Introduction to Ice Hockey
Ice Hockey is quite a simple game. The basic concept is almost identical to that of classic sports such as soccer and lacrosse. A primary objective for each team is to put something in the goal of their opponents.
The main differences are that the players wear ice skates and play on ice. They also play with sticks and a puck instead of a ball. So, though the sport can seem complicated at first glance, it really isn't. The following rules in the next section are actually very similar to those of many other common sports.
Ice Hockey Rules and Gameplay
As previously stated, the objective in ice hockey is simple, to put the puck in the net. Whoever scores the most goals wins, just like any other game.
However, you are not allowed to purposely use any part of your body to score, only the stick. At any time, each team may have six players on the ice. It is usually five stick skaters and one goalie. However, if a team is losing in the last couple of minutes, they can substitute their goalie for a skater. That gives them six striking players but an open net.
The positions are one goalie, two defensemen, and three forwards. Next, in terms of timing, each game is divided into three twenty-minute periods. Between each period is a twenty-minute break. Each period, and every other stoppage, begins with a face-off between two players. If the score is tied at the end of the third period, however, the game goes into overtime.
The overtime is an extra five-minute period where the first goal wins. Recently, the NHL also changed the overtime so that there are only three players and a goalie. This means that more goals are scored. But, if the overtime ends and the game is still tied, the teams go into a shootout. This is where each team gets a shot against just the goalie until one makes it and one misses, determining the winner.
But there are also some other rules that the players have to abide by. The first, and perhaps most important, is the offside rule. This states that a player is not allowed to be in the offensive zone before the puck enters that zone.
The other important rule is icing. This is where a player is not allowed to shoot the puck from its half of the ice through the opposing goal-line. There are, of course, some actual fouls. These result in the offending player getting put in the penalty box for a set amount of time. That leaves their team playing without a player. Most fouls are minor and result in a 2-minute penalty. Examples include tripping, pushing from behind, or checking dangerously. But some worse ones like fighting can result in much longer penalties.
How the Teams and Positions Work
So as previously stated, each team has a goalie, two defensemen, and three forwards. And of the forwards, two are on the wing, and one is a center. When on offense, the two defenders hang back along the blue line for outlet passes. While the wingers are on the sides looking for an open shot or to pass the puck inside to the center, there are usually teammates waiting in the middle right in front of the goal. Ready to knock any puck in that comes their way. On defense, the teams generally line up in a box-type shape, with the defenders protecting the inside and the forwards guarding further out.
Strategy and Tactics
Hockey is all about finding that one sliver of light that the goalie gives at any time. The goalie and his pads are huge, so most shots are saved easily. This means teams must work to get inside or pass around to get the goalie out of position. This means that on offense, teams do a lot of passing around the outside, especially through their defensemen on the blue-line, looking for an opportunity to get the puck inside to the center in front of the goal or to the wings in a prime shooting position.
Another key strategy of the game involves how there is space behind the goal. Teams often pass the puck around the back of the goal along the wall to the other side, which switches the side of the ice quickly and can catch the goalie off guard. But other than that, most hockey offense is either just getting as many shots as possible and hoping one finds the back of the net or using stick skills to get an easy shot.
Tactics on defense are more simple, protect the middle. Most goalies can easily save the outside shots, so defenses worry much more about just forcing players outside.
History of Ice Hockey
Hockey has its roots in the 18th and 19th centuries in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. It originally came from a classic ground game with a stick and ball, similar to street hockey. The actual rules were then developed when the game was brought over to North America, particularly Canada. That's where the first actual game of ice hockey was played on March 3, 1875, in Montreal.
The major North American hockey league, the NHL, was created in 1900 and is now the top ice hockey league in the world. It originally started with just six teams. Those were the Montreal Canadians, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the Detriot Red Wings. Thus showing how deeply ingrained Canada is in the game of hockey.
The winner each year earns the Stanley Cup, a giant trophy with every previous winner engraved on its side. And in terms of the legends of the game, the Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto. It serves as home to the Stanley Cup and the names of every important hockey legend.
In the United States, though it did not begin as popular, hockey has blown up in the past decades. It has quickly becoming recognized as on the level of the other major sports like baseball, football, and basketball. Furthermore, it seems to be growing quicker than ever and is poised for insane expansion in the years to come.
Obviously, the most distinctive part of the game is the ice. No other major sport in the US or even the world is played only on ice. So this separates it far from anything else. But other than that, people also love the game because of its high level of skill required in handling the puck and skating at a professional level.
Additionally, players love the hitting. Checking, hitting, and fighting have always been an integral part of hockey. In fact, it's one of the most physical sports in America. People who really want that added level of physicality take to hockey instead of basketball or baseball. It's an important feature that distinguishes the sport from anything else.
As in all sports, there are plenty of statistics for ice hockey fans to pore over as they work on formulating their betting picks. The most important ones are as follows:
This is, of course, the most basic and widely recognized stat, how many times a player scores.
Assists are another classic stat across many sports. However, they work slightly differently in hockey because it is not just the player who passed to the goal-scorer. The player who passed to the assister also gets credit.
A player’s total points are their goals and assists combined.
As in other sports, the plus-minus measures how effective the team is when a certain player is on the ice. In hockey, if a player’s team scores when he is on the ice, he gets plus a point. If they get scored on, he gets a point taken away. However, these only count in non-power play scenarios.
Wins and Losses
In terms of team stats in hockey, there are the wins and losses for the season, but since so many games go into overtime, overtime losses are a separate category from losses, showing that they tied in regular time and only lost in a shootout or OT.
And then there are tons of other stats measuring a player’s efficiency and gameplay. These include his shooting percentage, number of shots on goal, penalty minutes per game, faceoff percentage, and more.
Popularity and Cultural Impact
As previously stated, hockey has blown up in popularity in recent years. It is finally getting the respect and popularity in the United States that it deserves. It is becoming increasingly popular for younger kids, so youth travel teams and tournaments are on the rise.
Furthermore, culturally, it has had a huge impact in the US because of how different and foreign the sport is. Ice hockey takes a lot from Canadian culture. Now that the sport is growing in America is being spread here as well. Though equally as physical, hockey does not have the same reputation as American football as being dangerous. Instead, people see it as more skillful. Hockey has been growing at a great rate and is expected to continue doing so.