The game of ice hockey has two teams with six players each who hit a rubber puck on an ice rink. The objective is hit the puck past the goal line guarded by the other team’s goaltender.
Initially, it was believed that ice hockey originated from Indian lacrosse and English field hockey around the mid-1800s. However, historical records from the 1800s claim that hurling, an Irish game in which players used a stick and a wooden block, influenced hockey. Each team had nine players who wore minimal protective gear.
The British Army and Irish and Scottish immigrants spread the game to Canada, where it underwent modifications, such as moving to ice. The first ice hockey game in Canada happened in Montreal in 1875. In the United States, the first organized match was played in 1893.
At the start of the 20th century, ice hockey spread to England and other European countries. In 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) was formed and remains the sport’s international governing body. The NHL initially oversaw six teams but now oversees 32, most in the United States and Canada. Winners in the league receive the Stanley Cup.
The Olympics added the game in 1920 in the Antwerp Games in Belgium. Every Winter Olympics since then has featured ice hockey.
Each team has a goaltender, three forwards, and two defensive players. The three forwards comprise left wing, the right wing, and the center. The right defenseman and the left defenseman make up the defensive players. Each team’s players work together to score goals while protecting their goal lines.
A typical NHL ice hockey is played on an ice rink measuring 200 feet by 85 feet. However, the rink used in international events has a width of 98.4 feet. A safety glass and boards surround the rink to keep the players within the rink and protect fans from the fast-moving puck.
Inside the rink are blue lines, the center red line, and goal lines. The blue lines divide the rink into neutral, defensive, and offensive zones. The center red line divides the rink into halves, and the goal lines run in front of the goals and determine if a team has scored.
Face-off spots are nine zones that help players determine where to start play. The goalie crease is an area in front of the goal, demarcated with a red border and shaded in blue. The referee’s crease is a 10-foot semicircle where the referee analyzes and reviews play.
Standard equipment includes jerseys, skates, hockey sticks, and gloves. However, ice hockey requires players to wear personal protective equipment to ensure safety, including shin pads, elbow pads, shoulder pads, helmets, mouth guards, and jockstraps.
There are four fundamental skills in ice hockey. First, the player must be a good skater. Second, they must also practice stickhandling to ensure control of the puck. Third, they must have good passing skills to deny their opponents control of the puck. Last, they must have excellent shooting skills. This ensures that they score goals even when the goal line is well-guarded.
A typical game has three periods lasting 20 minutes each. The exception is youth hockey, in which sessions last 15 minutes. Between sessions, a Zamboni, an engine-driven vehicle, resurfaces the ice so the players have a smooth surface at the start of each period.
For each game, there are two referees and two linesmen. Referees determine valid goals and call out penalties. Linesmen call out offside and icing violations and conduct face-offs on the nine face-off spots.