Ice hockey

From ArticleWorld

Where and when ice hockey was first played remains open to debate. What is known for sure is that this sport played by two teams skating on frozen indoor surfaces has grown in popularity at all levels. Concentrated in North America, Scandinavia, Russia and former Soviet bloc countries, ice hockey today attracts millions of players in amateur leagues for youth and adults, in colleges and at the professional level.

The basics

Ice hockey appears to be a simple game: one team skates down the ice and uses long sticks to push a small hard rubber disk – the puck – into the opponent’s goal, a 6’ x 4’ net at the opposite end of the rink that measures 200’ x 85’ (200’ x 95.5’ internationally). It may seem simple, but ice hockey remains one of the fastest, most physically demanding and strategically complex team sports played. One of the things making hockey so difficult is that while the players of one team advance the puck toward the opposite goal, members of the other team can “check”, or block them … very hard. Because of this, hockey games are normally low-scoring contests, and sometimes often end in ties when time runs out in the third and final period.

Hockey timeline

While Canadians claim to have invented the sport, there are 16th century paintings that show Dutchmen playing a hockey-like sport on the frozen canals of Holland. One thing for sure, Canada perfected the sport and helped propel the modern game onto the international stage. Highlights in hockey history include:

  1. 1875, first hockey game played indoors in Montreal, Canada;
  2. 1899, first professional team formed in Houghton, Michigan;
  3. 1917, National Hockey League (NHL) formed;
  4. 1920, Ice hockey added to the Summer Olympics;
  5. 1924, Hockey moved to the Winter Olympics;
  6. 1949, Frank J. Zamboni invents a mechanical ice resurfacing device that bears his family name;
  7. 1980, Unheralded U.S. team beats powerful Soviet squad in Lake Placid Winter Olympics;
  8. 1992, Manon Rheaume, a goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning, becomes the first woman to play in an NHL game;
  9. 2005, Because of a labor dispute, the NHL becomes the first professional league to cancel an entire season.

Who does what?

While each of the six players on each team may shoot the puck to score a goal and are expected to stop the other team from scoring, the hockey team has two missions: offense and defense. Players’ primary functions are based upon what they do when their team has the puck, and when their opponents do. The player positions and their tasks include:

  1. Center. As the name explains, this player is positioned most of the time near the middle of the rink, often helping lead an offensive attack on the opponents’ goal. The center has a great deal of freedom of movement and often is key to scoring.
  2. Wings. One on the left, one on the right, these players flank the center and play close to the outsides of the rink on scoring attempts. On offense, the wings often are expected to shoot the puck and score but also may check the opponents so others on their team may score.
  3. Defensemen. They are often the primary defenders against scoring attempts by the other team. In the past 30 years, defensemen have also taking greater roles in scoring.
  4. Goalie. This is the last line of defense against the other team’s scoring attempts. Heavily padded he/she defends the goal, putting his/her body in front of a puck that may be traveling 80 or 90 m.p.h. or often catching it with a baseball-like glove or deflecting it with an oversized stick.