Some of Hockey's most enthusiatic fans are content to regard the game as one played on ice by men attempting to knock a puck into one of two nets and rival players into the seats.
Although it can be entertaining in such simplistic terms, hockey becomes even more enjoyable when one is aware of what else is occurring. This four-part series will attempt to explain the basics, what to look for during a game so that one can appreciate a player's talent and realize the referee is blowing his whistle for reasons other than bederilment of the home-team fans.
In watching a hockey game, one ruele transcends all others. Keep your eye on the puck. That little chunk of vulcanized rubber is one inch thick, three inches in diameter, weighs 51/2 to 6 ounces and at high speed can match the mayhem of a butcher knife.
Many hockey fans, because of packed buildings, must purchase season tickets and watch every game from the same seat. Folks at Capitol Centre are more fortunate and can try the sport from different angles. It's advisable.
Hockey from right behind the glass, from center ice or from a spot near one of the goals is really three different games. Samples each viewpoint and pick the one that suits you.
The ice surface is roughly two-thirds the size of a football field, 200 feet long and 85 feet wide, with rounded corners. It is surrounded by boards, 42 inches high, that eliminate the cut-of-bounds situations of other sports. In addition, shatter-proof glass is mounted atop the boards to protect fans from flying pucks. It isn't always high enough, so save those intimate chats for the intermissions.
There are two breaks for rest and refreshment, since each game consists of three 20-minute periods. Don't call them quaters. In the National Hockey League, ties are broken by sudden-death overtime only in play-offs.
The ice surface is divided into sections by lines of various colors and widths. Ten feet from each end is a goal line, on which is placed the net that is the shooter's target. The opening is four feet high, six feet wide and 22 inches deep. To score a goal, a player must shoot the puck completely across the two-inch-wide goal line, whether in the air or on the tumbles over the goal line with it ice. A goalie who stops a puck and will see the red light signifying a goal flashing behind him.
Around each goal is marked a crease, eight feet wide and extending out four feet, where the goalie is safe from molestation. If he leaves that proctective area, he is treated just like one of the boys.
The area between the goals is divided into four zones by two blue lines and a center red line. The defensive zones measure 60 feet from coal line to blue line. The red line is 30 feet from each blue line. These lines, all a foot wide, determine the offside violations to be explained later.
There are numerous faceoff circles and red spots for dropping the puck following stoppages of play. And there is a red semicircle near the penalty timekeeper's seat called the referee's crease, where players are forbidden entry. Unlike some other sports, players are technically forbidden to dispute official decision, but it's a belligerent referee who won't accept a bit of criticism once in a while.
A hockey team may dress 19 players for each game, including two goal-tenders, but only six men play at a time-goalie, two defensemen, two wings and a center. Penalties can reduce that number, but never below four. Additional penalties are served on a delayed basis beyond that minimum, the time starting for one when another is completed.
To score a goal, a player must use his stick to shoot the puck completely over the goal line. If the puck is thrown,kicked or otherwise deliberately directed into the net by a means other than a stick, it does not count. If the puck hits an offensive player's stick while held above shoulder height and goes in, it's illegal.
If a shot strikes a player on either team and goes into the net, it counts, unless it is deliberately steered in by an attacker. The last attacking player to touch the puck receives credit for the goal, with the players taking part in the play receiving assists, up to a maximum of two. Goals and assists count one point in the scoring statistics, and a player cannot assist on his own goal. The referee determines the goal scorer, while the official scorer hands out assists.
Goals are signaled by goal judges sitting behind the cages. They turn on a red light every time the puck crosses the goal line, leaving the referee to determine whether the score is legal.
Next: The players and their duties