a player with the puck who is advancing towards the goaltender with no defenders in his way. All players but the goaltender and the fouled player leave the ice, the puck is placed at centre ice, and the fouled player is allowed to advance with the puck and take one shot (rebounds do not count). If his shot is successful he is awarded a goal.

When an infraction is committed, play stops if the offending team is in possession of the puck. If it is not in possession of the puck, play continues until the offending team is in possession of the puck or play stops for other reasons. If a goal is scored against the offending team, any minor penalty is waived. The goaltender of the non-offending team usually leaves the ice to be replaced by a forward when a penalty call is delayed.

A team playing with more players than a penalized team is said to be on the power play. Icing is not called against the shorthanded team on a power play. Special tactics are used when playing with an advantage in numbers.


An important defensive tactic is checking, or attempting to take the puck from an opponent. Forechecking is checking in the other team's zone, backchecking is checking while the other team is advancing down the ice toward one's own goal. Stickchecking, sweepchecking, and pokechecking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. Bodychecking is using one's shoulder or hip to strike an opponent who has the puck or who has just passed it.

When a player directs the puck towards the opponents' goal he or she is said to shoot the puck; see Shot (hockey). A one-time shot is a shot which redirects a pass towards the target by striking the puck immediately, rather than receiving the pass and shooting in two separate actions. A deke (short for decoy) is a feint with the body and/or stick to fool a defender or the goalie. Headmanning the puck is the tactic of always passing to the player farthest down the ice.

A team that is losing by one or two goals in the last few minutes of play may elect to pull the goalie, that is, put an extra skater on the ice in hopes of gaining enough advantage to score a goal, while leaving their own net empty.

Although it is officially prohibited in the rules, fights are sometimes used to affect morale of the teams with aggressors hoping to demoralize the opposing players while exciting his own team. The prevalence of fights and the apparent fan approval of this has led to the growing controversy of about violence in the sport. Opponents like Wayne Gretzky complain that violence has ruined the reputation of the sport to one where brutality has more of a presence than skill or sportsmanship. Proponents, like commentator Don Cherry dismiss these complaints and claim fighting and violence has a legitimate place to make the game exciting. The controversy often flares up in the event of players being seriously injury as a result of violence during play. Some note that the violence question is certainly relevant, considering that the NHL is the only professional sports league in the world that has an annual official award for sportsmanship, the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy which can be construed as tacid admission of the need to encourage less rough play that will reduce NHL violence and violence in sports.

Periods and overtime

A game consists of three periods of twenty minutes each, the clock running only when the puck is in play. In international play the teams change ends for the second period, again for the third period, and again after ten minutes of the third period, In North American play the last change is omitted.

Various procedures are used if a game is tied. In tournament play North Americans favour sudden death overtime, in which the teams continue to play until a goal is scored. In regular-season play in the National Hockey League, the teams play a single five-minute sudden-death overtime period, with the added stipulation that each side can play with a maximum of five players (four skaters and a goaltender) on the ice during the overtime. A regular-season game that is tied after the overtime ends tied. International play uses an overtime period followed by a shoot-out if the score remains tied after the extra period; the shootout consists of five players from each team taking penalty shots against the other team's goaltender until one team has the preponderance of successful shots.


The game originated in Canada around 1855, when the game on ice was first played with a puck rather than a ball, distinguishing it from field hockey, as played by British soldiers in Canada. A sport similar to ice hockey, bandy, also uses a ball.

In eastern Canada there is a different belief, which is that ice hockey originated around 1800 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, where students at King's College School, adapted the exciting field game of Hurley to the ice of their favorite skating ponds and created a new winter game, Ice Hurley. Over a period of decades, Ice Hurley gradually developed into Ice Hockey. It is believed that following this development that British soldiers picked up the game.

It is often asserted that Thomas Chandler Haliburton, one of North America's most quoted authors and who was born in Windsor in 1796, told of King's College boys playing "hurley on the ice" when he was a young student at the school around 1800. In fact, this is a quote from one of Haliburton's works of fiction, and is not a direct reminiscence of Haliburton himself.

The spread of Hockey to America arrived first at St. Paul's School (U.S.), brought by Malcom Gordon. In 1882 Malcom K. Gordon arrived as a "new kid" at the St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. The game had been earlier introduced at St. Paul's from Canada, but Malcom Gordon is regarded as the individual who helped formalize the game by putting down on paper what is regarded as the first set of rules in the United States. This occurred in 1885, and in 1888 he was made hockey coach. Play at St. Paul's was strictly intramural, but in 1896 Gordon took the first St. Paul's team to New York to play at the old St. Nicholas Rink. In that first game the St. Paul's alumni defeated Gordon's team 3-1.

Nevertheless, ice hockey quickly gained popularity in Canada, and in the North Central and North Eastern United States. Early professional hockey leagues included the Western Canada Hockey League, Prairie Hockey League, and Pacific Coast Hockey Association. In 1893, the Stanley Cup was established as the trophy emblematic of the Canadian senior championship; it became the award of the winner of the playoffs of the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1926. In 1908, after the competition for the Stanley Cup had become professional, the Allan Cup became the trophy awarded to the national amateur champion. In 1919 the Memorial Cup was established as the trophy for the national junior (under 21) men's champion.

The sport also became known in Europe, and in 1908, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) was founded.

At the 1920 Summer Olympics, ice hockey was introduced to the Olympics, and it has been part of the Winter Olympics ever since. Canada dominated Olympic play in the early years, being undefeated until 1936. After the Second World War, teams from Eastern Europe became stronger, notably the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, although this was also due to the fact that only amateur players were allowed to play in the Olympics. Communist countries frequently entered teams consisting largely of servicemen whose military duties consisted of playing hockey. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Central Red Army team was for many years one of the premier teams in the world.

At the 1998 Winter Olympics, an agreement was made to stop the NHL for a few weeks to allow the professional players to compete in the Olympics. Despite hopes from Canada and the US, the Czech Republic won the Olympic title on that occasion, although Canada would come out on top 4 years later in Salt Lake City. In 1998, women's ice hockey also made its appearance at the Olympics, with the United States beating Canada for the gold medal in that year, and Canada beating the United States in 2002.

Before the Olympics were opened up for professional athletes, the World Cup of Hockey and its predecessor the Canada Cup displayed the highest level of hockey, since only these tournaments were open to all the world's best players. Featuring the very best players from the six competing countries (Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, the USSR, Sweden and the USA) the Canada Cup was played for in 1976, 1981, 1984, 1987 and 1991. The 1987 event is referred to as one of the most spectacular in hockey history. In 1996, the Canada Cup was replaced by the World Cup of Hockey, which featured all six nations above and Germany (though Czechoslovakia had by then split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia). The World Cup of Hockey will be played for again in 2004. Except for 1981, when the USSR won, all Canada Cups were won by Canada. The 1996 World Cup of Hockey event was won by the USA.

The annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships are formally open to the best players in the world, but many cannot attend because they are playing in the Stanley Cup tournament, which is held at the same time. The IIHF championships pit national men's and women's teams against each other in multiple divisions.

At present the game is most popular in Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia and Switzerland. The premier league is the National Hockey League (NHL), with teams in the United States and Canada. Other leagues providing a high calibre of play are the Finnish SM-liiga, the Swedish Elitserien, and the Czech and Russian national competitions. Many players of North American origin, among them former NHLers, compete in European leagues. The highest number of American and Canadian players overseas can be found in the German Elite League DEL.

Hockey is also played by colleges in the United States as a part of the NCAA, culminating in the Frozen Four. The American Hockey League (AHL) is the leading American minor league; it has teams in both Canada and the United States. The Canadian Hockey League or CHL is a major Canadian junior (under 21) league, and is the parent group of the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. It is the chief preparation league for the NHL, and also awards the Memorial Cup to the Canadian junior hockey champion, though the number of players coming from U.S. colleges and Europe to the NHL is steadily increasing.

However these leagues are not alone. According to The Internet Hockey Database, there are over 100 leagues ever to be formed and play games (and a few more, because the site does not show European minor leagues or smaller NCAA leagues). Also the World Hockey Association has been revived for 2004-2005. The New World Hockey Association has Bobby Hull for a commissioner. The league has been revived just in time for the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring.

Women's Hockey

Women's hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with an increase of 400 percent, in just the last 10 years. While there are not as many organized leagues for women as there are for men, there exist leagues of all levels, from the National Women's Hockey League to Olympics teams to recreational teams.

Notable Women Hockey Players:

Hockey Terminology


Personnel Rink Game play Equipment See also List of ice hockey leagues

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