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Ice hockey (frequently simply called hockey in countries where it is the most popular form of hockey) is a team sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a puck into the opposing team's goal. It is a fast-paced and physical sport. Ice hockey is most popular in areas that are sufficiently cold for natural reliable seasonal ice cover, such as Canadamarker, the northern United Statesmarker, the Nordic countries (especially Swedenmarker and Finlandmarker), Russiamarker, the Baltic States, the Czech Republicmarker, and Slovakiamarker. With the advent of indoor artificial ice rinks it has become a year-round pastime in these areas. Ice hockey is one of the four major North American professional sports. Worldwide the National Hockey League (NHL) is the highest level for men and the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) and the Western Women's Hockey League (WWHL) are the highest level for women. It is the official national winter sport of Canada, where the game enjoys immense popularity. While only six of the thirty NHL franchises are based in Canada, Canadians make up a slight majority of the league's players.

While there are 66 total members of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), 162 of 177 medals at the IIHF World Championships have been taken by seven nations: Canada, the Czech Republicmarker, Finlandmarker, Russia, Slovakiamarker, Swedenmarker and the United States. Of the 63 medals awarded in men's competition at the Olympic level from 1920 on, only six did not go to the one of those countries. All nine Olympic and 27 IIHF World Women Championships medals have gone to one of those seven countries.


See also History of Bandy
From oral histories, there is evidence of a tradition of an ancient hockey-like game played among the Mi'kmaq First Nation in Eastern Canada. In Legends of the Micmacs, (1894) Silas T. Rand, describes a Mi'kmaq ball game, which the people called tooadijik. Rand also describes a game that was played (likely after European contact) with hurleys, called wolchamaadijik. European immigrants brought various versions of hockey-like games to Canada, such as the Irishmarker sport of hurling, the closely related Scottishmarker sport of shinty, and versions of field hockey played in England. Where necessary, these seem to have been adapted for icy conditions. Early paintings show "shinney", an early form of hockey with no standard rules, being played in Nova Scotiamarker, Canada.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton, in The Attache: Second Series, published in 1844, reminisced about boys from King's College School in Windsor, Nova Scotiamarker, playing "hurly on the long pond on the ice" when he was a student there, no later than 1810. To this day, shinny (or shinney) (derived from Shinty) is a popular Canadianmarker term for an informal type of hockey, either on ice or as street hockey. These early games may have also absorbed the physically aggressive aspects of what the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia, called dehuntshigwa'es (lacrosse).

Ye Gude Olde Days, from Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game, 1899.

In 1825 Sir John Franklin wrote that "The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport" while on Great Bear Lakemarker during one of his Arctic expeditions. In 1843 a British Army officer in Kingstonmarker, Ontariomarker in Canada, wrote "Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice. " An article in the Boston Evening Gazette, in 1859, makes reference to an early game of hockey on ice occurring in Halifax in that year.

The first recorded hockey games were played by British soldiers stationed in Kingston and Halifax during the mid-1850s. In the 1870s, the first known set of ice hockey rules were drawn up by students at Montrealmarker's McGill Universitymarker. These rules established the number of players per side to 9 and replaced the ball with a wood puck.

Based on Haliburton's writings, there have been claims that modern ice hockey originated in Windsor, Nova Scotia in Canada, and was named after an individual, as in 'Colonel Hockey's game'.

According to the Society for International Hockey Research, the word puck is derived from the Scottish and Gaelic word "puc" or the Irish word "poc", meaning to poke, punch or deliver a blow. This definition is explained in a book published in 1910 entitled "English as we Speak it in Ireland" by P. W. Joyce. It defines the word puck as "... The blow given by a hurler to the ball with his caman or hurley is always called a puck".

Foundation of modern hockey

Ice hockey at McGill University, Montreal, 1901.
While the game's origins may lie elsewhere, Montreal is at the center of the development of the modern sport of ice hockey. On March 3, 1875 the first organized indoor gamemarker was played at Montreal's Victoria Skating Rinkmarker between two sides of nine-player teams including James Creighton and several McGill Universitymarker students. This game featured the use of a puck to keep it within the rink; the goals were goal posts 6 feet apart, and the game was 60 minutes.

In 1877, several McGill students, including Creighton, Henry Joseph, Richard F. Smith, W. F. Robertson, and W. L. Murray codified seven ice hockey rules, based on the rules of field hockey. The first ice hockey club, McGill University Hockey Club, was founded in 1877 followed by the Montreal Victorias, organized in 1881.

The game became so popular that the first "world championship" of ice hockey was featured in Montreal's annual Winter Carnival in 1883 and the McGill team captured the "Carnival Cup". The number of players per side was reduced to seven, and the games now organized into thirty-minute halves. The positions were now named with left and right wing, centre, rover, point and cover point, and goalkeeper. In 1885, the Montreal City Hockey League was established. In 1886, the teams which competed at the Winter Carnival would organize the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada(AHAC) league and play a regular season composed of 'challenges' to the existing champion.

In Europe, it is believed that in 1885 the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club was formed to play the first Ice Hockey Varsity Match against traditional rival Cambridge in St. Moritz, Switzerland, although this is undocumented. This match was won by the Oxford Dark Blues, 6-0. The first photographs and team lists date from 1895. This continues to be the oldest hockey rivalry in history.

In 1888, the new Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, whose sons and daughter became hockey enthusiasts, attended the Montreal Winter Carnival tournament and was impressed with the hockey spectacle. In 1892, recognizing that there was no recognition for the best team in all of Canada (various leagues had championship trophies), he purchased a decorative bowl for use as a trophy. The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, which later became more famously known as the Stanley Cup, was first awarded in 1893 to the Montreal HC, champions of the AHAC. It continues to be awarded today to the National Hockey League's championship team. Stanley's son Arthur helped organize the Ontario Hockey Association and Stanley's daughter Isobel was one of the first women to play ice hockey.

By 1893, there were almost a hundred teams in Montreal alone, and leagues throughout Canada. Winnipegmarker hockey players had incorporated cricket pads to better protect the goaltender's legs. They also introduced the "scoop" shot, later known as the wrist shot. Goal nets became a standard feature of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League(CAHL) in 1900. Left and right defence began to replace the point and cover point positions in 1906 in the OHA.

A similar sport had been popular in the United States (US) during this time called ice polo, but by 1893 the first ice hockey matches were being played at Yale Universitymarker and Johns Hopkins University. Ice polo, played in the New England area, would die out as Americans adopted ice hockey. In 1896, the first ice hockey league in the US was formed. The U. S. Amateur Hockey League was founded in New York Citymarker shortly after the opening of the St. Nicholas Rinkmarker and its artificial ice rink.

Lord Stanley's five sons were instrumental in bringing ice hockey to Europe, beating a court team (which included both the future Edward VII and George V) at Buckingham Palacemarker in 1895. By 1903 a five-team league had been founded. The Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace was founded in 1908 to govern international competitions, and the first European championships were won by Great Britain in 1910. In the mid-20th century, the Ligue became the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Professional era

Professional ice hockey has existed from the early 1900s. By 1902, the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League was the first to openly employ professionals. The league joined with teams in Michigan and Ontario to form the first fully professional International Professional Hockey League (IPHL) in 1904. The IPHL hired numerous players from Canada and Canadian leagues in response started to openly pay players, who played alongside amateurs. The IPHL, cut off from its biggest source of players, disbanded in 1907. By then, several professional hockey leagues were operating in Canada, with leagues in the Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec provinces of Canada.

In 1910, the National Hockey Association(NHA) was formed in Montreal. The NHA would further refine the rules, dropping the rover position, splitting the game into three 20-minute periods and introducing the system of minor and major penalties. After re-organizing as the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917, the league expanded into the United States in 1924.

Professional ice hockey leagues developed later in Europe. The game of bandy was still popular and amateur leagues leading to national championships were in place. One of the first was the Swiss National League A, founded in 1916. Today, professional leagues have been introduced in most countries of Europe. The top leagues in Europe include the Kontinental Hockey League, the Czech Extraliga, the Finnish SM-liiga and the Swedish Elitserien.


Since ice hockey is a full contact sport and bodychecks are allowed, injuries can be a common occurrence. Protective equipment is highly recommended and is enforced in all competitive situations. This usually includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, heavily padded shorts (also known as hockey pants), athletic cup/jock strap, shin pads,and a neck protector. In addition, goaltenders will usually add a neck guard, chest protector, blocker, catch glove, and leg pads.


Ice hockey is a full contact sport and carries a high risk of injury. Not only are the players moving at around 20 miles an hour, quite a bit of the game revolves around the physical contact between the players. Skate blades, hockey sticks, hips, and hockey pucks all contribute. The number of injuries is quite high and include lacerations, concussions, contusions, ligament tears, broken bones, and muscle strains.

Head injuries

According to the Hughston Health Alert, “Lacerations to the head, scalp, and face are the most frequent types of injury [in hockey]. ” (Schmidt 6) Even a shallow cut to the head results in a loss of a large amount of blood. Most concussions occur during player to player contact rather than when a player is checked into the boards. Not only are lacerations common, “it is estimated that direct trauma accounts for 80% of all [hockey] injuries. Most of these injuries are caused by player contact, falls and contact with a puck, high stick and occasionally, a skate blade. ” (Schmidt 3)


While the general characteristics of the game are the same wherever it is played, the exact rules depend on the particular code of play being used. The two most important codes are those of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and of the Canadian founded and North American expanded National Hockey League (NHL).

Typical layout of an ice hockey rink surface
Ice hockey is played on a hockey rink. During normal play, there are six players, including one goaltender, per side on the ice at any time, each of whom is on ice skates. The objective of the game is to score goals by shooting a hard vulcanized rubber disc, the puck, into the opponent's goal net, which is placed at the opposite end of the rink. The players may control the puck using a long stick with a blade that is commonly curved at one end.

Players may also redirect the puck with any part of their bodies, subject to certain restrictions. Players may not hold the puck in their hand and are prohibited from using their hands to pass the puck to their teammates, unless they are in the defensive zone. Players are also prohibited from kicking the puck into the opponent's goal, though unintentional redirections off the skate are permitted. Players may not intentionally bat the puck into the net with their hands.

Hockey is an "offside" game, meaning that forward passes are allowed, unlike in rugby. Before the 1930s hockey was an onside game, meaning that only backward passes were allowed. Those rules favored individual stick-handling as a key means of driving the puck forwards . With the arrival of offside rules, the forward pass transformed hockey into a truly team sport, where individual heroics diminished in importance relative to team play, which could now be coordinated over the entire surface of the ice as opposed to merely rearward players.

The five players other than the goaltender are typically divided into three forwards and two defencemen. The forward positions consist of a centre and two wingers: a left wing and a right wing. Forwards often play together as units or lines, with the same three forwards always playing together. The defencemen usually stay together as a pair generally divided between left and right. Left and right side wingers or defencemen are generally positioned as such based on the side on which they carry their stick. A substitution of an entire unit at once is called a line change. Teams typically employ alternate sets of forward lines and defensive pairings when shorthanded or on a power play. Substitutions are permitted at any time during the course of the game, although during a stoppage of play the home team is permitted the final change. When players are substituted during play, it is called changing on the fly. A new NHL rule added in the 2005-2006 season prevents a team from changing their line after they ice the puck.

The boards surrounding the ice help keep the puck in play and they can also be used as tools to play the puck. Players are permitted to "bodycheck" opponents into the boards as a means of stopping progress. The referees, linesmen and the outsides of the goal are "in play" and do not cause a stoppage of the game when the puck or players are influenced (by either bouncing or colliding) into them. Play can be stopped if the goal is knocked out of position. Play often proceeds for minutes without interruption. When play is stopped, it is restarted with a faceoff. Two players "face" each other and an official drops the puck to the ice, where the two players attempt to gain control of the puck. Markings on the ice indicate the locations for the "faceoff" and guide the positioning of players.

There are three major rules of play in ice hockey that limit the movement of the puck: offside, icing, and the puck going out of play. The puck goes "out of play" whenever it goes past the perimeter of the ice rink (onto the player benches, over the "glass", or onto the protective netting above the glass) and a stoppage of play is called by the officials using whistles. It also does not matter if the puck comes back onto to the ice surface from those areas as the puck is considered dead once it leaves the perimeter of the rink.

Under IIHF rules, each team may carry a maximum of 20 players and two goaltenders on their roster. NHL rules restrict the total number of players per game to 18 (traditionally twelve forwards and six defensemen) plus two goaltenders.


For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the "penalty box" and his team has to play without him and with one less skater for a short amount of time. Most minor penalties last for two minutes, unless a major penalty of five minutes duration, or a double minor penalty of two consecutive penalties of two minutes duration, has been assessed. The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing shorthanded while the other team is on the "power play".

A two-minute minor penalty is often called for lesser infractions such as tripping, elbowing, roughing, high-sticking, delay of the game, too many players on the ice, illegal equipment, charging (leaping into an opponent or body-checking him after taking more than two strides), holding, interference, hooking, or cross-checking. As of the 2005-06 season, a minor is also assessed for diving, where a player embellishes a hook or trip. More egregious fouls of this type may be penalized by a four-minute double-minor penalty, particularly those which cause injury to the victimized player. These penalties end either when the time runs out or the other team scores on the power play. In the case of a goal scored during the first two minutes of a double-minor, the penalty clock is set down to two minutes upon a score effectively expiring the first minor penalty. Five-minute major penalties are called for especially violent instances of most minor infractions that result in intentional injury to an opponent, or when a "minor" penalty results in visible injury (such as bleeding), as well as for fighting. Major penalties are always served in full; they do not terminate on a goal scored by the other team. The foul of 'boarding', defined as "check[ing] an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards" by the NHL Rulebook is penalized either by a minor or major penalty at the discretion of the referee, based on the violence of the hit. A minor or major penalty for "Boarding" is also often assessed when a player checks an opponent from behind and into the boards.

Some varieties of penalties do not always require the offending team to play a man short. Concurrent five-minute major penalties in the NHL usually result from fighting. In the case of two players being assessed five-minute fighting majors, they both serve five minutes without their team incurring a loss of player (both teams still have a full complement of players on the ice). This differs with two players from opposing sides getting minor penalties, at the same time or at any intersecting moment, resulting from more common infractions. In that case, both teams will have only four skating players (not counting the goaltender) until one or both penalties expire (if one expires before the other, the opposing team gets a power play for the remainder); this applies regardless of current pending penalties, though in the NHL, a team always has at least three skaters on the ice. Ten-minute misconduct penalties are served in full by the penalized player, but his team may immediately substitute another player on the ice unless a minor or major penalty is assessed in conjunction with the misconduct (a two-and-ten or five-and-ten). In that case, the team designates another player to serve the minor or major; both players go to the penalty box, but only the designee may not be replaced, and he is released upon the expiration of the two or five minutes, at which point the ten-minute misconduct begins. In addition, game misconducts are assessed for deliberate intent to inflict severe injury on an opponent (at the officials' discretion), or for a major penalty for a stick infraction or repeated major penalties. The offending player is ejected from the game and must immediately leave the playing surface (he does not sit in the penalty box); meanwhile, if a minor or major is assessed in addition, a designated player must serve out that segment of the penalty in the box (similar to the above-mentioned "two-and-ten").

A player who is tripped, or illegally obstructed in some way, by an opponent on a breakaway – when there are no defenders except the goaltender between him and the opponent's goal – is awarded a penalty shot, an attempt to score without opposition from any defenders except the goaltender. A penalty shot is also awarded for a defender other than the goaltender covering the puck in the goal crease, a goaltender intentionally displacing his own goal posts during a breakaway in order to avoid a goal, a defender intentionally displacing his own goal posts when there is less than two minutes to play in regulation time or at any point during overtime, or a player or coach intentionally throwing a stick or other object at the puck or the puck carrier and the throwing action disrupts a shot or pass play.
An ice hockey referee is responsible for assessing most penalties during a game.

Officials also stop play for puck movement violations, such as using one's hands to pass the puck in the offensive end, but no players are penalized for these offences. The sole exceptions are deliberately falling on or gathering the puck to the body, carrying the puck in the hand, and shooting the puck out of play in one's defensive zone (all penalized two minutes for delay of game).

A new penalty in the NHL applies to the goalies. The goalies now are unable to play the puck in the "corners" of the rink near their own net. This will result in a two-minute penalty against the goalie's team. The area immediately behind the net is the only area behind the net in which the goalie can play the puck.

An additional rule that is not a penalty in the new NHL is the two line offside passes. There are no more two-line offside pass whistles blown. Now players are able to pass to teammates who are more than the blue and centre ice red line away.

The NHL has taken steps to speed the game of hockey up and create a game of finesse, by retreating from the past where illegal hits, fights, and "clutching and grabbing" among players was commonplace. Rules are now much more strictly enforced resulting in more infractions being penalized which in turn provides more protection to the players and allows for more goals to be scored.

There are many infractions for which a player may be assessed a penalty. The governing body for United States amateur hockey has implemented many new rules to reduce the number stick-on-body occurrences, as well as other detrimental and illegal facets of the game ("Zero Tolerance").

In men's hockey, but not in women's, a player may use his hip or shoulder to hit another player if the player has the puck or is the last to have touched it. This use of the hip and shoulder is called body checking. Not all physical contact is legal — in particular, hits from behind and most types of forceful stick-on-body contact are illegal.


A typical game of ice hockey has two to four official on the ice, charged with enforcing the rules of the game. There are typically two linesmen who are responsible only for calling offside and icing violations, and one or two referees, who call goals and all other penalties. Linesmen can, however, report to the referee(s) that a penalty more severe than a two-minute minor penalty should be assessed against an offending player, or when a too many men on the ice infraction occurs. On-ice officials are assisted by off-ice officials who act as goal judges, time keepers, and official scorers.

The most widespread system in use today is the 3-man system, that features one referee and two linesmen. With the first being the National Hockey League, a number of leagues have started to implement the 4-official system, where an additional referee is added to aid in the calling of penalties normally difficult to assess by one single referee. The system has proven quite successful in the NHL and the IIHF have adopted it for the World Championships, slightly discussed during the 2008 World Championships in Quebec City and Halifax, Canada. Many other leagues are adopting the system for the next season, which only downside at the moment is the increased cost for the leagues.

Officials are selected by the league for which they work. Amateur hockey leagues use guidelines established by national organizing bodies as a basis for choosing their officiating staffs. In North America, the national organizing bodies Hockey Canada and USA Hockey approve officials according to their experience level as well as their ability to pass rules knowledge and skating ability tests. Hockey Canada has officiating levels I through VI. USA Hockey has officiating levels 1 through 4.


An important defensive tactic is checking – attempting to take the puck from an opponent or to remove the opponent from play. Stick checking, sweep checking, and poke checking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. The neutral zone trap is designed to isolate the puck carrier in the neutral zone preventing him from entering the offensive zone. Body checking is using one's shoulder or hip to strike an opponent who has the puck or who is the last to have touched it (the last person to have touched the puck is still legally "in possession" of it, although a penalty is generally called if he is checked more than two seconds after his last touch). Often the term checking is used to refer to body checking, with its true definition generally only propagated among fans of the game.

Offensive tactics include improving a team's position on the ice by advancing the puck out of one's zone towards the opponent's zone, progressively by gaining lines, first your own blue line, then the red line and finally the opponent's blue line. NHL rules instated for the 2006 season redefined offside to make the two-line pass legal; a player may pass the puck from behind his own blue line, past both that blue line and the centre red line, to a player on the near side of the opponents' blue line. Offensive tactics are designed ultimately to score a goal by taking a shot. When a player purposely directs the puck towards the opponent's goal, he or she is said to shoot the puck.

A deflection is a shot which redirects a shot or a pass towards the goal from another player, by allowing the puck to strike the stick and carom towards the goal. A one-timer is a shot which is struck directly off a pass, without receiving the pass and shooting in two separate actions. A deke (short for decoy) is a feint with the body and/or stick to fool a defender or the goalie. Headmanning the puck, also known as cherry-picking or breaking out, is the tactic of rapidly passing to the player farthest down the ice.

A team that is losing by one or two goals in the last few minutes of play will often elect to pull the goalie; that is, remove the goaltender and replace him or her with an extra attacker on the ice in the hope of gaining enough advantage to score a goal. However, it is an act of desperation, as it sometimes leads to the opposing team extending their lead by scoring a goal in the empty net.

A delayed penalty call occurs when a penalty offense is committed by the team that does not have possession of the puck. In this circumstance the team with possession of the puck is allowed to complete the play; that is, play continues until a goal is scored, a player on the opposing team gains control of the puck, or the team in possession commits an infraction or penalty of their own. Because the team on which the penalty was called cannot control the puck without stopping play, it is impossible for them to score a goal, however, it is possible for the controlling team to mishandle the puck into their own net. In these cases the team in possession of the puck can pull the goalie for an extra attacker without fear of being scored on. If a delayed penalty is signaled and the team in possession scores, the penalty is still assessed to the offending player, but not served.


Although fighting is officially prohibited in the rules, it is both a source of criticism and a considerable draw for the sport. At the professional level in North America fights are unofficially condoned. Enforcer and other players fight to demoralize the opposing players while exciting their own, as well as settling personal scores. The amateur game penalizes fisticuffs more harshly, as a player who receives a fighting major is also assessed at least a 10 minute misconduct penalty (NCAA and some Junior league) or a game misconduct penalty and suspension (high school and younger, as well as some casual adult leagues).

Periods and overtime

A professional game consists of three periods of twenty minutes each, the clock running only when the puck is in play. The teams change ends for the second period, again for the third period, and again at the start of each overtime played. Recreational leagues and children's leagues often play shorter games, generally with three shorter periods of play.

Various procedures are used if a game is tied. In tournament play, as well as in the NHL playoffs, North Americans favor sudden death overtime, in which the teams continue to play twenty minute periods until a goal is scored. Up until the 1999-2000 season regular season NHL games were settled with a single five minute sudden death period with five players (plus a goalie) per side, with the winner awarded two points in the standings and the loser no points. In the event of a tie (if the overtime was scoreless), each team was awarded one point. From 1999-2000 until 2003-04 the National Hockey League decided ties by playing a single five minute sudden death overtime period with each team having four players (plus a goalie) per side to "open-up" the game. In the event of a tie, each team would still receive one point in the standings but in the event of a victory the winning team would be awarded two points in the standings and the losing team one point. The only exception to this rule is if a team opts to pull their goalie in exchange for an extra skater during overtime and is subsequently scored upon (an 'Empty Net' goal), in which case the losing team receives no points for the overtime loss. International play and several North American professional leagues, including the NHL (in the regular season), now use an overtime period followed by a penalty shootout. If the score remains tied after an extra overtime period, the subsequent shootout consists of three players from each team taking penalty shot. After these six total shots, the team with the most goals is awarded the victory. If the score is still tied, the shootout then proceeds to a sudden death format. Regardless of the number of goals scored during the shootout by either team, the final score recorded will award the winning team one more goal than the score at the end of regulation time. In the NHL if a game is decided by a shootout the winning team is awarded two points in the standings and the losing team is awarded one point. Ties no longer occur in the NHL.

Women's ice hockey

History of women's ice hockey

Lord Stanley of Preston's daughter, Lady Isobel Stanley, was a pioneer in the women's game and is one of the first females to be photographed using puck and stick (around 1890) on the natural ice rink at Rideau Hallmarker in Ottawamarker, Canadamarker. By the early 1900s, women's teams were common throughout most of the Canadian provinces, the long skirts they were still required to wear giving them a goal-tending advantage. On March 8, 1899, the first account appeared in the Ottawa Evening Journal newspaper of a game played between two women's teams of four per side at the Rideau Skating Rinkmarker in Ottawa. On February 11, 1891, one of the earliest newspaper accounts of a seven-a-side game between women appeared in the Ottawa Citizen. McGill Universitymarker's women's hockey team debuted in 1894.. In 1920, Lady Isobel Brenda (Allan) Meredith of Montreal donated the 'Lady Meredith Cup', the first ice hockey trophy in Canada to be competed for between women in ankle-length skirts. Lady Meredith (the wife of Sir Vincent Meredith) was the first cousin of Sir H. Montagu Allan who had donated the Allan Cup for men's amateur ice hockey in 1908.

Women's ice hockey today

Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with the number of participants increasing 350 percent in the last 10 years. While there are not as many organized leagues for women as there are for men, there exist leagues of all levels, including the National Women's Hockey League, Western Women's Hockey League, and various European leagues; as well as university teams, national and Olympic teams, and recreational teams. There have been nine IIHF World Women Championships.
A girls ice hockey team in 1921

The USHL welcomed the first female professional hockey player in 1969-70, when the Marquette Iron Rangers signed Karen Koch.

Women's ice hockey was added as a medal sport at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The United States won gold, Canada won silver and Finland won bronze.

The chief difference between women's and men's ice hockey is that body checking is not allowed in women's ice hockey. After the 1990 Women's World Championship, body checking was eliminated because female players in many countries do not have the size and mass seen in North American players. In current IIHF women's competition, body checking is either a minor or major penalty, decided at the referee's discretion.

In addition, players in women's competition are required to wear protective full-face masks.

One woman, Manon Rhéaume, appeared as a goaltender for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in preseason games against the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, and in 2003 Hayley Wickenheiser played with the Kirkkonummimarker Salamat in the Finnishmarker men's Suomi-sarja league. Several women have competed in North American minor leagues, including goaltenders Charline Labonté, Kelly Dyer, Erin Whitten, Manon Rhéaume, and defenceman Angela Ruggiero.

Sledge hockey

Sledge hockey is a form of ice hockey designed for players with physical disabilities affecting their lower bodies. Players sit on double-bladed sledges and use two sticks; each stick has a blade at one end and small picks at the other. Players use the sticks to pass, stickhandle and shoot the puck, and to propel their sledges. The rules are very similar to IIHF ice hockey rules.

Canadamarker is a recognized international leader in the development of the sport, and of equipment for players. Much of the equipment for the sport was first developed in Canada, such as sledge hockey sticks laminated with fiberglass, as well as aluminum shafts with hand carved insert blades and special aluminum sledges with regulation skate blades.

Pond hockey

Pond hockey is a form of ice hockey played generally as pick-up hockey on lakes and ponds. Pond hockey rules differ from traditional hockey, placing a greater emphasis on skating abilities. Since 2002, the World Pond Hockey Championship has been played in Plaster Rockmarker, New Brunswickmarker, Canadamarker.

International competition

National teams

The annual men's Ice Hockey World Championships are more highly regarded by Europeans than North Americans because they coincide with the Stanley Cup playoffs. Consequently, Canada, the United States, and other countries with large numbers of NHL players have not always been able to field their best possible teams because many of their top players are playing for the Stanley Cup. Furthermore, for many years professionals were barred from play. Now that many Europeans play in the NHL, the world championships no longer represent all of the world's top players.

Hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1924 (and at the summer games in 1920). Canada won six of the first seven gold medals, except in 1936 when Great Britain won. The United States won their first gold medal in 1960. The USSRmarker won all but two Olympic ice hockey gold medals from 1956 to 1988 and won a final time as the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. U. S. amateur college players defeated the heavily favored Soviet squad on the way to winning the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics - an event known as the "Miracle on ice" in the United States. Since the 1998 games in Nagano all top players from the NHL have been able to take part and nowadays Winter Olympics games are the most highly regarded international tournament by ice hockey fans.

Switzerlandmarker has won two men's bronze medals at the Olympics and finished third several times at the World Championships. Switzerland also maintains one of the oldest and top-rated ice hockey leagues (the Swiss National League A) outside of the NHL.

The 1972 Summit Series and 1974 Summit Series, established Canadamarker and the USSRmarker as a major international ice hockey rivalry. It was followed by five Canada Cup tournaments, where the best players from every hockey nation could play, and two exhibition series, the 1979 Challenge Cup and Rendez-vous '87 where the best players from the NHL played the USSR. The Canada Cup tournament later became the World Cup of Hockey, played in 1996 and 2004. The United States won in 1996 and Canada won in 2004.

There have been eleven women's world championships as of 2008, beginning in 1990. Women's hockey has been played at the Olympics since 1998. The 2006 Winter Olympic final between Canada and Sweden marked the first women's world championship or Olympic final that did not involve both Canada and the United States

The annual Euro Hockey Tour, an unofficial European championships between the national men's teams of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden have been played since 1996-97.

Other ice hockey tournaments featuring national teams include the World U20 Championship, the World U18 Championships, the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the World Junior A Challenge, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, the World Women's U18 Championships and the 4 Nations Cup.


The National Hockey League, and specifically the Stanley Cup trophy, is the oldest still operating international competition, featuring clubs from the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker.

The Kontinental Hockey League, an international ice hockey league in Eurasia and the successor to the Russian Super League, was launched in 2008 with clubs from the post-Soviet states and seeks to expand beyond the former USSR for the league's future seasons.

The Elite Ice Hockey League is the highest level of ice hockey in Great Britain. The league is served by teams from all of the home nations: Englandmarker, Walesmarker, Scotlandmarker and Northern Irelandmarker.

The Asia League Ice Hockey, an international ice hockey league featuring clubs from Chinamarker, Japanmarker and South Koreamarker, is the successor to the Japan Ice Hockey League.

International club competitions organized by the IIHF include the Champions Hockey League, the Continental Cup, the Victoria Cup and the European Women's Champions Cup.

One of the oldest international ice hockey competition for clubs after the Stanley Cup playoffs is the Spengler Cup, held every year in Davosmarker, Switzerlandmarker between Christmas and New Year's Day. It was first awarded in 1923 to Oxford University Ice Hockey Club.

Pre-season tournaments include the Tampere Cup and the Pajulahti Cup.

Ice hockey in popular culture

Ice hockey is the official winter sport of Canada. Ice hockey, partially because of its popularity as a major professional sport, has been a source of inspiration for numerous films, television episodes and songs in North American popular culture.

Attendance records

The Cold War

The largest hockey attendance in history was on October 6, 2001, for a game commonly known as the Cold War. Two college hockey rivals, University of Michiganmarker and Michigan State Universitymarker, opened their season with a game in Michigan State's outdoor football arena, Spartan Stadiummarker. A $500,000 sheet of ice was used, and the temperature was . The game drew a record-breaking 74,554 spectators, smashing the previous number of 55,000 attendance during the Sweden vs. Soviet Union game during the world championship in Moscowmarker.

The Heritage Classic

The Heritage Classic was an outdoor ice hockey game played on November 22, 2003 in Edmonton, Albertamarker, Canadamarker between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It set the record for most viewers of a single NHL game with 2.747 million nationwide.

An old-timers game, referred to as the MegaStars game, was played prior to the regular-season match, and featured alumni of Oilers playing against a squad of former Canadiens. This is the only NHL alumni game in which Wayne Gretzky has played since retiring, and he maintains it will be the last.

The 2008 Winter Classic

The largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game was during the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic when 71,000 people watched the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Buffalo Sabres. The game was held at Ralph Wilson Stadiummarker, which is the Buffalo Bills home stadium in Orchard Parkmarker, New Yorkmarker, a suburb of Buffalomarker, on January 1, 2008. This was the first NHL game held outdoors in the United Statesmarker. The Penguins scored the first goal within the first 20 seconds of the game. The Sabres then scored in the 2nd period to tie the game. The game went into overtime and the Penguins ended up winning during a shoot out on a goal by Sidney Crosby. Both teams wore throwback jerseys - the Penguins donning the powder blue jerseys from the 70s and the Sabres old-logo jerseys from the same era. Both goalies, Ryan Miller and Ty Conklin played in their second outdoor game. The game was easily a success from a PR and hockey standpoint for the NHL despite the cold temperatures and snow.

Future Potential Record-Breaking Games

On February 5, 2010, Michigan and Wisconsin are scheduled to play in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic, an outdoor game at Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadiummarker. If the game sells to capacity, 80,351, it would break the current record held by the Cold War contest.

Shortly after Wisconsin and Michigan agreed to play at Camp Randall Stadium, Michigan and Michigan State agreed to play an outdoor game the following season at Michigan Stadiummarker, shortly after the completion of the stadium's renovation project. Tentatively called The Cold War II, if the game sells to capacity it would likely break the attendance record for a college hockey game. Michigan Stadium is slated to hold over 108,000 following renovations, which will again make it the largest football stadium in the world, and largest sports stadium in the United States. The Detroit Red Wings have expressed interest in negotiating with the University of Michiganmarker on an outdoor game of their own, leaving the possibility of breaking the overall attendance record should such a game ever occur.

Number of registered players by country

Number of registered hockey players, provided by the respective countries' federations. Note that data is not available for every country.

Country Players % of Population
Canadamarker 545,363 1.75%
United Statesmarker 435,737 0.15%
Russiamarker 77,202 0.05%
Czech Republicmarker 74,589 0.63%
Swedenmarker 67,747 0.71%
Finlandmarker 42,886 0.82%
Germanymarker 22,344 0.04%
Switzerlandmarker 19,106 0.29%
Japanmarker 20,540 0.02%
Francemarker 11,621 0.02%
Slovakiamarker 9,402 0.1%
Austriamarker 9,007 0.1%
United Kingdommarker 8,000 0.01%
Italymarker 6,258 0.01%
Norwaymarker 4,356 0.11%
Latviamarker 4,836 0.21%
Denmarkmarker 4,250 0.08%
Australia 3,259 0.02%
Kazakhstanmarker 2,931 0.02%
Belarusmarker 2,930 0.03%
Ukrainemarker 2,122 0.005%
The Netherlandsmarker 2,050 0.01%
Hungarymarker 2,000 0.02%
South Koreamarker 1,189 0.0026%
Sloveniamarker 980 0.05%
Greecemarker 100 0.000%

See also


  1. Including former incarnations of them, such as Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union
  2. Men
  3. Women
  4. Women
  5. Dalhousie University (2000). Thomas Raddall Selected Correspondence: An Electronic Edition. Print source: Thomas Raddall Fonds, Correspondence. From Thomas Raddall to Douglas M. Fisher, 25 January 1954. MS-2-202 41.14. Retrieved on 2009-05-10.
  6. Vaughan, G. (1999). "Quotes Prove Ice Hockey's Origin. " Birthplace of Hockey. Retrieved on: 2009-05-10.
  7. Garth Vaughan, The Puck Stops Here: The origin of Canada's great winter game, Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 1996, p. 23.
  8. The trophy for this tournament is on display at the Musee McCord Museum in Montreal. A picture of this trophy can be seen here.
  9. Cambridge Evening News, "Sporting Heritage is Found", July 26, 2003.
  10. Selke, p. 21
  11. [Schmidt, Todd A. "Ice Hockey Injuries". The Hughston Clinic, P. C. - Home - Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Georgia and Alabama. 26 Mar. 2009 .-->]
  12. [Schmidt, Todd A. "Ice Hockey Injuries. " The Hughston Clinic, P. C. - Home - Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Georgia and Alabama. 26 Mar. 2009 .-->]
  13. Griffith, H. Winter. Complete guide to sports injuries how to treat--fractures, bruises, sprains, strains, dislocations, head injuries. 3rd ed. New York, N. Y: Body P/Perigee, 2004.
  14. KAHC Suspended Players retrieved 2 August 2009
  15. Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective at Library and Archives Canada
  17. World Pond Hockey Championship - History of the World Pond Hockey Championships
  18. Michigan Hockey Newspaper


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