Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in the world. Its mainly played in the USA and Canada where its among the most watched sports. We can say that ice hockey is up there with NBA, American Football, and Baseball on the North American continent. Nevertheless, the sport is also played in the colder parts of Europe. Scandinavian countries play hockey a lot and the same goes for Russia.
Ice hockey is a contact sport which is played in a rink where two teams consisting of six skaters play against each other. The main idea is to propel a vulcanized rubber disk, known as the puck, through the opponents net. Keep in mind that one of those six players is a goalkeeper who can handle the puck and protect the net. Keep reading to find more about this sport and its origins.
Ice Hockey History
Unlike most sports, ice hockey doesn’t really have a known origin story. Most likely it evolved from the field hockey game which has been played for centuries is North Europe, especially England. However, modern research has found a a very hockey-like game played by Micmac Indians in Nova Scotia. Apparantly, their game was heavily influenced by the Irish game of hurling. That’s a game where a “hurley” (stick) and a square wooden block is used instead of a ball.
With time they adapted some of the rules of field hockey while Irish and Scottish immigrants spread the game through Canada. This game later evolved to an informal ice game known as “shinty”. The name ice hockey came later, and it was derived from the French word hoquet (shepherd’s stick). The use of a rink, as the designated playing area was originally used in the first game of curling, back in the 1800s.
Early hockey games had as many as 30 players on each side on the ice, and the goals were two stones, each frozen into one end of the ice. The first use of a puck instead of a ball was recorded at Kingston Harbour, Ontario, Canada, in 1860. Nevertheless, ice hockey as we know it today came to be in 1875 where modern rules were invented. Canadian James Creighton wrote the rules and the first game using those rules was played in Montreal, Canada. Some of those rules were later changed but more about that below.
Ice Hockey Rules
With the use of the Creighton Rules, hockey initially had 9 players which was later reduced to 7. The game was divided into two 30 minute halves and each player had a specific position. Just one year after the first game was played, the first official rink was built in London, England. It was named, the Glaciarium.
New rules included taking out one more player which left every team with six field players. This was initially done to reduce costs; however, it improved the sport a lot. One of the main changes to ice hockey was the introduction of the goalie mask in 1960. Until then, goalkeepers suffered serious face injuries because the puck quite often hit them in the face. Additionally the two 30 minute halves were transformed into three 20 minute periods.
How To Play
In ice hockey, both teams are trying to put the puck in the opponents net. They have three 20 minute periods to do that and if it ends in a tie, several things can happen. In tournament play, overtime is played and if that doesn’t bring a winner, penalties are taken. The overtime consists of five additional minutes of sudden death play. The first team to score wins the match.
If a player commits a rule infraction and is charged by the referee. He gets a 2 minute suspension as he goes out of the field and waits in the suspension box for the time to pass. During that time, the opponents will have a one player advantage on the field. In ice hockey, this occurrence is known as power play since one of the teams has a better chance of scoring during those 2 minutes.
Pitch Rules, Players, and Equipment
The ice hockey rink is shaped like like a round-cornered rectangle. It’s 61 meters long and 26 meters wide. The goal is 1.2 meters high and 1.8 meters wide. Additionally, there is a blue line which divides the field in three sections. Those lines are 18 meters out from the goal line and painted across the width of the ice. The are between the lines is known as the neutral zone.
Like we mentioned above, ice hockey is always played between two teams that consist of six players. All the players in one team are wearing matching jerseys as well as protective equipment since the sport can be very physical some times. The goalkeeper has a special face mask which gives extra protection. On top of that, he has special gloves that allow him to handle the puck. When it comes to substitutes they work like in handball and basketball. One player leaves the field and another one replaces him.
Nevertheless, we also have to mention the abundance of equipment that is used in ice hockey. First comes the puck which is made of vulcanized rubber. The hockey sticks can be made from a variety of materials but there are special rules that have to be followed when it comes to the size of the stick and the curvature of the blade. The players wear special protective padding under the uniform while the goalkeeper has extra protection equipment even above the uniform.
Ice hockey games are officiated by two referees, two linesmen, and several off-ice officials. The job of the main referees is to call fouls and give out penalties and suspensions. The linesmen mostly control offside situations; however, they can also stop play if a team has too many skaters on the field. Other officials that can be seen at an ice hockey game are the penalty timekeeper, the game timekeeper, and the official scorer, who credits players for goals and assists and also keeps track of the goalie’s saves, or stops.
Ice Hockey Organisations and Tournaments
The biggest and most popular organization that handles ice hockey games is the NHL (National Hockey League). There were various changes from the original concept and the league but right now its the most watched hockey league. At the moment, 32 teams are part of the league and each team plays 82 season games. The regular season decides which 16 teams will play in the play-offs. The winner of the play-offs is awarded with the Stanley Cup.
We also have to mention that the popularity of NHL can be seen in sports betting as well. Even though USA and Canada are the places where people bet on the NHL games mostly, the league is also very popular across Europe. The popularity is quite understandable since teams like the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and the Detroit Red Wings are part of it. These are some of the teams that produced the best ice hockey players.
Like we mentioned above, ice hockey is also played in Europe where its mostly called hockey. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) was formed in Europe in 1908. Its five original members were Great Britain, Bohemia, Switzerland, France, and Belgium.
This is the organisation that is in charge of organizing the European and World Cup championships. On top of that, ice hockey is an Olimpic sport as well. NHL players are allowed to be a part of these championships which makes them very popular. When it comes to international hockey USA, Canada, Russia, and Finland usually have the strongest squads and best results.
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