Community & Current Events

Hockey 101: An introduction to Canada's game

Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Hockey 101: An introduction to Canada's game

1. Summit Series
This 1972 eight-game series between a team of Canadian professionals and Russian amateurs gave hockey fans across this country a sense of national pride – and left them biting their nails.

Canadians fancy themselves the best hockey players in the world and expected their team to win every game handily. But after seven games, both teams had won three times, with the other game ending in a tie. To say Canadians were excited about the finale would be an understatement: people skipped out of work and schools suspended classes so everyone could watch the game. Russia led 5-3 after two periods, but Canada tied it up halfway through the third.

With less than one minute left in the game, Paul Henderson scored for Canada – and a nation let out its collective breath.

2. Who are Ron and Don?
Ron MacLean and Don Cherry have been fixtures on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" since 1987. Their popular segment, "Coach's Corner," takes place during the first intermission of the first game every Saturday night during the hockey season.

MacLean plays the straight man as the colourfully clad Cherry (a.k.a. "Grapes" to his legion of followers) opines on topics such as fighting in hockey (he's for it), the lack of toughness of international players (whose names he tends to mispronounce) and the Canadian military (he's vocal with his support).

3. Who is Lord Stanley and what's up with that cup?
We can thank Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, the former governor-general of Canada, for the most recognizable trophy in sports. A quick fan of the sport, Stanley donated the Cup in 1893, with the wish that it be given annually to the best amateur team in the country.

Professionals were soon allowed to compete for the Cup, and since 1926, it has been awarded to the NHL champions. What makes this trophy unique is that every winning player has his name inscribed on it.


Page 1 of 3 – Do you know the game's most legendary players? Learn of hockey greats, from Mr. Hockey to Sid the Kid, on page 2.

4. Legendary players
• Sidney Crosby is the youngest player to be named the most valuable player of the NHL and the youngest player to captain his team to the Stanley Cup; his Pittsburgh Penguins captured it in 2009 when "Sid the Kid" was only 21. His legend grew when he scored the overtime winner to clinch Olympic gold for Canada in Vancouver.

• Wayne Gretzky holds or shares 61 NHL records, including most goals (892) and assists (1,962). "The Great One" was named the league's most valuable player nine times, claimed the scoring title 10 times and won four Stanley Cups. In 22 NHL seasons, he played for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

• Gordie Howe, a.k.a., "Mr. Hockey," played professional hockey for 32 years spanning six decades; he retired in 1980, at age 52. While he spent almost his entire NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, he played his final season with the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) as a teammate of sons Marty and Mark.

• Maurice Richard won eight Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1940s and 1950s and was the league's first 50-goal-scorer. Much beloved in his hometown, when "The Rocket" was suspended for part of the 1955 season, fans rioted in the streets.

Hayley Wickenheiser, long the face of women's hockey in Canada, has won three Olympic gold medals. In 2003, she joined a men's team in Finland and became the first female player to record a point in a men's professional game.

• Cassie Campbell retired from hockey in 2006 as a two-time Olympic champion. A year later she became the first female hockey player inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

• Manon Rheaume is the only woman to have played in the NHL. She suited up for the Tampa Bay Lightning during a pre-season game in 1992.

• Angela James was a member of Canada's first four world championship teams. This past November she became one of the first two women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

5. How many periods and how long is each period?
A hockey game is made up of three 20-minute periods. But what your boyfriend isn't telling you is that it takes more like two-and-a-half hours to watch an NHL game, what with the intermissions (or breaks) between each period (about 17 minutes each), stoppages in play (for penalties, icing calls, etc.) and TV timeouts added to the 60 minutes of time actually playing the game.

6. What's the deal with overtime and shootouts?
In the NHL (as well as at the Olympics and other higher levels of hockey), games cannot end in a tie. During the regular season teams play five minutes of overtime (or extra time), with four skates on the ice instead of five.

If neither team scores a goal, they go to a shootout. Three players on each team take a shot on the other team's net. If the teams are still tied at this point, you'll see – if you haven't changed the channel yet – each team continue to take a shot until one side scores and the other doesn't.

Come playoff time, shootouts go out the window. Instead, the teams (with five skaters a side) play 20-minute overtime periods until someone scores. This can lead to some long nights at the rink: in 1936, it took the Detroit Red Wings six overtimes to beat the Montreal Maroons, 1-0.


Page 2 of 3 – Get to know common hockey slang and lingo on page 3.
7. How do penalties work?
You know how you send your child to his room when he does something he shouldn't? Well, that's kind of how penalties work – if a player misbehaves he has to take a seat. Exactly what he did determines the length of his "timeout."

• Minor penalties (two minutes) include tripping, elbowing, roughing and high sticking (hitting another player above the waist with your stick).

• Major penalties (five minutes) are called for more serious violations such as fighting, checking (or hitting) from behind and spearing (stabbing another player with the blade of your stick), as well as on minor penalties when the offending player uses too much force or injures the other player.

• Misconducts (10 minutes) are called for egregious displays of poor sportsmanship or if a player commits a second major penalty.

8. What are the positions?
• Goalie: your team's last line of defense, it's this player's responsibility to stop the puck from going in the net – by any means necessary

• Defensemen: the two players who's main job is to stop the other team from scoring; they match up against the wingers on the other team

• Forwards: the centre stays mostly in the middle of the ice and handles face-offs; the right and left wingers patrol their sides of the ice and are responsible for going after pucks in the corners

9. Glossary of common terms
Icing: when an offensive player shoots the puck from behind the centre line to behind the other team's goal line (the red line at the end of the ice) without it being touched

Offside: when an offensive player enters into the other team's zone before the puck does

Hat trick: three or more goals scored by one player in a game

Gordie Howe hat trick: when a player has a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game

Power play: when one team has more players on the ice because the other team has been called for a penalty; also called "the man advantage"

Shorthanded: when one team plays with one or two fewer players on the ice because of a penalty or penalties; also called "the penalty kill"

10. Common slang and lingo
Deke: when an offensive player fakes out (or tricks) a defensive player with a fancy move, allowing him to skate by

Five hole: the space between the goalie's pads

Sin bin: the penalty box

Top shelf: the top part of the net; could also say "going upstairs" or "the cookie jar"

Fisticuffs: a fight

Slot: the area in front of the net between the faceoff circles


Check out The Hockey News to find out everything you've ever wanted to know about Canada's favourite game. The Hockey News has been providing the most comprehensive coverage of the world of hockey since 1947.


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Hockey 101: An introduction to Canada's game

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