Hockey 101

If you’re reading this, you probably want to know more about hockey. Finally! Hockey is a fast-paced, brutal, beautiful game, and it’s a shame more people don’t follow it.

Of course, when Da Hawks stopped alienating fans, built an exciting roster, and actually started winning games (hello, Stanley Cup!), the city was bound to start paying attention.

But now that the Blackhawks are champs, the grace period for jumping on the bandwagon is over. It’s time to be a real hockey fan and learn some rules to go along with that jersey.

Lines on the Ice

There are three key lines across the ice: the red line and the blue lines. The red line splits the ice into halves, and denotes the point at which “icing” occurs (more on this later). The blue lines split the ice into three zones: the offensive zone, the defensive zone, and the neutral zone. They also denote the points at which “offsides” can occur (again, more later).

Basic Penalties
There are two penalties that are confusing if you don’t understand hockey: icing, and offsides.

Icing happens when a player shoots the puck from his half of the ice past the net at the other end without being touched, then a player from the other team touches the puck first (unless it’s the goalie). When this happens there is a faceoff in the guilty team’s defensive zone, and that team cannot change players.

Offsides happens when a player gets caught in the offensive zone before the puck enters, or if the puck leaves the zone and goes back in before he can get out. A player only needs a skate in the neutral zone to not be offsides. Important: Though these are both considered penalties, no player is sent to the penalty box for either.

Dumping the Puck
”Dumping the puck” is when a player shoots or lifts the puck past the defense into the offensive zone, with no intention of keeping possession. The reason the puck gets dumped is because the safest time to change lines is when the puck is as far away from your own goal as possible.

I myself only started following hockey in 2008, so if my pointers didn’t help—hopefully, they did—start watching games. All Hawks games are televised either on Comcast, WGN, or Versus (HD on channels 200, 192, and 174 respectively), so if you really want to learn hockey, tune in on game night, or better yet, go to a game, because there’s nothing like being there when “Chelsea Dagger” is blaring.

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