Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hockey 101

In honor of Stormin' Norman's voyage to the United Center to watch the Hawks take on the Sabres tonight, I thought I should educate him on some things he probably doesn't know about hockey.

Let's dispense with the problem of seeing the puck first. There is no trick to this art. It is simply a matter of getting used to watching the sport, so I guess you'll get to keep complaining about this one.

So we'll start with a couple of rules you should know. Icing is pretty easy to understand; a player can't shoot the puck from behind the center red line into his offensive zone and past the goal line (the thin red line that extends across the goal to the boards), and when an opposing player other than the goalie touches the puck before anyone on his team, icing has occurred and there is a face-off back in his team's defensive zone. There are situations where icing can be waived off, for instance when the opposing team has a chance to touch the puck and does not, but get the basics down first, sport. Oh, and when there is a power play, the shorthanded team is allowed to "ice the puck", don't worry, we'll cover some of these terms soon.

Offsides is also easy to understand and easy to complain about. A player may not enter the offensive zone (pass the blue line) ahead of the puck. What matters here are the skates; as long as the player has part of one skate on or behind part of the line when the puck crosses, he is onside. One common exception to the rule occurs when the player possessing the puck crosses the line while making a move at the blue line. As long as he controls the puck as he goes in and brings the puck with him, he can enter the zone before the puck. When offsides is called, there is a faceoff just outside the zone where the infraction occurred. Offsides is called by the linesmen, who are different from the refs that call the penalties, so they are the guys without the orange bands on their sleeves and the ones you want to scream at when you think they missed one. Or whenever you want really.

One more quick rule point that can give away your status as a novice if you get it wrong: the difference between high sticking and, well, high sticking. One version is a penalty and the other simply results in a faceoff. If a player touches the puck with his stick when it is above the height of the crossbar and he or a member of his team touches the puck next, this is high sticking and a faceoff will occur, but it is not a penalty. If a player hits another player with his stick above the shoulders, this is a high sticking penalty and he will get two minutes. The ref can also decide to make this a double minor (successive 2 minute penalties) if the player hit is injured. Blood is usually the deciding factor here.

Okay, that's it for rules, maybe we'll have Hockey 102 some other time. Next, we'll get acquainted with some terminology. First, some names of penalties you should know: roughing, holding, tripping, interference are common penalties; just yell out one of these when someone falls down and you're in good shape.

There are a bunch of terms that come up when a penalty takes place too. You should know that when there is a penalty, the guilty party heads to the penalty box for two minutes. This puts the opposition on a power play and his team on the penalty kill. If they get through the two minutes without the other team scoring they "killed" the penalty.

Finally, and this is important, there are a lot of hockey terms that sound really dirty. Don't be alarmed if you hear things like "he's in the crease", "poke check", or "pull the goalie".

That's all for today. Try to digest this knowledge before you head to the game and you might have some idea of what's going on. Also, if you want to sound really smart at the game, here is something to use. When a guy makes a good play, hockey slang is to call him sexy. So if Jonathan Toews has one of his highlight reel goals, it's not a bad idea to yell "Johnny you're sexy!" Or even comment on it to some guys around you. Trust me.

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