By: Sarah Meklir
The National Hockey League (NHL) recently announced their return-to-play plan to continue the 2020 season. With comprehensive planning and gameplay changes, the NHL will be the nation’s first sport to return from quarantine.
The league will be jumping straight into the Stanley Cup playoffs when hockey returns in the summer, but since the regular season was cut short due to coronavirus, the playoffs will begin with 24 teams rather than the standard 16. The top four-seeded teams in each conference will have a bye during the first round and play each other once to determine seeding. The bottom eight teams of each conference will face off in a best-of-five tournament which will culminate in a wild card team joining the top four-seeded teams in the playoffs. According to the NHL, training camps will open this week, which allows time for new fans to learn about the sport and perhaps watch some classic games being re-aired on the NHL network. For more information, here’s the NHL’s full plan: https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/29250341/the-nhl-coronavirus-pause-players-coaches-offer-opinions-return-play-format
The United States is starved for professional sports (backyard wiffle ball only goes so far), so other sports fans now turn to the NHL as their only option, with baseball, basketball, and football all still out of commission. Since there will be so many new hockey fans, it may be a good idea to provide a refresher on some rules and phrases used in the game. Here’s a fantastic resource from a hockey website explaining all the rules and details of the game: https://thehockeywriters.com/hockey-101-beginners-guide-ice-hockey/
The league is split into two conferences of 12 teams: the Eastern and Western conference. If you’re looking to see where your team lands, here’s a resource: https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-introduces-new-division-names-with-schedule/c-678456
Ice hockey is a game where two teams oppose each other and the objective is to score the most points by shooting a puck (a hard, disk-shaped, rubber scoring device, that slides smoothly on top of the ice in place of a ball) into the opposing team’s goal using a hockey stick (hockey sticks are the ones that look like “L”s).
Each team has six players on the rink at a time, including one goalie for each team. The team wearing a solid dark color is the home team, meaning they’re playing in the city they’re from, and the team in white with accents is away (they travelled to get there).
The game is split into three periods of 20 minutes, for a total of 60 minutes each game. Players skate around the rink, passing the puck to one another, and the opposing team attempts to block these passes and defend their goal. If you really want to be impressed with these players, remember they’re wearing ice skates the whole time!
When the hockey puck is hit clear across the rink in hopes of avoiding defenders, the resulting penalty is called icing. “Checking” is when a defender pushes a member of the opposing team hard into the boards. “The boards” are the walls surrounding the rink, with clear acrylic tops for the fans to see the action but still be protected. When someone is checked too hard, it results in a penalty known as “boarding,” where the offending player is relegated to a two minute sit in the penalty box. “Slashing” is a penalty called when a player swings their stick at an opponent. Penalties can result in a “Power Play,” where the offending team has to operate with one less player on the ice for either two or five minutes.
If studying rules and phrases isn’t your thing, here’s an easier method of research: hockey movies! Below you’ll find a list of critically-acclaimed (or not “acclaimed” but still fun) movies made about ice hockey, and where you can find them.
- Miracle (Netflix, Disney+) (PG)
- The 1980 US national hockey team’s journey to the 1980 Winter Olympics, and the Miracle on Ice.
- Mystery, Alaska (Disney+) (R)
- A small town hockey team’s road to facing the New York Rangers
- Ice Guardians (Netflix)
- Netflix description: “This film explores the controversial role of ice hockey “enforcers,” as well as the physical and mental price paid by the game’s notorious tough guys.
- The Mighty Ducks (Hulu, Prime Video) (PG)
- Comedy. A lawyer has to do community service by coaching a peewee hockey team.
- Slap Shot (Starz, Redbox, Prime Video) (R)
- Comedy. A hockey team spices up their failing image by taking “slapstick” to a whole new level.
- Goon (Netflix) (R)
- Comedy. A man is hired to play professional hockey just because of his fighting skills.
- Tooth Fairy (Redbox, Prime Video) (PG)
- Comedy. A minor league hockey player (Dwayne Johnson) in his journey to becoming a better person. Also he has to be a tooth fairy for a while. Plus, it has Julie Andrews!