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The Game Of Hockey

The Game of Hockey

Around 519,417 people in the United States participated in hockey during the 2013-2014 season. This sport started like any other sport: a simple idea that grew into something much more than that. It began in Canada and slowly progressed to the U.S. over several years. As the sport continued to grow, more people got involved and turned it into the game it is today. Along with the popularity, hockey has grown by the revision of the game over the years, the changes in hockey equipment, and the decline in injuries due to new technology.

These significant changes to the game have helped increase it’s overall popularity. The beginning of the journey of hockey started in Montreal, Canada. This is where the blueprint for the game was created. A man named James Creighton gathered his friends and made an ice hockey team. The first practice was at the Victoria Skating Rink. The first problem he encountered was: what he would use for a puck. He soon made a puck from wood, and that became the first hockey puck used indoors (Matson). On March 3, 1875, the first exhibition game was played with many curious spectators. Some thought this game was interesting, while others disliked it due to the violence. Rules were implemented to minimize the violence during the game. The rules used at this time were called the Halifax rules (Matson). The puck could not leave the ice, the goalie could not go down to make a save, if a goal is made, you switched nets, and all players played the entire game. In 1879, more rules were added and published in the Nova Scotia newspaper, talking about the time of a game, what to do and not to do, and equipment (Matson). In 1911 the Pacific Coast Hockey Association introduced blue lines, forward passes aloud in the neutral zone, game is divided in three, twenty-minute periods rather than an hour game. In 1912, the player count went from seven to six players on the ice. By 1917, goalies could leave their feet to make a save (Matson). This allowed them to sprawl and lay down to cover the puck if it was by their feet. From 1930 to 1983, multiple rules were implemented: Offsides, penalty shots, icings, center line, delayed whistles, minor penalties ended after a penalty, and a 5 minute sudden death if the game is tied (Matson). The quality of a game relies on the ice conditions as well. Which led to the construction of the rink at Victoria Ice Arena.

Victoria Ice Arena was the first indoor rink to host a hockey practice (Ice Hockey). The ice used in this rink was natural, so it was rough to play on. Glycerin and water ran through copper pipes to keep the ice cool. Not the most effective way, but was the best way to cool ice at this time. New methods were implemented in later years when two brothers from North America made their own ice rink. To add ice, they would use brine water (a high concentration of salt water) to refrigerate a concrete base as they added a thin layer of water at a time (Historical Development of Ice Skating). Today’s method is not much different than the original method, but it is more efficient. Instead of the ice being cooled directly, the copper pipes with glycerin and water are refrigerated and ran through the concrete of the base of the rink. This was the start of many rinks to be established allowing more teams to be made, but an award was needed to keep the current players playing, and to get new players to participate.

Hockey in Canada grew when Lord Stanley of Preston started the Stanley Cup. This cup would be awarded to the top team in the Canadian league (Smith). This started the movement of creating more teams to compete for the cup. These teams soon made up the Canadian Amateur Hockey League. This league was the start of many leagues created after it, including the Ontario Hockey Association and the Manitoba Hockey Association (Smith). These leagues had multiple teams who competed for the cup. The popularity of the cup started the spread of hockey leagues west and into the U.S.A (Smith). The cup is widely known today, and is the biggest reward an NHL team can receive. Over this time, not only did the popularity of the game change, but so did the equipment for better protection, durability, and performance.

The first puck to be created was by James Creighton. The puck was made out of wood since there were no other resources at the time to make it. The only equipment used in the early years of hockey was a wooden stick, ice skates, and the team uniform (jersey/sweater) (Matson). There was not much improvement in hockey equipment being made until the 1900’s. By 1903 the ball got rolling again on testing new pieces of equipment. 1903 was when the first goalie pads were introduced (Matson). Allowing goalies to fall on something soft instead of their knees when they go down to block a shot. They also provided protection against the puck since it’s a hazard to anyone with no protection on their shins. In 1920, the first hockey helmet was introduced and was made out of leather; its structure was similar to a football helmet. However, not many wore the helmet because it was thought to show weakness (Matson). In 1930, a trapper was invented for goalies to cover and grab the puck if it’s in the air. In 1945 the leather shoulder and elbow pads were replaced with plastic ones. This provided great protection; however, this was a danger to other players. As a result, it was mandatory to have a soft outer covering of the elbow pad to minimize the damage it can do to the opponent (Matson). 1973 was the last year the helmet was not worn. The helmet grew more popular over the years due to head and facial injuries from a puck, stick, or a fall. Sticks are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment despite multiple revisions of it.

Hockey sticks are one of the most developed and still developing pieces of hockey equipment. Original hockey sticks were made out of wood. Wood does not bend easily, so it is hard to get a good shot off with a wooden stick. Sticks these days are made out of fiberglass. Which is a bendable material that doesn’t break as easily. Multiple companies have different ways of making a stick with only one thing in common, the flex. Flex determines how flexible or how stiff a hockey stick is. The higher the flex number, the stiffer the stick is. But different types of technology are used in different sticks. Some are made for hard shots, quick shots, accurate shots, good stickhandling, etc. Fiber like material is imbedded in the shaft of a stick to allow all of your power to evenly distribute through the stick so it doesn’t break. Sticks being studier, causes it to be used more when hitting someone. This can cause a tremendous amount of damage to a person if they are hit in the wrong spot.

New rules that are implemented resulting in less penalty minutes for aggressive play (Mick). These rules are extremely important in youth hockey, bantams especially. The bantam age group is the age most boys grow and get more muscular and more prone to aggressive play. This can cause tremendous injury to a player if one does not think before he hits another player. Many of the players do not understand how dangerous these acts can be. The human body is not invincible although many think they are. The increase of body checking rules has decreased the injuries that come from these hits about three to twelve times lower (Sports Related). Fifteen percent of the injuries resulting from a body check are concussions (Mick). Concussions are injuries that involve intense movement of the brain. If the brain is whipped back and forth fast (like in a check) this can damage nerves and cells, causing the common symptoms of headaches, nausea, and dizziness. This can cause many problems if one person has sustained multiple concussions. A man named Donovan Meyer suffered only two concussions during his high school season at Achiever Academy. His concussions caused significant damage to his brain, and he ended up falling behind in school. He is permanently damaged from these injuries and is unable to read advanced reading material. He is not the only one who has suffered from ice hockey injuries. Multiple athletes are losing abilities to read, write, and comprehend due to injuries like these. That is why more rules about when, where, and how you check are being established for all leagues of men’s hockey.

The education of the types of injuries and how to prevent them is a key part in protecting yourself in this dangerous sport. Hockey is a fast paced sport with little time to react or prepare for a hit correctly. The knowledge of knowing how to take a hit is just as important on how to distribute a hit. Both can cause significant harm to both players if not done right. The biggest rule to follow when you are about to get hit is to have a low base. This means to have your knees bent at about ninety or so degrees and to put most of your weight on the ball of your foot. This way your center of gravity is lower and you have more balance. This also protects more of your limbs from getting hit. As opposed to standing up with makes you unbalanced and prone to worse injuries. Another crucial part of the game is how you give a hit. Many clinics have been set up to show how to properly hit, but boys tend to ignore the rules and just try to hit someone has hard as they can. This is why during practice during the regular season it should be practiced on at least once every week or two weeks. But even the knowledge of how to hit and how to take a hit isn’t enough. Proper stretching and strength training has proven to strengthen muscles and to allow flexibility and decrease injuries (Mick). More players should take advantage of doing a full, warm up before a game. This decreases chance of injury while also increasing the performance of the player.

The growth of hockey and its popularity has changed dramatically due to the evolution of the game, the development of equipment, and the drop in injuries over the years due to new technology. The evolution of hockey started with a simple list of rules used for several years. The original rules were called the Halifax rules, which, over time, were revised and more rules were added to the original list. As more rules were added and revised, so did the equipment; to maximize comfort, performance, mobility, and protection for the wearer and others around him/her. Hockey sticks are one of the most technical pieces of equipment that have evolved the most and still is. The new equipment minimizes injuries; however, educating oneself how to protect him/herself and not endanger anyone else of a life-threatening injury is crucial. There is always more to something than what meets the eye.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.