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21/03/2017

I grew up playing sports. I dabbled in soccer and baseball all through my childhood, and I hated one and could tolerate the other. Football, rugby, cross country, track and field, I did it all. I never excelled at anything, really, I just enjoyed the activity and the camaraderie of sports. The game I played the longest and the hardest, as any Canadian child can usually boast, was hockey. I started skating about as soon as I could stand. I still have a pair of skates with blades on them about the lengths of a standard straight razor that my uncle bought me when they were still measuring my age in months, I'm sure. I played from the age of three all the way until the end of high school and the only cup I've ever hoisted after a victory was a pint glass, but I have always loved the game and still do today. This fact has recently brought into stark evidence one sad, incomprehensible fact: I don't really understand the rules of the game all that well...

For someone who has played as long as I have, obviously this is a bit embarrassing, but I have an extremely limited knowledge of the actual rules of hockey. And any other sport for that matter, but hockey makes me feel the worst. The extent of my knowledge of icings is essentially it involves the puck, the boards and the other teams end, and if I'm the one that does it I'm the one Coach Campbell is going to "take to the woodshed," whatever the hell that really means. It's not good. I know that.

So, if I played for as long as I did and only have a tertiary understanding of just what in the hell was going on around me on the ice all these years, I can only assume that there have to be other people out there like me, cheering and groaning at the right moments and yet conveniently always going to the kitchen for a refill whenever the conversation turns to a blown call or a bad whistle...right? Please? I can't be alone in this!

To that end, today I'm going to humble myself by going BACK TO THE BASICS of a sport I played for a decade and a half, in support of everyone out there like me!

Too Many Men on the Ice:

Having more than five players (excluding the goalie) on the ice at any time...please get this? Wait, goalies aren't men? That's a little rough...

Offside:

This one is fairly straightforward, meaning that I actually understood this one by the time I was 15 or so. Offside occurs when a player enters the attacking zone before and then followed by the puck. If I skate into the zone before my teammate in possession, and said teammate doesn't stop to allow everyone to call me an idiot repeatedly as I skate back across the line, the whistle is blown and an offside is called. A face-off occurs outside the blue line and my coach sits me for the rest of the period. If my teammate does stop and allow me to exit the attacking zone, we can then proceed to dump the puck and chase it into the corner like we always do because we're a bunch of hack bums with no real shots and if we try anything "fancy-pants," Coach Campbell is going to take us ALL "out to the woodshed!"

Icing:

We're finally here. The big one. The one that I never really understood and always hoped I didn't cause. The icing!

So an icing in ice hockey occurs when a player fires the puck down the ice, sending it across the red centre line AND the opposing teams blue line and into the boards WITHOUT the puck passing through the goal crease. If this happens and a defending player (that being a player who's zone the puck is in) reaches it before an attacking player does, the whistle is blown, play is stopped and a face-off occurs back in the attacking players zone, essentially nullifying the ability of a team to simply dump the puck away from their end when in trouble. However, if the attacking team reaches the puck in the corner first then the icing is waved off and play continues. I think I know less about icings now...

Face-offs:

I had absolutely no idea that there was a procedure for who places their stick first during a face-off. At all. I just thought that both teams centres approached the centre circle and proceeded to play footsie with each others sticks. If anyone got too cheeky, the ref gave them the boot and a disgruntled winger came in to take their place. Turns out, as you may have noticed being a trend here, I was wrong. It seems that prior to the 2015-2016 NHL season, the visiting team's centre was required to place his stick on the ice first in every face-off of the game. Since that season, however, the rule has changed and that is only the case for face-offs at the centre-line dot (the big one in the middle of the ice) while defending centres must place their stick first for face-offs inside their zones.

I hope everyone learned as much as I did today, and for those of you that already DID know all this, I would like to sincerely apologize for every time I've given you an office laugh when you've made a hockey rules joke in my presence. It wasn't you, it was me. Happy trails gang, and keep your stick on the ice unless you're an attacking centre in a post 2016 NHL league game, amirite!

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