Coaching Hockey For Dummies
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If you’re playing hockey, or just want to understand the game, you need to know your way around the rink, how to shoot and pass the puck, what makes up a hockey penalty, the positions on a hockey team, and tips for getting prepared to hit the ice.

The hockey rink

An official NHL (National Hockey League) rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide; an international competition rink is wider by 15 feet. The rink is divided by the red line, has two blue lines, five face-off circles, the goals and the creases. Check out this hockey rink diagram.


Shooting and passing the puck in ice hockey

Obviously, if you don’t score goals, you won’t win the hockey game. Make sure you’re passing and shooting the puck quickly and accurately to make the most of your hockey team’s offense. Use these guidelines to help:

  • The younger the player, the shorter the pass.

  • Cradle the puck with your stick when you receive it.

  • Don’t pass to the player; pass to where they’re going. And try to put the puck on the blade of the recipient’s stick.

  • Don’t pass over two lines; that’s against the rules, and the official will blow the whistle. Then they’ll call a face-off, most likely in your defensive zone.

  • Whenever possible, keep your passes on the ice. But if you must elevate the puck to get it to your teammate, try to make it land flat on the ice so it’s easier to receive.

Ice hockey penalties

In ice hockey, a penalty results in a player spending time in the penalty box. Ice hockey has three types of penalties: minor, major, and misconduct. The harsher the penalty, the harsher the punishment. Hockey penalties include:

  • Butt ending: When a player jabs an opponent with the top end of their stick.

  • Checking from behind: Whistled when a player hits an opponent who is not aware of the impending contact from behind and therefore cannot defend themselves.

  • Cross checking: When a player makes a check with both hands on the stick.

  • Elbowing: When a player uses their elbow to foul an opponent.

  • Fighting: Called fisticuffs in the National Hockey League rule book, it is assessed when players drop their gloves and throw punches at each other.

  • Hooking: When a player impedes the progress of an opponent by “hooking” them with their stick.

  • Interference: When a player interferes with or impedes the progress of an opponent who does not have the puck. Also assessed to a player who deliberately knocks the stick out of an opponent’s hand or who prevents a player who has dropped their stick (or any other piece of equipment) from picking it back up.

  • Kneeing: When a player fouls an opponent with their knee (of course!).

  • Roughing: Called when a player strikes another opponent in a minor altercation that the referee determines is not worthy of a major penalty.

  • Slashing: When a player hits an opponent with their stick, or “slashes” them, either to impede their progress or cause injury.

  • Spearing: When a player stabs at an opponent with the blade of their stick, whether they make contact or not.

  • Tripping: When a stick or any portion of a player’s body is used to cause an opposing player to fall.

Basic ice hockey positions

An ice hockey team is made up of six players, each with a specific position and job. The job of the offense is to score goals, and the defense is there to protect the goal. The following list describes each of the hockey positions:

  • Goalie: Perhaps the toughest position in all of sports, the goalie is the one player who can control a team’s confidence. Their job is to keep the puck out of the net, and if they’re good, they can take their team a long way. Good goalies win championships.

  • Defensemen: A team at full strength has two — one on the left side and another on the right. Nowadays, there are three primary kinds of defensemen. One is creative and offensive-minded; they like to handle the puck and lead the team up ice, but are not too physical. Another is defensive-minded, a stay-at-home bruiser who plays a physical game and doesn’t often venture out of their zone with the puck. And there are those rare athletes who are a combination of the two.

  • Right wing: They work the right side of the ice for the most part. They need to be a physical player who is good along the boards and in the corner. They are responsible for the opposition’s left defenseman in the defensive zone.

  • Left wing: Traditionally a left-handed shot, but the NHL is seeing more right-handers playing this position now, a practice picked up from the Europeans. A right-hander has a better angle to shoot from when they’re coming in on their wing. Like the right wing, they need to be able to dig out the puck from the corners and battle in front of the net.

  • Center: They quarterback their club at both ends of the ice. Must be good at face-offs and passing, and it doesn’t hurt if they’re a good shot as well. Coaches want a lot of creativity in this position — and a lot of hockey smarts.

Tips for becoming a better hockey player

Make sure you’re prepared before you hit the ice to play hockey. Understanding the rules of ice hockey is only the first step toward becoming a great hockey player; you also need to know how to play safely and to show good sportsmanship. Follow these recommendations and you’ll be on your way.

  • Learn to skate properly, even if you’re playing goalie. You can’t do anything in hockey if you can’t skate.

  • Make sure your equipment — whether it’s your skates, your stick, or your sweater (that’s what the pros call a hockey jersey) — fits well.

  • On the bench, be alert. Watch what the opposing team is doing, and be prepared to play both ways, offensively and defensively.

  • Don’t be a puck hog; pass to your teammates.

  • Don’t stay out on your shift for too long. If you’re working hard, an average shift on the ice should last no longer than a minute. Come off when it’s your turn.

  • Be ready when it’s your turn to go onto the ice.

  • Wear a helmet. But remember: Just because you have head protection, don’t think you’re invincible.

  • Be careful with your stick. Just because everybody wears headgear, don’t think they’re invincible either.

  • Don’t check people from behind.

  • Keep your head up when you’re going into the boards. If your head is tucked in, the chances of a serious head injury rise if someone hits you from behind.

  • Don’t growl, curse, or otherwise pick at the ref or the other team. It’s okay to be emotional and pull for the people on your team, but don’t give the ref or the opposing players a hard time.

  • Get yourself in good physical shape.

  • Practice your shooting and passing.

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