Ice hockey

From Academic Kids

Ice hockey, known simply as hockey in Canada and the United States, is a team sport played on ice. It is one of the world's fastest sports, with players on skates capable of going high speeds on natural or artificial ice surfaces.



Two defencemen and a goaltender guard their goal. The referee's raised arm indicates that he intends to call a penalty.
Two defencemen and a goaltender guard their goal. The referee's raised arm indicates that he intends to call a penalty.

Ice hockey is played on a hockey rink by six players per side, each of whom is on ice skates. The objective of the game is to score goals by playing a hard vulcanized rubber disc, the puck, into the opponent's goal net, which is placed at the opposite end of the rink. The players may control the puck using a long stick with a blade that is commonly curved at one end. Players may also redirect the puck with any part of their bodies, subject to certain restrictions. One of the six players is typically a goaltender, whose primary job is to stop the puck from entering the net, and who is permitted unique gear towards that end.

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A typical ice hockey game

The other five players are divided into three forwards and two defensemen. The forward positions are named left wing, center and right wing. Forwards often play togther as units or lines, with the same three forwards always playing together. The defensemen usually stay together as a pair, but may change less frequently than the forwards. A substitution of an entire unit at once is called a line change. Substitutions are permitted at any time during the course of the game, although during a stoppage of play the home team is permitted the final change. When players are substituted during play, it is called changing on the fly.

The boards surrounding the ice help keep the puck in play, and play often proceeds for minutes without interruption. When play is stopped, it is restarted with a faceoff. There are two rules of play in ice hockey that limit the movement of the puck: offside and icing.

In most competitive leagues, each team may carry at most 23 players on its game roster, two of whom are typically goaltenders. North American professional leagues restrict the total number of skaters to 18 or fewer.

The remaining characteristics of the game 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), often considered the world's top professional league. North American amateur hockey codes, such as those of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey, tend to be a hybrid of the NHL and IIHF codes, while professional rules generally follow those of the NHL.


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Fights often occur near the goal because players want to protect their goaltender.

A typical game of ice hockey has two to four officials on the ice charged with enforcing the rules of the game. There are typically two linesmen, who are responsible only for calling offside and icing violations, and one or two referees, who call goals and all other penalties.

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. Not all physical contact is legal -- in particular, most stick-on-body contact is illegal -- as there are many infractions that a player may be assessed a penalty for. The offending player is sent to the penalty box and his team has to play without him for a short amount of time, giving the other team what is popularly termed a power play for either two, five, or rarely, ten minutes. A two-minute minor penalty is often called for lesser infractions such as tripping, hooking, or cross-checking. These penalties end either when the time runs out or the other team scores on the power play. Five-minute major penalties are called for fighting, boarding, and other violent infractions. The rare ten-minute match penalties are assessed for deliberately inflicting injury on an opponent. Major and match penalties are always served in full: they do not terminate on a goal.

A player who was fouled on a breakaway – when there are no defenders except the goaltender between him and the opponent's goal – is awarded a penalty shot, an attempt to score without opposition from any defenders except the goaltender.

Officials also stop play for puck movement violations, but no players are penalized for these offenses.


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Winning the face off can be the key to some strategies

An important defensive tactic is checking – attempting to take the puck from an opponent or to remove the opponent from play. 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; these terms usually are applied to checking by forwards. Stick checking, sweep checking, and poke checking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. Body checking 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. A one-timer 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 rapidly 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, removing the goaltender and replacing him or her with an extra attacker on the ice in the hope of gaining enough advantage to score a goal. However, this tactic is extremely risky, and as often as not leads to the winning team scoring a goal in the empty net.

Although it is officially prohibited in the rules, at the professional level fights are sometimes used to affect morale of the teams with aggressors hoping to demoralize the opposing players while exciting their own teams, as well as settling personal scores. Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe famously observed that "If you can't beat 'em in the alley you can't beat 'em on the ice."

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.

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 and several North American professional leagues use an overtime period followed by a penalty shootout if the score remains tied after the extra period; the shootout consists of five players from each team taking penalty shots until one team has the preponderance of successful shots, that team being awarded the victory.


The hard surfaces of the ice and boards, pucks flying at high speed, and other players maneuvering (and often intentionally colliding) pose a multitude of inherent safety hazards. Besides skates and sticks, hockey players are usually equipped with an array of safety gear to lessen their risk of serious injury. This usually includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, protective gloves, heavily padded pants, a jock protector, neck protector, and shin pads. Goaltenders wear specialized, much bulkier equipment designed to protect them from many direct hits from pucks.

Youth and college hockey players are almost always required to wear a mask made from metal wire or transparent plastic attached to their helmet that protects their face during play. Professional and adult players may instead wear a visor that protects only their eyes, or no mask at all; however, some provincial and state legislations require full facial protection at all non-professional levels. Rules regarding visors and face masks are mildly controversial at professional levels, as some players feel that they interfere with their vision or breathing, while others believe that they are a necessary safety precaution.


The history of ice hockey is one of the most contested in all of sports. The city of Montreal had been traditionally credited with being the birthplace of hockey (although more recent research indicates Kingston, Ontario or Windsor, Nova Scotia instead), but early paintings contest this claim; a 16th century Dutch painting shows a number of townsfolk playing a hockey-like game on a frozen canal.

When Great Britain conquered Canada from France in 1763, soldiers used their knowledge of field hockey and the physically aggressive aspects of what the Mi'kmaq aboriginal tribe of Nova Scotia called dehuntshigwa'es (lacrosse). As Canadian winters are long and harsh, new winter sports were always welcomed. Using cheese cutters strapped to their boots, both English- and French-speaking Canadians played the game on frozen rivers, lakes, and ponds. Early paintings show hockey being played in Nova Scotia, as well as in the state of Virginia in the United States.

On March 3, 1875, the first ever organized indoor game was played in Montreal, as recorded in the Montreal Gazette. In 1877, in order to make some sense of the game, McGill students, James Creighton, Henry Joseph, Richard F. Smith, W. F. Robertson, W. L. Murray, Frank Patrick, and Lester Patrick invented seven ice hockey rules. Having an organized system in place, the game became so popular that it was featured for the first time in Montreal's annual Winter Carnival in 1883. In 1888, the governor-general of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston (whose sons were hockey enthusiasts), attended the Carnival and was so impressed with the hockey spectacle that he thought there should be a championship trophy for the best team. The Stanley Cup was first awarded then to the champion amateur team in Canada, and continues to be awarded today to the National Hockey League's championship team. As an interesting historical footnote, one of Lord Stanley's sons was instrumental in instituting ice hockey in the United Kingdom and from there, to Europe at large.

By 1893, Winnipeg hockey players incorporated cricket pads to better protect the goaltender's legs. They also introduced the "scoop" shot, later known as the wrist shot.

The National Hockey League was formed in November of 1917, when members of the former National Hockey Association were engaged in a dispute with one of their fellow owners over insurance proceeds. The NHA disbanded, and the new league began play in December of that year.

On February 16, 2005, the NHL became the first major professional team sport in North America to cancel an entire season because of a labor dispute.

Women's ice hockey

Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with the number of participants increasing 400 percent in the last 10 years.[1] ( 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 Olympic teams to recreational teams.

The chief difference between women's and men's ice hockey is that bodychecking is not allowed in women's ice hockey. After the 1990 Women's World Championship, bodychecking was eliminated because women in many countries do not have the size and mass seen in North American players. Some would argue that women's hockey is a purer form of the sport, since team tactics must rely more on skillful passing and positioning than physical obstruction and intimidation. However, there are many who feel that the relative lack of physical play is a detriment to its popularity among the mainstream hockey public.

Hockey terminology




Game play


See also

External links

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