Friday, October 8, 2010

Hockey 101: Absolute Basics

Ah hockey. So simple, but so annoying complicated. Basically, two teams are trying to put a puck in the opposing team’s net. That’s the gist of the game anyways, and all I actually knew as fact when I first starting watching the sport. Considering I grew up in a country where everyone knows something about hockey and in which many songs are sung about hockey, I knew surprising little about the game itself (although I can do camp sing-alongs with the best of them). So I had to start at the very beginning. You’re going to start at the very beginning too. Like me, you’ve probably already noticed that the players aren’t just skating around on an empty sheet of ice. It’s full of lines and circles, and even a couple of weird half circles. Like so:


The entire rink is divided into three separate zones. The offensive zone, the neutral zone, and the defensive zone. These zones are marked the two blue lines. For demonstrative purposes, let’s say the Leafs are playing the Sens. Of course, we are cheering for the Leafs. The Leafs are in net in the uppermost zone. That makes the Leafs' end of the rink the defensive zone, from the boards to the first blue line. The area between the blue lines is the neutral zone. And, as I’m sure you’ve pieced together, the area from the bottom-most blue line to the bottom-most board is the offensive zone, where the Sens are in net. Thus:

If you were cheering for the Sens (not that anyone would, or should) the bottom-most zone would be your defensive zone, and the upper-most the offensive zone. Simply put, the area your team is "defending" is the defensive zone, and wherever you want your team to do an obnoxious victory dance is the offensive zone. The neutral zone is the area in between in which anything can happen! Though, usually all that really happens is the puck moving from one zone to another.

The red line in the middle is cleverly called the Centre Line. And the two red lines at either end are called the Goal Lines. There are also nine red dots on the ice, where faceoffs can take place. You’ll see that there are circles around some of the dots; these are called face off circles. Why some have circles and some don’t is beyond me. I suspect it has something to do with being in the neutral zone. When I find out, I’ll let you know.

A faceoff is what gets the game started. It is exactly what it sounds like: two players from each team face off against each other for control of the puck. Faceoffs will happen on the centre line at the beginning of every period and after any goals are scored. They also happen throughout the period after play has been stopped, either for offsides, icings, penalties, etc (I’ll get to all these later) in order to get the game back on track.

So there you have it, the very basics to get you started. Coincidentally, there is a Leafs/Sens game on Saturday. Watch and learn your zones, ladies!

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