|Highest governing body||International Ice Hockey Federation|
|First played||19th century Canada|
|Team members||6 per side (including goaltender)|
|Type||Team sport, stick sport, puck sport, ball-like sport, winter sport|
|Equipment||Hockey puck, hockey stick, hockey skates, shin pads, shoulder pads, hockey gloves, hockey helmet, elbow pads, jock or jill, hockey socks, hockey shorts, neck guard (depends on league), mouthguard (depends on league)|
1924 to present (winter)
Ice hockey is a team sport played on ice in which two teams of skaters use sticks to shoot a hard rubber hockey puck into their opponent's net to score points. In some countries such as Canada, the United States, and some European countries such as Latvia and Sweden, it is often known simply as "hockey"; the name "ice hockey" is more used in countries where "hockey" generally refers to field hockey or both sports are almost as popular (such as South American, Asian, Australasian, and some European countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom). Ice hockey teams usually consist of four lines of three forwards, three pairs of defencemen, and two goaltenders. Five members of each team skate up and down the ice trying to take the puck and score a goal against the opposing team. Each team has a goaltender who tries to stop the puck from going into the goal.
A fast-paced physical sport (leading to the nickname "The Fastest Game on Earth," hockey is most popular in areas of North America (particularly Canada and northern parts of the United States) and Europe. In North America, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the highest level for men's hockey and the most popular. Ice hockey is the official national winter sport of Canada, where the game enjoys immense popularity. Worldwide, there are ice hockey federations in 73 countries.
The sport is believed to be an off-shoot of stick and ball games invented elsewhere, particularly the games of the 1700s and 1800s in the United Kingdom. These games were brought to Canada and the United States and several similar winter games, such as "shinney" and "ice polo" using informal rules, developed. The first indoor hockey game was played on March 3, 1875, in Montreal, and some characteristics of that game such as the length of the ice rink and the use of a puck have been retained to this day. Amateur ice hockey leagues began in the 1880s, and professional ice hockey originated around 1900. The Stanley Cup, emblematic of ice hockey club supremacy, was first awarded in 1893 to recognize the Canadian amateur champion and later became the championship trophy of the NHL. In the early 1900s, the Canadian rules were adopted by the Ligue International de Hockey sur Glace, the precursor of today's International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the sport was played for the first time in the Olympics in the Olympic Games of 1920.
In international competitions, the national teams of seven countries predominate: Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States. Of the 66 medals awarded all-time in men's competition at the Olympics, only six medals were not awarded to one of those countries. In the annual Ice Hockey World Championships, 162 of 177 medals have been awarded to the seven nations: All 12 Olympic and 36 IIHF World Women's Championships medals have been awarded to one of these seven countries, and every gold medal in both competitions has been won by either Canada or the United States.
- Name 1.1
- Contemporary ice hockey 1.2
- Professional era 1.3
- Equipment 2
- Head injuries 3.1
- Game 4
- Penalties 5
- Officials 6
- Checking 7.1
- Offensive tactics 7.2
- Fights 7.3
- Periods and overtime 8
Women's ice hockey 9
- Modern women's ice hockey 9.1
- Pond hockey 10
Leagues and championships 11
- National teams 11.1
- International leagues 11.2
- Leagues 11.3
- Ice hockey in popular culture 12
- Attendance records 13
- Number of registered players by country 14
- Further reading 15
- References 16
- External links 17
Historyhurling, the closely related Scottish game of shinty and versions of field hockey (including "bandie ball," played in England). IJscolf, a game resembling colf on an ice-covered surface, was popular in the Low Countries between the Middle Ages and the Dutch Golden Age. It was played with a wooden curved bat (called a colf or kolf), a wooden or leather ball and two poles (or nearby landmarks), with the objective to hit the chosen point using the least number of strokes. A similar game (knattleikr) had been played for a thousand years or more by the Norse, as documented in the Icelandic sagas. In England, evidence of games of 'hockey on ice' (the name replaced "bandie ball"), played with a "bung" (a plug of cork or oak used as a stopper on a barrel) date back to the 1700s. William Pierre Le Cocq stated, in a 1799 letter written in Chesham, England:
“I must now describe to you the game of Hockey; we have each a stick turning up at the end. We get a bung. There are two sides one of them knocks one way and the other side the other way. If any one of the sides makes the bung reach that end of the churchyard it is victorious.”An 1797 engraving unearthed by Swedish sport historians Carl Gidén and Patrick Houda shows a person on skates with a stick and bung on the River Thames, probably in December 1796.
British soldiers and immigrants to Canada and the United States brought their stick-and-ball games with them and played them on the ice and snow of winter. In 1825, John Franklin wrote "The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport" on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. A mid-1830s watercolour portrays New Brunswick lieutenant governor Archibald Campbell and his family with British soldiers on skates playing a stick-on-ice sport. Captain R.G.A. Levinge, a British Army officer in New Brunswick during Campbell’s time, wrote about "hockey on ice" on Chippewa Creek (a tributary of the Niagara River) in 1839. In 1843 another British Army officer in Kingston, Ontario wrote, "Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice." An 1859 Boston Evening Gazette article referred to an early game of hockey on ice in Halifax that year. An 1835 painting by John O'Toole depicts skaters with sticks and bung on a frozen stream in the American state of West Virginia.
In the same era, the Mi'kmaq people, a First Nations people of Nova Scotia, also had a stick-and-ball game. Canadian oral histories describe a traditional stick-and-ball game played by the Mi'kmaq in eastern Canada, and Silas Tertius Rand (in his 1894 Legends of the Micmacs) describes a Mi'kmaq ball game known as tooadijik. Rand also describes a game played (probably after European contact) with hurleys, known as wolchamaadijik. Sticks made by the Mi'kmaq were used by the British for their games.
Early 19th-century paintings depict shinney (or "shinny"), an early form of hockey with no standard rules which was played in Nova Scotia. Many of these early games absorbed the physical aggression of what the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia called dehuntshigwa'es (lacrosse). Shinney was played on the St. Lawrence River at Montreal and Quebec City, and in Kingston and Ottawa, Ontario. The number of players was often large. To this day, shinney (derived from "shinty") is a popular Canadian term for an informal type of hockey, either ice or street hockey.
Thomas Chandler Haliburton, in The Attache: Second Series (published in 1844), reminisced about boys from King's College School in Windsor, Nova Scotia playing "hurly on the long pond on the ice" when he was a student there in 1810 and earlier. Based on Haliburton's account, there have been claims that modern hockey was invented in Windsor, Nova Scotia, by King's College students and named after an individual (“Colonel Hockey's game”). Others claim that the origins of hockey come from games played in the area of Dartmouth and Halifax in Nova Scotia.
The name "hockey" has no clear origin. Its first known mention is from the 1773 book Juvenile Sports and Pastimes, to Which Are Prefixed, Memoirs of the Author: Including a New Mode of Infant Education, by Richard Johnson (Pseud. Master Michel Angelo), whose chapter XI was titled "New Improvements on the Game of Hockey". The belief that hockey was mentioned in a 1363 proclamation by King Edward III of England is based on modern translations of the proclamation, which was originally in Latin and explicitly forbade the games "Pilam Manualem, Pedivam, & Bacularem: & ad Canibucam & Gallorum Pugnam". The English historian and biographer John Strype did not use the word "hockey" when he translated the proclamation in 1720.
According to the Austin Hockey Association, the word "puck" derives from the Scots Gaelic puc or the Irish poc (to poke, punch or deliver a blow). "...The blow given by a hurler to the ball with his caman or hurley is always called a puck."
Contemporary ice hockey
While the game's origins lie elsewhere, Montreal is at the centre of the development of the sport of contemporary ice hockey. On March 3, 1875, the Victoria Skating Rink between two nine-player teams, including James Creighton and several McGill University students. Instead of a ball or bung, the game featured a "flat circular piece of wood" (to keep it in the rink and to protect spectators). The goal posts were 8 feet (2.4 m) apart (today's goals are six feet wide).
In 1876, the first game played in Montreal was reportedly “conducted under the ‘Hockey Association’ rules”; the Hockey Association was England’s field hockey organization. In 1877, The Gazette (Montreal) published a list of seven rules, six of which were largely based on six of the Hockey Association’s twelve rules, with only minor differences (even the word “ball” was kept); the one added rule explained how disputes should be settled. The
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- Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
- SIHR – The Origins of Hockey
- History of ice hockey
- "Mandatory Equipment"
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- Including former incarnations of them, such as Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union.
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- Farrell 1899, p. 27.
- The trophy for this tournament is on display at the Musee
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|Country||Players||% of population|
Number of registered hockey players, including male, female and junior, provided by the respective countries' federations. Note that this list only includes the 32 of 72 IIHF member countries with more than 1,000 registered players as of December 2012.
Number of registered players by country
The record was approached but not broken at the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, which also held at Michigan Stadium, with the Detroit Red Wings as the home team and the Toronto Maple Leafs as the opposing team with an announced crowd of 105,491.
A new record was set on December 11, 2010, when the University of Michigan's men's ice hockey team faced cross-state rival Michigan State in an event billed as "The Big Chill at the Big House." The game was played at Michigan's (American) football venue, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, with a capacity of 109,901 as of the 2010 football season. When UM stopped sales to the general public on May 6, 2010, with plans to reserve remaining tickets for students, over 100,000 tickets had been sold for the event. Ultimately, a crowd announced by UM as 113,411, the largest in the stadium's history (including football), saw the homestanding Wolverines win 5–0. Guinness World Records, using a count of ticketed fans who actually entered the stadium instead of UM's figure of tickets sold, announced a final figure of 104,173.
Attendance in the 30,000 range was once quite common for major international matches held outdoors in the 1940s and 50s in Moscow's Lenin Stadium. Figures of this type are still common in bandy, a relative of ice hockey played outdoors.
Ice hockey is the official winter sport of Canada. Ice hockey, partially because of its popularity as a major professional sport, has been a source of inspiration for numerous films, television episodes and songs in North American popular culture.
Ice hockey in popular culture
Several countries have leagues for players of junior-age, under the age of 20. The Ontario Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. It attracts players from Canada, the United States and Europe. There are also junior leagues in the United States and Russia, and several of the national professional leagues in Europe also have developmental leagues.
The Australian Ice Hockey League and New Zealand Ice Hockey League are represented by nine and five teams respectively. As of 2012, the two top teams of the previous season from each league compete in the Trans-Tasman Champions League.
In North America, the American Hockey League (AHL), sometimes referred to as "The A," is the primary developmental professional league for players aspiring to enter the NHL. It comprises 30 teams from the United States and Canada. It is run as a "farm league" to the NHL, with the vast majority of AHL players under contract to an NHL team. The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a mid-level minor league in the United States. Some ECHL players are under contract to NHL teams. The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) is a developmental minor league in the United States. Most undrafted players get their start in this league.
|Czech Republic||Czech Extraliga|
|Finland||Liiga||Known as SM-Liiga until 2013|
|Germany||Deutsche Eishockey Liga|
|Italy||Elite.A||Known as Serie A until 2013|
|Sweden||Swedish Hockey League||Known as Elitserien until 2013|
|Switzerland||National League A|
|Ukraine||Professional Hockey League||Successor to Ukrainian Hockey Championship|
|United Kingdom||Elite Ice Hockey League||Teams in all of the home nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland|
International club competitions organized by the IIHF include the Continental Cup, the Victoria Cup and the European Women's Champions Cup. The World Junior Club Cup is an annual tournament of junior ice hockey clubs representing each of the top junior leagues.
There are also several annual tournaments for clubs, held outside of league play. Pre-season tournaments include the European Trophy, Tampere Cup and the Pajulahti Cup. One of the oldest international ice hockey competition for clubs is the Spengler Cup, held every year in Davos, Switzerland, between Christmas and New Year's Day. It was first awarded in 1923 to the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club. The Memorial Cup, a competition for junior-level clubs is held annually from a pool of junior championship teams in Canada and the United States.
The Austrian Hockey League, called the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (English: Erste Bank Hockey League) for sponsorship reasons, is the highest-level ice hockey league in Austria. The roots of the EBEL league go back to 1923 and changed to its current form in 1965. Starting in the 2005/06 season, non-Austrian teams were invited to compete for the "EBEL Champion" title. The league has subsequently added clubs from Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, reaching twelve teams in 2012.
The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is an ice hockey league in Eurasia. The league is the successor to the Russian Super League and the Soviet League, the history of which dates back to the 1940s. The KHL was launched in 2008 with clubs from the post-Soviet states. The league expanded beyond the former Soviet countries, beginning in the 2011–12 season, with clubs in Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The number of teams has since increased to 28 from eight different countries.
The National Hockey League (NHL), and specifically the Stanley Cup trophy, is the oldest still operating international competition, featuring clubs from the United States and Canada. The league has 30 teams, seven in Canada and twenty-three in the United States.
Other ice hockey tournaments featuring national teams include the World U20 Championship, the World U18 Championships, the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the World Junior A Challenge, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, the World Women's U18 Championships and the 4 Nations Cup. The annual Euro Hockey Tour, an unofficial European championships between the national men's teams of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden have been played since 1996–97.
Since the initial women's world championships in 1990 there have been fifteen tournaments. Women's hockey has been played at the Olympics since 1998. The 2006 Winter Olympic final between Canada and Sweden marked the only time the women's world championship or Olympic final did not involve both Canada and the United States.
The 1972 Summit Series and 1974 Summit Series, two series pitting the best Canadian and Soviet players without IIHF restrictions were major successes, and established a rivalry between Canada and the USSR. In the spirit of best-versus-best without restrictions on amateur or professional status, the series were followed by five Canada Cup tournaments, played in North America. Two NHL versus USSR series were also held: the 1979 Challenge Cup and Rendez-vous '87. The Canada Cup tournament later became the World Cup of Hockey, played in 1996 and 2004. The United States won in 1996 and Canada won in 2004.
National teams representing the member federations of the IIHF compete annually in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. Teams are selected from the available players by the individual federations, without restriction on amateur or professional status. Since it is held in the spring, the tournament coincides with the annual NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and many of the top players are hence not available to participate in the tournament. Many of the NHL players who do play in the IIHF tournament come from teams eliminated before the playoffs or in the first round, and federations often hold open spots until the tournament to allow for players to join the tournament after their club team is eliminated. For many years, the tournament was an amateur-only tournament, but this restriction was removed, beginning in the 1970s. Players are not paid to play in the tournament, but insurance and expenses are covered from the tournament revenues.
Hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1924 (and was played at the summer games in 1920). Canada won six of the first seven gold medals to 1952, the exception occurring in 1936 when Great Britain won. The USSR won all but two gold medals from 1956 to 1988 as well as a final time as the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. The United States won their first gold medal in 1960. On the way to winning the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics amateur US college players defeated the heavily favoured Soviet squad – an event known as the "Miracle on Ice" in the United States. Restrictions on professional players were fully dropped at the 1998 games in Nagano. The Games saw the full participation of players from the NHL, which suspended operations during the Games and has done so in subsequent Games. The 2010 games in Vancouver were the first played in an NHL city since the inclusion of NHL players. The 2010 games were the first played on NHL-sized ice rinks, which are narrower than the IIHF standard.
Leagues and championships
Pond hockey is a form of ice hockey played generally as pick-up hockey on lakes, ponds and artificial outdoor rinks during the winter. Pond hockey is commonly referred to in hockey circles as shinny. Its rules differ from traditional hockey because there is no hitting and very little shooting, placing a greater emphasis on skating, puckhandling and passing abilities. Since 2002, the World Pond Hockey Championship has been played on Roulston Lake in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Canada. Since 2006, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships have been played in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships have been played in Huntsville, Ontario.
One woman, Manon Rhéaume, appeared as a goaltender for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in pre-season games against the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, and in 2003 Hayley Wickenheiser played with the Kirkkonummi Salamat in the Finnish men's Suomi-sarja league. Several women have competed in North American minor leagues, including goaltenders Kelly Dyer, Erin Whitten, Manon Rhéaume, and defenceman Angela Ruggiero.
In addition, players in women's competition are required to wear protective full-face masks.
The chief difference between women's and men's hockey is that body checking is not allowed in women's hockey. After the 1990 Women's World Championship, body checking was eliminated in women's hockey. In current IIHF women's competition, body checking is either a minor or major penalty, decided at the referee's discretion.
Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with the number of participants increasing 350 percent in the last 10 years. In 2011, Canada had 85,827 women players, United States had 65,609, Finland 4,760, Sweden 3,075 and Switzerland 1,172. While there are not as many organized leagues for women as there are for men, there exist leagues of all levels, including the Canadian Women's Hockey League, Western Women's Hockey League, Mid-Atlantic Women's Hockey League, and various European leagues; as well as university teams, national and Olympic teams, and recreational teams. By the end of 2013, the IIHF had held fifteen IIHF World Women's Championship tournaments.
Modern women's ice hockey
Women's ice hockey
The overtime mode for the NHL playoffs differ from the regular season. In the playoffs there are no shootouts nor ties. If a game is tied after regulation an additional 20 minutes of 5 on 5 sudden death overtime will be added. In case of a tied game after the overtime, multiple 20-minute overtimes will be played until a team scores, which wins them the match.
International play and several North American professional leagues, including the NHL (in the regular season), now use an overtime period identical to that from 99–00 – 03–04 followed by a penalty shootout. If the score remains tied after an extra overtime period, the subsequent shootout consists of three players from each team taking penalty shots. After these six total shots, the team with the most goals is awarded the victory. If the score is still tied, the shootout then proceeds to a sudden death format. Regardless of the number of goals scored during the shootout by either team, the final score recorded will award the winning team one more goal than the score at the end of regulation time. In the NHL if a game is decided in overtime or by a shootout the winning team is awarded two points in the standings and the losing team is awarded one point. Ties no longer occur in the NHL.
From 1999–2000 until 2003–04, the National Hockey League decided ties by playing a single five-minute sudden death overtime period with each team having four players (plus a goalie) per side to "open-up" the game. In the event of a tie, each team would still receive one point in the standings but in the event of a victory the winning team would be awarded two points in the standings and the losing team one point. The idea was to discourage teams from playing for a tie, since previously some teams might have preferred a tie and 1 point to risking a loss and zero points. The only exception to this rule is if a team opts to pull their goalie in exchange for an extra skater during overtime and is subsequently scored upon (an 'empty net' goal), in which case the losing team receives no points for the overtime loss.
Various procedures are used if a game is tied. In tournament play, as well as in the NHL playoffs, North Americans favour sudden death overtime, in which the teams continue to play twenty-minute periods until a goal is scored. Up until the 1999–2000 season regular season NHL games were settled with a single five-minute sudden death period with five players (plus a goalie) per side, with both teams awarded one point in the standings in the event of a tie. With a goal, the winning team would be awarded two points and the losing team none (just as if they had lost in regulation).
A professional game consists of three periods of twenty minutes each, the clock running only when the puck is in play. The teams change ends for the second period, again for the third period, and again at the start of each overtime played (playoffs only; same ends as the odd periods otherwise). Recreational leagues and children's leagues often play shorter games, generally with three shorter periods of play.
Periods and overtime
Although fighting is officially prohibited in the rules, it is both a target of criticism and a considerable draw for the sport. At the professional level in North America fights are unofficially condoned. Enforcers and other players fight to demoralize the opposing players while exciting their own, as well as settling personal scores. A fight will also break out if one of the team's skilled players gets hit hard or someone gets hit by what the team perceives as a dirty hit. The amateur game penalizes fisticuffs more harshly, as a player who receives a fighting major is also assessed at least a 10-minute misconduct penalty (NCAA and some Junior leagues) or a game misconduct penalty and suspension (high school and younger, as well as some casual adult leagues). Crowds seem to like fighting in ice hockey and cheer when fighting erupts.
A "deke," short for "decoy," is a feint with the body or stick to fool a defender or the goalie. Many modern players, such as Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Legg, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, have picked up the skill of "dangling," which is fancier deking and requires more stick handling skills.
There are many other little tactics used in the game of hockey. Cycling moves the puck along the boards in the offensive zone to create a scoring chance by making defenders tired or moving them out of position. Pinching is when a defencemen pressures the opposition's winger in the offensive zone when they are breaking out, attempting to stop their attack and keep the puck in the offensive zone. A saucer pass is a pass used when an opposition's stick or body is in the passing lane. It is the act of raising the puck over the obstruction and having it land on a teammate's stick.
One of the most important strategies for a team is their forecheck. Forechecking is the act of attacking the opposition in their defensive zone. Forechecking is an important part of the dump and chase strategy (i.e. shooting the puck into the offensive zone and then chasing after it). Each team will use their own unique system but the main ones are: 2–1–2, 1–2–2, and 1–4. The 2–1–2 is the most basic forecheck system where two forwards will go in deep and pressure the opposition's defencemen, the third forward stays high and the two defencemen stay at the blueline. The 1–2–2 is a bit more conservative system where one forward pressures the puck carrier and the other two forwards cover the oppositions' wingers, with the two defencemen staying at the blueline. The 1–4 is the most defensive forecheck system, referred to as the trap, where one forward will apply pressure to the puck carrier around the oppositions' blueline and the other 4 players stand basically in a line by their blueline in hopes the opposition will skate into one of them. Another strategy is the left wing lock, which has two forwards pressure the puck and the left wing and the two defencemen stay at the blueline.
A delayed penalty call occurs when a penalty offense is committed by the team that does not have possession of the puck. In this circumstance the team with possession of the puck is allowed to complete the play; that is, play continues until a goal is scored, a player on the opposing team gains control of the puck, or the team in possession commits an infraction or penalty of their own. Because the team on which the penalty was called cannot control the puck without stopping play, it is impossible for them to score a goal. However, it is possible for the controlling team to mishandle the puck into their own net. In these cases the team in possession of the puck can pull the goalie for an extra attacker without fear of being scored on. If a delayed penalty is signaled and the team in possession scores, the penalty is still assessed to the offending player, but not served. This rule was recently changed by the NCAA for college level hockey in the United States. In college games, the penalty is still enforced even if the team in possession scores.
A team that is losing by one or two goals in the last few minutes of play will often elect to pull the goalie; that is, remove the goaltender and replace him or her with an extra attacker on the ice in the hope of gaining enough advantage to score a goal. However, it is an act of desperation, as it sometimes leads to the opposing team extending their lead by scoring a goal in the empty net.
A deflection is a shot that redirects a shot or a pass towards the goal from another player, by allowing the puck to strike the stick and carom towards the goal. A one-timer is a shot struck directly off a pass, without receiving the pass and shooting in two separate actions. Headmanning the puck, also known as cherry-picking or breaking out, is the tactic of rapidly passing to the player farthest down the ice.
Offensive tactics include improving a team's position on the ice by advancing the puck out of one's zone towards the opponent's zone, progressively by gaining lines, first your own blue line, then the red line and finally the opponent's blue line. NHL rules instated for the 2006 season redefined offside to make the two-line pass legal; a player may pass the puck from behind his own blue line, past both that blue line and the centre red line, to a player on the near side of the opponents' blue line. Offensive tactics are designed ultimately to score a goal by taking a shot. When a player purposely directs the puck towards the opponent's goal, he or she is said to "shoot" the puck.
An important defensive tactic is checking—attempting to take the puck from an opponent or to remove the opponent from play. Stick checking, sweep checking, and poke checking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. The neutral zone trap is designed to isolate the puck carrier in the neutral zone preventing him from entering the offensive zone. Body checking is using one's shoulder or hip to strike an opponent who has the puck or who is the last to have touched it (the last person to have touched the puck is still legally "in possession" of it, although a penalty is generally called if he is checked more than two seconds after his last touch). Often the term checking is used to refer to body checking, with its true definition generally only propagated among fans of the game.
Officials are selected by the league they work for. Amateur hockey leagues use guidelines established by national organizing bodies as a basis for choosing their officiating staffs. In North America, the national organizing bodies Hockey Canada and USA Hockey approve officials according to their experience level as well as their ability to pass rules knowledge and skating ability tests. Hockey Canada has officiating levels I through VI. USA Hockey has officiating levels 1 through 4.
The most widespread system in use today is the three-man system, that features one referee and two linesmen. Another less commonly used system is the two referee and one linesman system. This system is very close to the regular three-man system except for a few procedure changes. With the first being the National Hockey League, a number of leagues have started to implement the four-official system, where an additional referee is added to aid in the calling of penalties normally difficult to assess by one single referee. The system is now used in every NHL game, at IIHF World Championships, the Olympics and in many professional and high-level amateur leagues in North America and Europe.
A typical game of hockey has two to four officials on the ice, charged with enforcing the rules of the game. There are typically two linesmen who are mainly responsible for calling offside and icing violations, breaking up fights, and conducting faceoffs, and one or two referees, who call goals and all other penalties. Linesmen can, however, report to the referee(s) that a penalty should be assessed against an offending player in some situations. The restrictions on this practice vary depending on the governing rules. On-ice officials are assisted by off-ice officials who act as goal judges, time keepers, and official scorers.
In men's hockey, but not in women's, a player may use his hip or shoulder to hit another player if the player has the puck or is the last to have touched it. This use of the hip and shoulder is called body checking. Not all physical contact is legal — in particular, hits from behind and most types of forceful stick-on-body contact are illegal.
The NHL has taken steps to speed the game of hockey up and create a game of finesse, by retreating from the past where illegal hits, fights, and "clutching and grabbing" among players were commonplace. Rules are now more strictly enforced, resulting in more penalties, which in turn provides more protection to the players and facilitates more goals being scored. The governing body for United States amateur hockey has implemented many new rules to reduce the number of stick-on-body occurrences, as well as other detrimental and illegal facets of the game ("Zero Tolerance").
An additional rule that has never been a penalty, but was an infraction in the NHL before recent rules changes, is the two-line offside pass. Prior to the 2005–06 NHL season, play was stopped when a pass from inside a team's defending zone crossed the centre line, with a face-off held in the defending zone of the offending team. Now, the centre line is no longer used in the NHL to determine a two-line pass infraction, a change that the IIHF had adopted in 1998. Players are now able to pass to teammates who are more than the blue and centre ice red line away.
In the NHL, a unique penalty applies to the goalies. The goalies now are forbidden to play the puck in the "corners" of the rink near their own net. This will result in a two-minute penalty against the goalie's team. The area immediately behind the net (marked by two red lines on either side of the net) is the only area behind the net where the goalie can play the puck.
Officials also stop play for puck movement violations, such as using one's hands to pass the puck in the offensive end, but no players are penalized for these offences. The sole exceptions are deliberately falling on or gathering the puck to the body, carrying the puck in the hand, and shooting the puck out of play in one's defensive zone (all penalized two minutes for delay of game).
A penalty shot is awarded to a player when the illegal actions of another player stop a clear scoring opportunity, most commonly when the player is on a breakaway –A penalty shot allows the obstructed player to pick up the puck on the centre red-line and attempt to score on the goalie with no other players on the ice, to compensate for the earlier missed scoring opportunity. A penalty shot is also awarded for a defender other than the goaltender covering the puck in the goal crease, a goaltender intentionally displacing his own goal posts during a breakaway to avoid a goal, a defender intentionally displacing his own goal posts when there is less than two minutes to play in regulation time or at any point during overtime, or a player or coach intentionally throwing a stick or other object at the puck or the puck carrier and the throwing action disrupts a shot or pass play.
Some varieties of penalties do not always require the offending team to play a man short. Concurrent five-minute major penalties in the NHL usually result from fighting. In the case of two players being assessed five-minute fighting majors, both the players serve five minutes without their team incurring a loss of player (both teams still have a full complement of players on the ice). This differs with two players from opposing sides getting minor penalties, at the same time or at any intersecting moment, resulting from more common infractions. In this case, both teams will have only four skating players (not counting the goaltender) until one or both penalties expire (if one penalty expires before the other, the opposing team gets a power play for the remainder of the time); this applies regardless of current pending penalties. However, in the NHL, a team always has at least three skaters on the ice. Thus, ten-minute misconduct penalties are served in full by the penalized player, but his team may immediately substitute another player on the ice unless a minor or major penalty is assessed in conjunction with the misconduct (a two-and-ten or five-and-ten). In this case, the team designates another player to serve the minor or major; both players go to the penalty box, but only the designee may not be replaced, and he is released upon the expiration of the two or five minutes, at which point the ten-minute misconduct begins. In addition, game misconducts are assessed for deliberate intent to inflict severe injury on an opponent (at the officials' discretion), or for a major penalty for a stick infraction or repeated major penalties. The offending player is ejected from the game and must immediately leave the playing surface (he does not sit in the penalty box); meanwhile, if an additional minor or major penalty is assessed, a designated player must serve out of that segment of the penalty in the box (similar to the above-mentioned "two-and-ten"). In some rare cases, a player may receive up to nineteen minutes in penalties for one string of plays. This could involve receiving a four-minute double minor penalty, getting in a fight with an opposing player who retaliates, and then receiving a game misconduct after the fight. In this case, the player is ejected and two teammates must serve the double-minor and major penalties.
A two-minute minor penalty is often charged for lesser infractions such as tripping, elbowing, roughing, high-sticking, delay of the game, too many players on the ice, boarding, illegal equipment, charging (leaping into an opponent or body-checking him after taking more than two strides), holding, holding the stick (grabbing an opponent's stick), interference, hooking, slashing, kneeing, unsportsmanlike conduct (arguing a penalty call with referee, extremely vulgar or inappropriate verbal comments), butt-ending (striking an opponent with the knob of the stick—a very rare penalty), spearing, or cross-checking. As of the 2005–2006 season, a minor penalty is also assessed for diving, where a player embellishes or simulates an offence. More egregious fouls may be penalized by a four-minute double-minor penalty, particularly those that injure the victimized player. These penalties end either when the time runs out or when the other team scores during the power play. In the case of a goal scored during the first two minutes of a double-minor, the penalty clock is set down to two minutes upon a score, effectively expiring the first minor penalty. Five-minute major penalties are called for especially violent instances of most minor infractions that result in intentional injury to an opponent, or when a "minor" penalty results in visible injury (such as bleeding), as well as for fighting. Major penalties are always served in full; they do not terminate on a goal scored by the other team. The foul of 'boarding', defined as "check[ing] an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards" by the NHL Rulebook is penalized either by a minor or major penalty at the discretion of the referee, based on the violent state of the hit. A minor or major penalty for boarding is often assessed when a player checks an opponent from behind and into the boards.
In ice hockey, infractions of the rules lead to play stoppages whereby the play is restarted at a face off. Some infractions result in the imposition of a penalty to a player or team. In the simplest case, the offending player is sent to the "penalty box" and their team has to play with one fewer player on the ice for a designated period of time. Minor penalties last for two minutes, major penalties last for five minutes, and a double minor penalty is two consecutive penalties of two minutes duration. A single Minor penalty may be extended by a further two minutes for causing visible injury to the victimized player. This is usually when blood is drawn during high sticking. Players may be also assessed personal extended penalties or game expulsions for misconduct in addition to the penalty or penalties their team must serve. The team that has been given a penalty is said to be playing shorthanded while the opposing team is on a power play.
Under IIHF rules, each team may carry a maximum of 20 players and two goaltenders on their roster. NHL rules restrict the total number of players per game to 18, plus two goaltenders. In the NHL, the players are usually divided into four lines of three forwards, and into three pairs of defenceman. On occasion, teams may elect to substitute an extra defenceman for a forward; this seventh defenceman might sometimes play on the fourth line as a forward.
There are three major rules of play in ice hockey that limit the movement of the puck: offside, icing, and the puck going out of play. A player is "offside" if he enters his opponent's zone before the puck itself. Under many situations, a player may not "ice the puck", shoot the puck all the way across both the centre line and the opponent's goal line. The puck goes "out of play" whenever it goes past the perimeter of the ice rink (onto the player benches, over the "glass," or onto the protective netting above the glass) and a stoppage of play is called by the officials using whistles. It also does not matter if the puck comes back onto the ice surface from those areas as the puck is considered dead once it leaves the perimeter of the rink.
The boards surrounding the ice help keep the puck in play and they can also be used as tools to play the puck. Players are permitted to "bodycheck" opponents into the boards as a means of stopping progress. The referees, linesmen and the outsides of the goal are "in play" and do not cause a stoppage of the game when the puck or players are influenced (by either bouncing or colliding) into them. Play can be stopped if the goal is knocked out of position. Play often proceeds for minutes without interruption. When play is stopped, it is restarted with a faceoff. Two players "face" each other and an official drops the puck to the ice, where the two players attempt to gain control of the puck. Markings on the ice indicate the locations for the "faceoff" and guide the positioning of players.
The five players other than the goaltender are typically divided into three forwards and two defencemen. The forward positions consist of a Center (ice hockey) and two wingers: a left wing and a right wing. Forwards often play together as units or lines, with the same three forwards always playing together. The defencemen usually stay together as a pair generally divided between left and right. Left and right side wingers or defencemen are generally positioned as such, based on the side on which they carry their stick. A substitution of an entire unit at once is called a line change. Teams typically employ alternate sets of forward lines and defensive pairings when shorthanded or on a power play. Substitutions are permitted at any time during the course of the game, although during a stoppage of play the home team is permitted the final change. When players are substituted during play, it is called changing on the fly. A new NHL rule added in the 2005–2006 season prevents a team from changing their line after they ice the puck.
Hockey is an "offside" game, meaning that forward passes are allowed, unlike in rugby. Before the 1930s hockey was an onside game, meaning that only backward passes were allowed. Those rules favoured individual stick-handling as a key means of driving the puck forward. With the arrival of offside rules, the forward pass transformed hockey into a truly team sport, where individual performance diminished in importance relative to team play, which could now be coordinated over the entire surface of the ice as opposed to merely rearward players.
Players may also redirect the puck with any part of their bodies, subject to certain restrictions. Players may not hold the puck in their hand and are prohibited from using their hands to pass the puck to their teammates, unless they are in the defensive zone. Players are also prohibited from kicking the puck into the opponent's goal, though unintentional redirections off the skate are permitted. Players may not intentionally bat the puck into the net with their hands.
Ice hockey is played on a hockey rink. During normal play, there are six players per side on the ice at any time, one of them being the goaltender, each of whom is on ice skates. The objective of the game is to score goals by shooting a hard vulcanized rubber disc, the puck, into the opponent's goal net, which is placed at the opposite end of the rink. The players may control the puck using a long stick with a blade that is commonly curved at one end.
While the general characteristics of the game are the same wherever it is played, the exact rules depend on the particular code of play being used. The two most important codes are those of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and of the Canadian-founded and North American-expanded National Hockey League (NHL). Both codes originated from Canadian rules of ice hockey of the early 20th Century.
According to the Hughston Health Alert, "Lacerations to the head, scalp, and face are the most frequent types of injury [in hockey]." (Schmidt 6) Even a shallow cut to the head results in a loss of a large amount of blood. Most concussions occur during player to player contact (49%) rather than when a player is checked into the boards (35%). Not only are lacerations common, “it is estimated that direct trauma accounts for 80% of all [hockey] injuries. Most of these injuries are caused by player contact, falls and contact with a puck, high stick and occasionally, a skate blade.” (Schmidt 3) One of the causes of head injury is checking from behind. Due to the danger of delivering a check from behind, many leagues, including the NHL have made this a major and game misconduct penalty (called "boarding"). Another type of check that accounts for many of the player to player contact concussions is a check to the head. A check to the head can be defined as delivering a hit while the receiving player’s head is down and their waist is bent and the aggressor is targeting the receiving player's head. Checks to the head have accounted for nearly 50% of concussions that players in the National Hockey League have suffered. Concussions that players suffer may go unreported because there are no obvious physical signs if a player is not knocked unconscious. This can prove to be dangerous if a player decides to return to play without receiving proper medical attention. In recent years there has been debate over whether or not a check to head should be deemed an acceptable hit in hockey. In March 2011, the NHL instituted a new concussion testing protocol to help improve detection of concussions during gameplay
Ice hockey is a full contact sport and carries a high risk of injury. The players are moving at around 30 – 45 km/h (approximately 20 - 30 mph) and quite a bit of the game revolves around the physical contact between the players. Skate blades, hockey sticks, shoulders, hips, and hockey pucks all contribute. The type of injuries associated with hockey include lacerations, concussions, contusions, ligament tears, broken bones, hyperextensions, and muscle strains.
Another important piece of equipment is the stick itself. It consists of long, relatively wide, and slightly curved flat blade, attached to a shaft. The curve itself has a big impact on its performance. A deep curve allows for lifting the puck easier while a shallow curve allows for easier backhands. The flex of the stick also has impact on the performance. Typically a less flexible stick is meant for a stronger player since the player is looking for the right balanced flex that allows the stick to flex easily while still having a strong "whip-back" which sends the puck flying at high speeds. It is quite distinct from sticks in other sports games and most suited to hitting and controlling the flat puck. Its unique shape contributed to the early development of the game. The 'Moffat' stick is currently reputed to be the oldest hockey stick in existence. By retracing the stick's ownership through several generations of the Moffatt family, a settler clan that was farming outside of North Sydney (in Nova Scotia) by the early 1800s, Presley compiled considerable archival and other evidence that the object was probably used in early, shinny-like games of "hurley" at a popular skating site called Pottle Lake. It is typical of the 19th century style of stick used in the Irish game of hurling.
One important piece of equipment is the ice skate itself. Hockey skates are optimized for several factors, some of which increase the effort needed to achieve the highest skating speeds (see Racing Skates). Hockey skates are optimized for physical acceleration (maneuverability). This includes rapid starts, stops, turns, and changes in skating direction. In addition they must be rigid and tough to protect the skater's feet from contact with other skaters, sticks, pucks, the boards, and the ice itself. Rigidity also improves the overall maneuverability of the skate. Blade length, thickness (width), and curvature (rocker/radius (front to back) and radius of hollow (across the blade width) are quite different from speed or figure skates. Hockey players usually adjust these parameters based on their skill level, position, and body type.
Since ice hockey is a full contact sport and body checks are allowed, injuries are a common occurrence. Protective equipment is mandatory and is enforced in all competitive situations. This includes a helmet (cage worn if certain age), shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, heavily padded shorts (also known as hockey pants) or a girdle, athletic cup (also known as a jock, for males; and jill, for females), shin pads, skates, and (optionally) a neck protector. In addition, goaltenders use different gear, a neck guard, chest/arm protector, blocker, catch glove, and leg pads.
Professional hockey leagues developed later in Europe, since bandy was still popular, but amateur leagues leading to national championships were in place. One of the first was the Swiss National League A, founded in 1916. Today, professional leagues have been introduced in most countries of Europe. Top European leagues include the Kontinental Hockey League, the Czech Extraliga, the Finnish Liiga and the Swedish Hockey League.
In 1910, the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917, the league expanded into the United States, starting with the Boston Bruins in 1924.
Professional hockey has existed since the early 20th century. By 1902, the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League was the first to employ professionals. The league joined with teams in Michigan and Ontario to form the first fully professional league—the International Professional Hockey League (IPHL)—in 1904. The WPHL and IPHL hired players from Canada; in response, Canadian leagues began to pay players (who played with amateurs). The IPHL, cut off from its largest source of players, disbanded in 1907. By then, several professional hockey leagues were operating in Canada (with leagues in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec).
The oldest indoor ice hockey arena still in use today for ice hockey is Boston's Matthews Arena, which was built in 1910. It has been modified extensively several times in its history and is used today by Northeastern University for ice hockey and other sports. It was the original home rink of the Boston Bruins professional team, itself the oldest United States-based team in the NHL, starting play in the league in today's Matthews Arena on December 1, 1924. The Madison Square Garden in New York City, built in 1968, is the oldest continuously-operating arena in the NHL (National Hockey League).
As the popularity of ice hockey as a spectator sport grew, earlier rinks were replaced by larger rinks. Most of the early indoor ice rinks have been demolished; Montreal's Victoria Rink, built in 1862, was demolished in 1925. Many older rinks succumbed to fire, such as Denman Arena, Dey's Arena, Quebec Skating Rink and Montreal Arena, a hazard of the buildings' wood construction. The Stannus Street Rink in Windsor, Nova Scotia (built in 1897) may be the oldest still in existence; however, it is no longer used for ice hockey. The Aberdeen Pavilion (built in 1898) in Ottawa was used for ice hockey in 1904 and is the oldest existing facility that has hosted Stanley Cup games.
Lord Stanley's five sons were instrumental in bringing ice hockey to Europe, defeating a court team (which included the future Buckingham Palace in 1895. By 1903, a five-team league had been founded. The Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace was founded in 1908 to govern international competition, and the first European championship was won by Great Britain in 1910. During the mid-20th century, the Ligue became the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Ice hockey was not the only game on ice derived from stick-and-ball games played in Europe; during this period bandie ball was adapted to the ice, evolving into bandy (which remains popular in Sweden, Russia, Finland and Norway). "Ice polo", played with a ball rather than a puck, was popular in the United States during this period; however, by 1893 the first ice hockey matches were played at Yale and Johns Hopkins University. Ice polo (played in New England) would die out as Americans adopted ice hockey. In 1896, the first ice hockey league in the U.S. was formed. The U.S. Amateur Hockey League was founded in New York City, shortly after the opening of the artificial-ice St. Nicholas Rink.
By 1893, there were almost a hundred teams in Montreal alone; in addition, there were leagues throughout Canada. Winnipeg hockey players used cricket pads to better protect the goaltender's legs; they also introduced the "scoop" shot, or what is now known as the wrist shot. Goal nets became a standard feature of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL) in 1900. Left and right defence began to replace the point and cover-point positions in the OHA in 1906.
In 1888 the Ontario Hockey Association, and Stanley's daughter Isobel was one of the first women to play ice hockey.
In Europe, it is believed that in 1885 the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club was formed to play the first Ice Hockey Varsity Match against traditional rival Cambridge in St. Moritz, Switzerland; however, this is undocumented. The match was won by the Oxford Dark Blues, 6–0; the first photographs and team lists date from 1895. This rivalry continues, claiming to be the oldest hockey rivalry in history; a similar claim is made about the rivalry between Queen's University and Royal Military College of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Since 1986, considered the 100th anniversary of the rivalry, teams of the two colleges play for the Carr-Harris Cup.
The game became so popular that the first "world championship" of ice hockey was featured in Montreal's annual Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC), and played a season comprising "challenges" to the existing champion.
 In the meantime, in 1880, the number of players had gone from nine to seven.