HOCKEY: A GUIDE TO CANADA’S PASTIME

Ice Hockey - Men's Gold Medal Game - Day 17

 Formerly published by MeetVanCity.com

Saturday February 9, 2013

Hockey is considered to be a violent sport with its high physical contact. And that’s why we love it. On the ice, players can reach speeds exceeding 30 miles hour and the hockey puck can travel over 100 miles an hour. It is not hard to explain why hockey is referred to as “the fastest game on earth.”

Created outdoors during the icy northern winters, hockey is more than a sport for Canada.
It is a tradition and a culture. Hockey combines the act of ice-skating with shooting
a rubber puck into the opposition’s net with a curved stick. Each successful attempt is called a goal and it is worth one point. The team with the most points is the winner.

On the Ice: A game of hockey requires two teams with five skaters (a line) and
a goalie each. The National Hockey League (NHL) has 30 teams, seven from Canada
and 23 from the United States. A team is usually constructed with four lines of
three forwards and three lines of two defensemen and two goalies, one starter
and one back up (should the starter be unable to play).  A game consists of three 20 minutes periods. If the 60 minutes end in a draw a five-minute four-on-four overtime is played. If no deciding goal is scored in the allotted time, then a best of three penalty shots is required.

The Process: In the NHL a hockey season consists of 82 games (with exception to lock-out years) with the 30 teams separated by two conferences: Western and Eastern. Each conference is divided into three divisions with five teams in each. The Eastern
divisions are Atlantic, Northeast and Southeast. The Central, Northwest and Pacific are the Western divisions. The majority of the games are against teams within the geographical divisions. Each win is worth two points, and if a game goes into overtime, the winning team earns two points, while the losing team will get a one-point consolation. At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams in each conference will contend for the Stanley Cup in the playoffs.

The Prize: The Stanley Cup is Canada’s Holy Grail. Etch around its rim are the years and names of pass winning teams, players and coaches. It is more than a trophy– it is a history book. Considered as the toughest championships, the Stanley Cup Playoffs consist of 16 of the 30 teams. Split up by the conferences, the playoffs are a four round best of seven series competition.

Whistle Whistle: Unlike most team sports, fighting is a distinctive element of hockey. Although players may choose to fight, they are still not exempt from punishment.  Fighting is a major penalty that forces players out of the game and into the penalty box. Penalties are categorized by the infraction’s severity. A minor penalty is worth two-minute, double minor charges four and a major is worth five minutes. Different levels of suspensions are also dispensed to players whose offense contributed to injury or can be considered as an attempt to injure.

The Frozen Surface: A hockey rink is a rounded rectangle with lines and circles used to indicate various spots on the ice. Two blue lines mark a neutral zone, which separates the offensive and defensive zones. The blue line are also used to identify offside calls (where a player on the offensive can not be past the blue line without the puck passing first.) There are nine face-off dots on the ice, two in the attacking zone, two in the defensive zone and five in the neutral zone.

Hockey is a complicated game to play, but a simple game to watch. It is fast-paced and high action. There is nothing like the crisp air of an ice rink, the sound of crashing bodies, and the intensity of a game. But as a spectator, remember to pay attention, because with slap shots, big checks and heated competition anything can end up in the crowd during a hockey game.

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