How to Watch Hockey

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Ice hockey is a popular sport all over North America. The National Hockey League (NHL) is the top professional organization, but there are many other good leagues to watch as well. Knowing the basics helps you enjoy the sport and its traditions.

  • Understand the hockey ice surface. It's divided into sections. At center ice is the red line and each half is then marked with a blue line. These lines govern the basics of the rules of play.

  • Notice the nets at each end. These are the goals. There is a goal line painted in front of each net.

  • Identify the players on the ice and their equipment. Each team has six players. There is a goalie, who stands in front of the net, along with a center, two wings and two defensemen. All players except the goalie have long sticks with slightly curved ends. The goalie stick is heavier and broader.

  • Watch the game begin with the dropping of the puck at center ice. This takes place in the middle of the red line. The referee drops the puck, and the centers from each team try to get control.

  • Observe basic plays before moving onto the finer points of hockey. The idea is to get the puck past the goalie into the opponent's net. It only has to cross the goal line in front of the net, not go all the way in.

  • Know what icing and offside are. Icing involves a player in his own end shooting the puck over the red line and past the goal line of the opposite team. Offside means the player can't cross the red line into the other team's territory before the puck does.

  • Learn the basic penalties. Minor penalties such as tripping or roughing last two minutes. Major penalties such as intent to injure last five minutes. During a minor penalty, the team must play short-handed.

  • Move to the next level. You can watch defensemen keep players from the other team away from the puck with body checks. The center moves the team's attack and stays in the middle section of the ice, and the wings follow the center on either side.

Tips & Warnings

  • The referee is the one who controls the game, but there are other officials on the ice. They are known as linesmen. The referee makes all the calls except for offside and icing.
  • Amateur hockey rinks can be cold. Dress warmly.
  • As with any competitive sport, emotions can run high on the ice and in the stands as well.

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