Hockey 101

Hockey is the world's fastest spectator sport, but that doesn't mean it is a difficult one to understand.Once you get a handle on some of the key phrases and learn some of the lingo, you have it made.

Defensemen: These players try to stop the incoming play at their own blue line. They try to break up passes, block shots, cover opposing forwards and clear the puck from in front of their own goal. Offensively, they get the puck to their forwards and follow the play into the attacking zone, positioning themselves just inside their opponent's blue line at the "points."

Goaltender: The goalie's primary task is simple - keep the puck out of his own net. Offensively, he may start his team down the ice with a pass, but seldom does he leave the net he guards.

Wings: The wings team with the center on the attack to set up shots on goal. Defensively, they attempt to break up plays by their counterparts and upset the shot attempts.

Center: The quarterback of the ice, the center leads the attack by carrying the puck on offense. He exchanges passes with his wings to steer the play toward the opposing goal. On defense, he tries to disrupt a play before it gets on his team's side of the ice.


Q: What is the puck made of? A: The puck is made of vulcanized rubber and is three inches in diameter and one inch thick, weighing about six ounces. It is frozen before entering play to make it bounce resistant.

Q: Which shot is the hardest for a goalie to stop? A: Generally speaking, it is one that’s low and to the stick side. Some goaltenders overplay to the stick side, presenting a more inviting target on the glove side.

Q: What about deflections? A: Deflections aren’t just luck. Players practice redirecting shots by standing at the side of the net and knocking a shot from the outside past the goalie into another area of the goal.

Q: Which is tougher for the goalie to stop a slap shot or a wrist shot? A: The slap shot, while it is harder and faster, is easier for the goalie to time than a wrist shot, which takes the goalie more by surprise.

Q: How thick is the ice? A: The ice is approximately 3/4" thick and is usually kept at 16 degrees for the proper hardness. The thicker the sheet of ice becomes, the softer and slower it is.

Q: What are the standard dimensions of the rink? A: The standard is 200’ by 85’, although some do vary.

Q: Can the puck be kicked in for a goal? A: Not intentionally. However, if a puck is deflected off a skate or off a player's body and no overt attempt is made to to throw it or kick it in, a goal is allowed.

Q: What if an offensive player is in the crease? A: If he is there under his own power and the puck goes in, the goal is disallowed. A goal can be awarded if the player was forced into the crease or held there by a defensive player. An offensive player is allowed to carry the puck into the crease and score.

Q: Why do goalies frequently come out of in front of their net? A: Usually when a goalie leaves the area immediately in front of the goal it is to reduce the shooting area, cut down the angle of the shooter or for the offensive player to release his shot before he would like to. After coming out of the net, the goalie is usually backing up slowly in an attempt to get the shooter to commit himself first.

Q: Who gets credited for an assist? A: The last player or players (no more than two) who touch the puck prior to the goal scorer are awarded assists. For example, if player A passes to player B who passes to player C who scores a goal; players A and B get assists.

Q: Why doesn’t the referee stop fights? A: There are several. First, it is his job to watch what is going on and determine who should be penalized. Also, it is quite hazardous in close during a fight and since he is in sole control of the game, he has to protect himself from injury.

Q: How are the markings - the red and blue lines, goal lines, crease and face-off circles - applied to the ice? A: The ice is built up to a half-inch thickness by spraying water over the concrete floor, which has the freezing pipes embedded into it. Then the markings are painted on, after which additional water is sprayed to coat the markings and build the ice to the prescribed thickness.

Q: What are hockey sticks made of? A: Hockey sticks are made of wood, generally northern white ash or rock elm, or aluminum. The handle is one piece and the laminated wooden blade is affixed to it.

Q: Are all sticks alike? A: Far from it. Just as baseball players have individually personalized bats, so too do hockey players have their own patterned sticks. Flexibility, the angle of the blade, weight, etc., vary from player to player.