Jen (jennybenz) wrote,

The Finer Points of Hockey

The Finer Points of Hockey
A Hockey Primer for retroviral that is waaaaaaay overdue. Sorry love, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Overall there are 30 teams in the National Hockey League(7 Canadian, 23 American). There are two conferences with 15 teams each- the Western and Eastern(creative, I know!). Within each conference are 3 divisions. Within each division, there are 5 teams.

Eastern Conference
New Jersey DevilsBoston BruinsCarolina Hurricanes
New York IslandersBuffalo SabresFlorida Panthers
New York RangersMontreal CanadiensTampa Bay Lightning
Philadelphia FlyersOttawa SenatorsWashington Capitals
Pittsburgh PenguinsToronto Maple LeafsWinnipeg Jets*
Western Conference
Chicago BlackhawksCalgary FlamesAnaheim Ducks
Columbus Blue JacketsColorado AvalancheDallas Stars
Detroit Red WingsEdmonton OilersLos Angeles Kings
Nashville PredatorsMinnesota WildPhoenix Coyotes
St. Louis BluesVancouver CanucksSan Jose Sharks

*formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, and thus playing in the Southeast division until realignment.

A 4 conference realignment was approved by the NHL Board of Governors this past season. It was to consist of 2 seven team conferences, and 2 eight team conferences. The point being to help even up travel across the league and have teams playing mostly within their timezone. It received very mixed reactions from fans, and has many pros and cons. It was rejected by the NHL Players Association, and will be part of the offseason discussions as the Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire. Here is what it would look like:

Regular Season

The regular season is made up of 82 games.
-you play each team in your division 6 times(24)
-you play each team in the other divisions of your conference 4 times(40)
-you play each team in the other conference 1-2 times(18)

Each game consists of three 20 minute periods, with two 15-17 minute intervals for ice resurfacing and silly games/contests/children hockey players of adorableness(or ruthlessness??). Goalies switch ends at the start of each new period.

If a game goes to overtime, they skate 4x4 for 5 minutes with only a 1 minute intermission and no ice resurfacing. The goalies do not switch ends. The first team to score wins the game.

If no one scores in the OT period, then a shootout is conducted. The Zamboni or Olympia will clean just the middle of the ice where the players will be attempting their shots. Each team gets 3 shots, alternated in rounds, and the one with the most goals win. If there is a tie, another single round of shootout is added until there is a winner. When attempting the penalty shot, the player starts at center ice, then picks up the puck at the blue line. The puck must always be moving in a forward motion, or the attempt will be called off(these same rules apply to the penalty shot). Shooters can only go once, so coaches must pick their players strategically. The shootout was added after the lockout in 04-05, and is a very polarizing issue among fans.

During playoffs, overtime is handled differently(covered later).

The winning team during regulation will receive 2 points.
The winning team in overtime or the shootout will receive 2 points, while the losing team receives 1 point.

A team's record will be displayed like so: [wins]-[losses]-[OT/shootout losses]. Occasionally you'll see [wins]-[losses]-[OT loss]-[shootout loss].

The team with the most points overall is awarded the President's Trophy. There is said to be a curse over winning this, as that team usually doesn't win the Stanley Cup. (and it's been a bitch the past 2 years, tyvm)


The top 8 teams in each conference make it to the playoffs.
They are seeded 1-8, with the top 3 spots reserved for the division winners. The match ups look like this:

1E vs 8E, 1W vs 8W
2E vs 7E, 2W vs 7W
3E vs 6E, 3E vs 6W
4E vs 5E, 4E vs 5W

Every round of the playoffs is a best of 7. The 1st, 2nd, 5th(if necessary) and 7th(if necessary) games are played at the higher seed's home arena, while the 3rd, 4th and 6th(if necessary) games are played at the lower seed's home arena.

In the playoffs there are no shootouts. Each overtime is 20 minutes and sudden death, with regulation-length intermissions. Players also skate 5x5 and goalies switch ends.

After a winner is determined in the first round, the highest remaining seed will play the lowest remaining seed in their conference, while the 2nd highest remaining seed will play the 2nd lowest remaining seed.

The 3rd round is for the Conference Championship. The winner in each conference will advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Eastern Champion receives the Prince of Wales Trophy, while the Western Champion receives the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. But what they really want is...

The Stanley Cup

Lord Stanley of Preston was appointed Governor General of Canada in the late 1880s. Shortly after, he became enamored with the sport of hockey. Given its popularity, he wanted to have a yearly championship for players to strive for. He purchased a punch bowl from England and Lord Stanley's Cup was born. It was used for various championships throughout the years, and then in 1926 the NHL became the sole league to vie for it. In 1947, control of the cup was granted to the NHL.

Here's a neat-o infographic:

In order for a player to get their name on the cup, they must skate in 41 regular season games, or play at least one game of the Stanley Cup Final. Teams can apply to get players added if they don't meet the criteria due to injury or other extenuating circumstances.

Game Play

The Ice

An NHL size rink is 200ft(61m) x 85ft(26m). It consists of a neutral zone in the middle, and a zone for each team on the sides. During the game, teams switch sides at the end of each period.

The Players

There are 20 team members allowed to suit up during a game. This usually breaks down to 2 goalies, 6 defensemen and 12 forwards. Within these are forward lines and defensive pairings.

Forward lines are in 4 sets of 3- a left wing, a center, and a right wing. Lines are not set in stone, and can be played around with as necessary. There are also players who are able to play multiple positions. The most skilled members of the team will make up the first line and see most of the ice time, while enforcer types will eat up less minutes on the 4th line.

The 6 defensemen are paired off, with the top 4 usually seeing more icetime than the bottom. As with lines, these are not set in stone.

When attacking, the defense usually hang out on the blue line(hence the nickname "blue liners", or refering to the defense as a whole as "the blue line"). This is so they can keep the puck from accidentally crossing the blue line(which would require all players to re-touch the blue line before being able to attack again- see offsides), and to be able to easily get back to defend when the opposing team gains possession. When they shoot from this area, it's called "shooting from the point". Occasionally if the defense has a good chance, they'll move into the fray. At which point it's up to one of the wingers to head back and cover their spot.

Penalties result in the teams being on the Penalty Kill(PK) and Power Play(PP) respectively. There are powerplay and powerkill units on the team that usually handle this. Over the two minutes, you will usually send out two lines of forwards and your top 4 defensemen(though again, it's not set in stone). They also don't have to be the same lines as you usually use, either.

Goalies are wonderful, crazy, precious flowers who usually take most of the blame despite being pretty awesome. You would think the best goalies would be the bulkier ones to cover up more net area, but goalies are usually one of the most agile members of their team. Most employ the butterfly style of goaltending, where they go down on both pads with their toes pointing outwards and the tops of their pads meeting in the middle, thus closing up the spot between the goalies legs(aka the "five-hole").

The main, obvious ones are goals and assists. Each goal is allowed up to 2 assists. Each one earns the player a "point".

+/- keeps track of how many goals are scored for and against a team while that player is on the ice at even strength. So if Jonathan Toews is on the ice for 3 goals against(2 even, 1 penalty kill) and 5 goals for(3 even, 2 on the powerplay) his +/- for the game would be 1.

SOG- Shots On Goal. Pretty self-explanatory. For a shot to count, it must be on net. Hitting the post does not count as a shot.

PIM- Penalty in Minutes. This is how many penalty minutes a player has.

Blocked Shots- Blocking shots is a strategy employed by defensemen and forwards, especially on the penalty kill. The basic idea is that players attempt to stop an opposing players shot before it can even get to the goalie, sometimes doing whatever it takes(like diving across the ice). Padding has gotten bigger/covered more area to make this easier on players, but giant bruises and occasional injuries result.

I have an RIT example of this, so you know damn straight I am going to include it:

There are a few goalie stats tracked as well.
GAA- Goals Against Average. It is calculated by averaging the number of goals scored on a goalie per game(aka for every 60min).
Save Percentage- This is the number of saves per shot a goalie faces. These are usually not actually said as a percentage, but in a .xxx format. The average save percentage of goalies who played 25 games or more in the 2011-12 season was .915.

The Rules

There are 4 officials on ice during NHL hockey. There are two refs who call penalties and goals. One will stay near the play, while one will hang back to catch anything missed/have a different view and be ready to move down ice if possession changes. There are also two linesmen who call things like icing and offsides, as well as performing faceoff duties. Usually they each hang around one of the bluelines.


First can I say that the NHL has an AMAZING Video Rulebook that has all of the penalties explained probably better than I ever could. Bookmark it!

Minor penalties are worth 2 minutes in the box. When a minor penalty is called, the ref will raise his hand to signal to the players. Play will continue until the offending team gains possession of the puck or it goes out of play. During this period of delayed penalty, it is common for the team about to go on the powerplay to pull their goalie for an extra attacker(as the opposing team would have to gain possession to score, thus ending the delayed penalty. Own-goals still count though!). If the team is able to score, then the delayed penalty is negated. If a team scores during a powerplay, then the offending player can return to the game before his 2 minutes are up.

Examples of minor penalties:
-High sticking: Bringing up your stick and hitting a players head/face, intentional or not. If you draw blood, you get a double minor(4 minutes).
-Elbowing: Not keeping your elbows to yourself!
-Tripping: Self explanatory
-Spearing*: Jabbing a player with the blade of your stick.
-Slashing: Whacking another player with your stick.
-Hooking: Wrapping your stick blade around another player to impede them.
-Cross-checking*: Holding your stick with both hands parallel and hitting another player with it.
-Hitting/Checking from behind*: Self explanatory for the most part; don't hit a player in the numbers.
-Holding: Holding a player and preventing then from moving.
-Interference: Impeding a player when they don't have possession of the puck.
-Charging: Taking more than 3 strides before hitting a player.
-Roughing: Players getting a little too physical; ex: throwing a punch, but not full out fighting.
-Diving/Embellishment: A player embellishing injury or an offense in order to get a call on the other team.
-Unsportsmanlike conduct*:
-Delay of game- If a player is in their defensive zone and flicks the puck into the stands without it hitting the glass, then it's a DoG penalty. There is a bench minor for this as well(Fans throwing things on the ice, a player taking too long to adjust their equipment that somehow gives their team an edge, etc).

*Starred penalties can be upgraded to a harsher penalty based on severity.

Goalies can be assessed penalties, but they are served by a member of their team(unless they're tossed from the game.)

Bench Minors are penalties not assessed to one player, so the team has to pick someone to put in the box. Some examples would be too many men (or TOO MUCH MAN) or abuse of officials. Find a full list here.

Major penalties are 5 minutes long. The powerplay team can score as many goals as they want within this period, and the penalty will not end until the time is up. A lot of major penalties are more severe versions of minor penalties, and include fighting.

Misconducts are 10 minute penalties. The player serves these minutes in the lockerroom. If the player is only assessed the misconduct and no other minor/major/match penalties, then the offenders team does not have to play shorthanded or place anyone in the penalty box.

Examples of penalties that can be assessed as misconducts:
-Banging boards with stick in protest of an official’s ruling
-Continuing or attempting to continue a fight
-Deliberately breaking stick or refusing to surrender stick for measurement
-Deliberately throwing any equipment (including stick) out of playing area
-Entering or remaining in the referee’s crease
-Fighting off the playing surface (or with another player who is off the playing surface)
-Inciting an opponent
-Instigating a fight
-Interfering or distracting opponent taking a penalty shot
-Knocking or shooting puck out of reach of an official
-Leaving bench to speak to official
-Refusing to change non-regulation piece of protective equipment (second violation)
-Use of profane or abusive language
-Verbal abuse of an official

A game misconduct results in ejection from the game and a 5 minute penalty. The penalty is served by one of the offenders teammates. Regardless of how much time is left in the game, the scoresheet lists the penalty as being 10 minutes. A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.

Examples of penalties that can be assessed as misconducts:
-Attempt to injure (in any manner)
-Butt-ending *
-Checking from behind
-Deliberate injury (in any manner)
-Goalkeeper who uses his blocking glove to the head or face of an opponent*
-Grabbing of the face mask
-Hair pulling
-Head-butting *
-Illegal Check to the Head
-Kicking a player (or goalkeeper)
-Punching and injuring an unsuspecting opponent *
-Spearing *
-Throwing stick or any object
-Wearing tape on hands in altercation*

* - match penalty must be assessed when injury results

A player also earns an Automatic Game Misconduct when assessed a third major penalty in the same game.

Sometimes hockey players do really dumb things like elbow each other in the head on purpose. It is at these times that supplementary discipline can be assessed by the Department of Player Safety. Since Brendan Shanahan took over this role, fans have referred to this practice as the "Shanaban". If an incident is deemed worth reviewing, then the player is given a phone or in-person hearing. A phone hearing limits the amount of suspension to 5 games or under. An in-person hearing means the player can receive 6+ games(but can also still receive less than that).

If a player is suspended, it is accompanied by a video explanation of what rules were broken, what contributed to the suspension decision, and the suspension length. Here is an example; The Bruins' Brad Marchand's suspension for clipping the Canucks' Sami Salo.

If it is decided a player will just be fined for their disgression, the maximum under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is $2,500. Coaches are not under that agreement, which is why John Tortorella(coach of the NY Rangers) has racked up some hefty fines for speaking his mind about officiating.

A Penalty shot is awarded when a team loses a clear scoring opportunity on a breakaway because of an opposing player committing a penalty(tripping, holding, the goalie throwing his stick or knocking off the net on purpose, etc). The penalty shot takes the place of the 2 minute minor, and works the exact same way as the shootout(see above). If a penalty shot is awarded and the penalized team had pulled their goaltender in favor of an extra attacker, the player fouled is automatically awarded a penalty shot goal, regardless of whether the puck went in or not.

Other Rules

Offsides: A player cannot enter the offensive zone before the puck. What constitutes "entering"? Having both skates across the blue line. You may notice players dragging their back leg on the blue line to try to prevent getting called offsides. If a team is deemed to be offsides by the linesman, then every player in the zone must touch back up on the blue line before they can continue play. All players must also leave the offensive zone if the puck leaves it before they can attempt another attack. If an offsides player with the puck goes too far into the zone, then the play will be whistled, and the puck will be dropped on one of the neutral zone face off dots.

Refer to the NHL Video Playbook for video examples of Offsides.


Hand Pass: A hand pass is when a player gloves the puck out of the air and possession goes to a teammate. When this occurs, play is stopped. Play is allowed to go on if the player drops the puck for themselves to use, or if the opponent gains possession right after it drops.

High Sticking the Puck: A player is not allowed to bat the puck out of the air with his stick above the shoulders. When this occurs, play is stopped. Play will continue, however, if an opposing player gains possession right after. Also, if by doing so a player knocks the puck into his own net, then it counts as a goal for the opposing team. Players are not allowed to knock the puck out of the air with their stick and into the opposing players net above the goal post.

(to be continually updated)

Forecheck- When an offensive player puts pressure on the defending team when the defending team is in possession of the puck in their own end.
Apple- another name for an assist.
Dump and Chase- A strategy where a player throws the puck into the offensive zone, then tries to beat the defending team to the puck.
Zebras- a nickname for the refs.
Depth- When NHL analysts/fans talk depth, they're basically referring to how good the team is at replacing players. Depth can include healthy scratches(players that are on the team but do not suit up for the game) and members of their "farm teams". For example: in the 2010-11 season, the Canucks had to rely on their Defensive depth due to numerous injuries to their blue line. Since they had quality defensive players playing for their AHL team, they were able to call them up to play and were still able to win the President's Trophy. Whether a player is eligible to be moved up or down the chart is a whole other can of worms and pretty CONFUSING.
Waivers- Part of the aforementioned confusing bit of recalling players. here is a nice explaination
Original 6- The teams that made up the NHL from 1942 until the expansion in 1967. They consist of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Slew foot- When a player hit another player in the back of the knee with their leg/foot, causing them to lose balance. example.
Defunct hockey teams: Wikipedia has a good list, with reasons why they ended and where they are now.

-legends of the game
-The All Star break!
-updates on what goes down with the CBA this summer (PLEASE NO LOCKOUT)

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a hockey expert. I've probably gotten some things wrong, and I have a lot of knowledgeable super fans on my friendslist. I will gladly welcome any corrections/constructive criticism :)
Tags: caz is full of awesome, hockey primer
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