Ice Hockey: Gameplay
The game takes place within an ice hockey rink with two teams of six players skating on the ice in pursuit of a puck with their sticks, shooting the puck into the other team’s net by getting past the goaltender, or goalie. As the offensive team works to place the puck in the other team’s net, they are allowed to use their sticks and even skates to aide in their pursuit; however, their hands and some maneuvers with their skates aren’t allowed to drive the puck to the net.
The players on the ice can be divided into two groups: the linemen and the defensemen. Each of these groups play their part in offensive and defensive maneuvers to keep the puck in play, such as body checking and even using the walls surrounding the rink to propel the puck towards its objective of entering the net of the opposing team. When the entire group of players is substituted for a fresh group or a stronger group, this is known as a line change, which can happen at any time within the game. Some restrictions apply when the puck has been put into play when it comes to substitutions of players.
Each game typically consists of three periods with twenty minutes in each period. The teams will change sides at certain intervals such as the second period, the third period, and should the game go into overtime. When overtime does occur, there are a number of ways to settle the tie that has ensued from regular game time. A popular option is sudden death of a five minute period followed by a shootout to lead to a victor of the game. This system allows for the disallowance of ties within the NHL.
When penalties occur that cause a stoppage of the clock, there is a faceoff that must take place to restart the clock between the two teams. For some players that cause penalties, they are sent to a penalty box where they must stay for a requisite amount of time before they can rejoin their team on the ice. A number of infractions can lead to a penalty against a player from high-sticking to charging. Most of these penalties carry a two minute duration since they are considered minor; however, larger penalties can be brought towards a player and/or team if the offense is of a higher magnitude or the player exacerbates the minor penalty with further injury. In some instances, a penalty shot is awarded to the victimized player for the action committed against him with an unencumbered shot at the goal. Other penalties have been created throughout recent years that include penalties against goalies and other plays completed illegally by players.
The enforcement of the rules is usually handled by two to four officials within the rink. With the use of linesmen and referees to handle all penalties from offside to handling fights to goal penalties, most games are handled by a three-manned official group. This group also has a panel off the ice that works on keeping time and score for the game.
Like American football and rugby, ice hockey is a high contact sport that can lead to some serious injuries so the equipment needed is highly regulated to ensure the safety of the players. Each player must wear a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, hockey pants, a cup, shin pads, skates, and even a neck protector. With the allowance of body checking, this gear is necessary to keep the number of injuries to a minimum while the game is in play. The goaltender must wear equipment that differs from the other players since the puck is speeding towards them at rates that could easily result in serious injury and even death. Their protective gear is on a larger scale in size because of their greater risk for injury. This has led to rules and regulation changes because of the large size of their gear has prohibited goals and cause other problems.
The skates and sticks used by the players can vary greatly between the players as they find a fit that works best for them from the thickness of the skate’s blade to the stick’s curvature. For the skates, the most important aspect is the rigidity of the skate’s body to protect the leg from contact with the puck, other players, and sticks. The hockey stick will find that the shape should meet the requirements of the player as it helps control the puck while in that player’s possession whether they are defending the puck or passing the puck to achieve a goal.
While there are offensive tactics to aid in scoring as well as checking to prevent scoring, there are also fighting tactics that have brought considerable popularity to the sport as well as condemnation from various spectators. While fights are prohibited officially, they are often still part of the game as means and methods of exciting the crowd or for settling scores between affronted players. Depending on the level of hockey being played, the penalty can be anything from a major penalty to a suspension from playing the game. With the different tactics to win the game, the players of both teams have studied hard to play their hardest and their best during the game, hoping to lead their team to a victory.