• Hockey 101

For Starters
For all of you who are new to hockey, welcome to the fastest sport on Earth. It is also one of the easiest to understand. The game of hockey is made up of three periods of twenty minutes each. Six men are on the ice at one time for each team. Substitutions are made every one to three minutes or so to rest players, taking place while play is in progress or at a break.

A team scores when a player shoots the puck into the opponent's net with his stick, although it is not necessary to shoot it into the netting. If the entire puck crosses the goal line inside the post, a goal is scored. A goal is also scored if the puck is bounced in or knocked in by the goalie. It cannot be kicked in or butted in with a high stick.

Each goal is worth one point. Players who help set up goals are given an assist. Games are usually low-scoring because of both the high skill factor and the physical nature of the game. A victory is worth two points in the league standings, and a loss in a shootout is worth one point. A loss is worth 0 points.

The Positions
Goalkeeper (1) - His chief job is to keep the puck out of his goal. Offensively, he starts his team down the ice with a pass but seldom leaves the net.

Defenseman (2) - Left and right. They try to stop the incoming play at their blue line. They try to block shots, cover opposing forwards and clear the puck from in front of their goal. On offense they get the puck to their center and wings.

Center (1) - The middle of the ice from end to end is his primary territory. He leads the attack by carrying the puck. He exchanges passes with his wings to steer the play towards the goal. On defense he tries to break up a play before it gets to his team's ice and harasses the opponent in the neutral and defending zones.

Wings (2) - Moving up and down the sides of the ice with the direction of play, the wings work with the center on the attack. Defensively, they try to disrupt opposing wings.

The Rink
Official NHL rinks are 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. Some rinks have slightly different perimeters. Fiberglass walls, called boards, surround the rink from the ice to a height of about 40 inches. Attached above the boards is a nearly unbreakable plexiglass rim to keep the pucks from flying into the stands. It is higher behind the goals since the pucks are most often shot into that area. Dimensions for everything are illustrated (above/left.) The net is six feet wide and four feet tall. The nets are held on the ice by a four-inch plastic tubing which is inserted into the ice and the goalposts rest around the tubing.

The Equipment
The Puck - A vulcanized rubber disk that is three inches in diameter and one inch thick. The puck is frozen before play to help eliminate bouncing.

The Stick - The most pampered piece of gear. It weighs 17 to 25 ounces and is made to order for pros. Once mainly wood, it now comes in fiberglass, plastic or graphite. The goaltender's stick is larger at the blade and shaft. Right handers put their right hand at the top of the stick and shoot from their left side. Lefties reverse the procedure. The lower hand is positioned according to the situation. When stick handling, players keep their lower hands close to the top of the stick. When passing, they move it lower increasing the force of the blow to the puck. Most players go through a few dozen sticks a year.

The Pants - Made of nylon, held up with a suspender. The top reaches high enough to protect the kidneys and lower back. Fiber pads are sewn in.

The Skates - Hard-toed, sharpened daily. The blades differ according to position. Each player may use up to three pairs.

The Goalie's Gear - Overstuffed leg pads, plus a heavy felt chest protector that covers the shoulders, stomach and abdomen. The goalie also wears a large glove with a shield on the back side. Their skates need less sharpening and also have less room between the blade and the boot, so pucks can't clip through. Other equipment includes a helmet, gloves, shoulder pads, shin pads and elbow pads.

The Officials
There is one referee and two linesman. All three look alike except the referee wears an orange band on each arm. The referee is in charge, starts the game, calls the penalties and determines goals. The linesmen call offsides and icing, handle puck drops for face-offs and are responsible for breaking up fights. The linesmen may call a penalty only if it causes an injury that can be physically seen, such as an injury that draws blood. The penalty must be assessed as a 4:00 double minor for a linesman to make the call, and the referee must authorize the call to be made.