Game played on ice between two teams of six, developed in Canada from field hockey or bandy. Players, who wear skates and protective clothing, use a curved stick to advance the puck (a rubber disc) and shoot it at the opponents' goal, a netted cage, guarded by the goaltender, or goalie. The other positions are the left and right defencemen and the left wing, centre, and right wing. The latter three are offensive players. The team with the most goals scored at the end of the three 20-minute periods wins; an overtime period may be played if a game ends in a draw.
History Ice hockey is believed to have been introduced in Canada in the 1850s, the first game being played in Kingston, Ontario. The first rules were drawn up at McGill University, Montréal. The governing body is the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), founded in 1908. Ice hockey has been included in the Olympics since 1920 when it was part of the Summer Games programme. Since 1924 it has been part of the Winter Olympics. Women's ice hockey became a medal sport for the first time at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Stanley Cup is the game's leading play-off tournament, contested in North America after the season-long National Hockey League. The cup was first awarded in 1893, with the present format starting in 1926.
Playing area The ideal rink playing area is 61 m/200 ft long and 30 m/100 ft wide, with rounded corners and barrier boards surrounding it 1.22 m/4 ft high. Red goal lines are 3.5 m/11 ft 6 in from each end of the rink. In the centre of these are the goals, 1.22 m/4 ft high and 1.83 m/6 ft wide, with nets not less than 60 cm/24 in deep at the base. A red line divides the rink in half and two blue lines divide the rink equally into three zones.
The game A game is divided into three periods, each of 20 minutes' actual playing time, measured by stopwatch only while the puck is in play. Although only six players from each team are allowed on the ice at the same time – the normal line-up being the goaltender, two defencemen and three forwards – substitutes are considered essential because of the game's energy-sapping speed. A team usually carries between 11 and 22 players. Substitutes may be introduced at any time and the timing of their use is a major feature of strategy. Play is commenced and recommenced by a face-off, when the puck is dropped by a referee between opposing players. A player is offside when preceding the puck into the attacking zone or when a loose puck travels over more than one line. Amateur matches are controlled by two referees; professionals have one referee with two linesmen. Players are penalized by being sent off the ice for two or more minutes, according to the severity of the offence. Infringements include elbowing, tripping, body-checking, and high sticks.
Equipment The sticks, made of wood, are limited to 135 cm/4 ft 5 in handle and 37 cm/14 in blade, except for the goaltender, who has a heavier and wider stick. Boots have lower ankle supports than those used for figure skating and have reinforced caps at toe and heel. The skate is shorter than the speed skate, only 1.5 mm wide, with the blade reinforced by hollow tubing. The puck is circular, 7.6 cm/3 in in diameter, 2.5 cm/1 in thick, and weighs 156 gm/5.5 oz. Players are well padded at knee, shin, elbow, and shoulder, with extra leg and chest protection for the goaltender. Helmets are compulsory.
National Hockey League
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