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  • Ice hockey is the national game of Canada, but also popular in Russia, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

  • It was in Canada that the rules were drawn up and in 1887 the Ontario Hockey Association was formed to organize the sport in 1920, but was moved to the Winter Olympics four years later.


  • Ice hockey is played on a rink. Championship rinks must be between 56 and 61 metres long and between 26 and 30 metres wide. The corners of the rink are rounded.

  • Goals with nets are firmly fixed in the centre of the goal line. They are 1.22 metres high and 1.83 metres wide.


  • Each player has a stick, made of laminated wood with a blade limited to 37 centimetres in length. The goalminder’s stick is wider and heavier. Instead of a ball a black disc-shaped ‘puck’ is used which is made of hard rubber. It must be 2.54 centimetres thick and 7.62 centimetres in diameter.

  • The players’ special ice hockey skates, which have a comparatively short blade when, compared with other skates. The goalminder wears wider and lower skates to give him more control.

  • Protective clothing is essential to this fast and body shuddering sport: pads are worn as well as gauntlets and helmets. The goalminder is even more heavily protected with face visor on his helmet, and even stronger gloves.


  • Ice hockey has six players on each side, although a senior side might carry up to 20 players in their squad: players come on and off the ice during the game, as tactical substitutions are made. As the pace is so fast, players do not last long on the ice during a game.

  • The game is divided into three 20-minutes periods. Players may also be sent off for infringements of certain rules, but they are given a certain number of minutes to sit out in what is known as the ‘sin bin’. The aim of the game is to score more goals than the opposition.


  • Wayne Gretzky, born in Brantford, Ontario, 1961, is known in Canadian ice hockey as the ‘Great One’, because he is the greatest goalscorer ice hockey has known. He has won the Ross Trophy for top scorer a record eight times.


  • In a match between the St Louis blues and the Chicago Blackhawks the usual rough and tumble of the game reached a new peak. To the cheers of the crowd there were two full-scale fights. Twelve players were sent off or removed from play and massive 278 penalties were awarded. The entire Chicago team was given the next day off to get over their injuries.

  • In January 1969, a match between Portland and Denver in the Western Hockey League was cancelled – because of ice! The carpark in the Portland Coliseum was believed too ice and dangerous for use.

  • The oddest ice hockey took place between the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Canadians in April 1975. Unusual warmth caused a ground mist to rise from the ice and players blundered about in these conditions. Then came a most unexpected diversion. A colony of bats, awakened from their hibernation, began flitting about the stadium. These were then chased by four of the players who, colliding with each other, collapsed in a heap on the ice.

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