Professional hockey’s premier organization is the NHL
( National Hockey League) formed in 1917 from 4 teams. Currently there are 32 teams with 7 in Canada and 25 in the U.S. Games are played from October till June. The ultimate objective for every team is to win the Stanley Cup. It has become big business. Top players such as Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets or Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs earn multi-million dollar paychecks every year. Companies such as Canadian Tire and Scotiabank are heavily invested in the game thru advertising, products and sponsorships.
NHL games are played on an ice rink that is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. At the centre is the face off circle. Here a referee drops the puck between two player’s hockey sticks at the start of a game, a new period or after a goal. Players battle to get control of the puck, pass to teammates and try to score on the opposing team’s goalie. There are three periods of 20 minutes each. Whoever scores the most goals after 3 periods wins. Sometimes an overtime period needs to be played to determine a winner. Each team has 23 players. But they can only have 6 players on the ice at one time. A goalie whose job is to keep the puck out of the net. Three on offense: a centre, a left-winger and a right-winger. Finally, two defensemen. The equipment a player wears for protection like a helmet, shoulder, elbow and knee pads, gloves and their stick and skates can weigh up to 25 pounds.
The action moves quickly back and forth, but is sometimes interrupted by a penalty. A penalty may mean a team loses a player for 2 to 5 minutes. That means the other team has an advantage of six players versus 5 for the penalized team. This is a called a power play. Slashing, hooking, spearing , tripping and fighting will get a player a penalty. Penalized players wait in the penalty box until their penalty is over.
The game is so much a part of our culture that players and references to the game appear in commercials, TV shows and even on pictures on the boxes of food we eat. Tim Hortons regularly has hockey related merchandise in its store and players on its TV commercials. Famous Canadian companies such as Rogers, Canada LIfe, Molsons and Bell sponsor arenas to promote their business. Words and phrases such as face-off, deke, 5-hole and Zamboni have become part of our national language.
So on Saturday night, why not take part in a Canadian tradition: Hockey Night in Canada. A CBC sports program that has been showing hockey games to Canadians every Saturday night since 1952. Maybe you'll make the Montreal Canadians or the Vancouver Canucks your team.
Length: 475 words
Reading time: approximately 4 minutes