How To Play Ice Hockey
Learning how to play ice hockey is a great pastime for serious athletes and amateurs alike. This fast-paced team sport is most popular in cold weather areas like Canada, Sweden, Russia and certain parts of the United States. However, thanks to the convenience of indoor ice rinks, it has become a year-round craze in many other regions as well. Here are some important ice hockey basics to get you started.
Things you'll need:
- Proper hockey equipment
- Access to skating rink
- Become a skilled skater. Position your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and push your foot out to the side at an angle rather than straight backwards. This will help ease your stride and save your energy for the actual game. If you’re not feeling confident on the ice, take the time to practice during an open skating session at your local rink. If you’re still feeling sloppy in your skates, try focusing on your balance. A few basic yoga techniques can do wonders for your strength and alignment. Also, try to avoid looking behind you during actual game play, as this will only work to your disadvantage by slowing you down.
- Learn how to handle the puck. Practicing drills with a friend or a teammate will help amp up your puck handling skills. Instead of reaching for the puck, skate toward the puck; you’ll be able to exert more control if you’re not leaning forward. When you do need to learn forward, remember to bend from the waist.
- Passing and shooting. The puck must be controlled using only your stick. You cannot hold the puck in your hand or pass it to your teammates using your hands (unless you are in the defensive zone). Additionally, you are prohibited from kicking the puck into its goal; that’s what the stick is for.
- Get to know the players. During a game there are six players, including the goaltender, on the rink. However, there are just four different types of players including the goaltender, defensemen, center and wings. The goaltender's job is exactly what it sounds like: keeping the puck out of their team's net. Defensemen, made up of one right player and one left player, have the goal of blocking shots and breaking up passes. The center position often carries the puck on offense and exchanges passes with the wings. The wings—also made up of a left and a right—is to break up plays and set up shots.
- Protect yourself. Serious injuries are relatively common in ice hockey, so it’s important to invest in the proper protective gear. The recommended equipment includes a laundry list of gear like a helmet, shoulder and elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, hockey pants (padded shorts), shin pads, an athletic cup and a neck protector. Goaltenders often wear a neck guard, a chest protector, a catch glove and leg pads.
- Be aware of the body check. As you probably already know, ice hockey is a full-contact sport—one in which “body checks” are allowed. Players are permitted to stop game progress by knocking their opponents into the rink’s surrounding boards or into the ice (ouch!). This is only allowed on opponents who are in possession of the puck. It is also important to check with your team’s rules before performing any “checking,” as some teams (namely amateur leagues) do not permit it at all.