Sports Take: A basic guide to hockey

Dallas Stars' Radek Faksa (12) scores a goal against Colorado Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz (39) during second-period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff hockey game action in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday. Associated Press

By Dlayne Walton | Sports Writer

Hockey can be the best, most exciting sport to watch if you know what’s going on.

With Texas’s only NHL team advancing, and should I say dominating, the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the level of interest in the game of hockey rises every day. Believe it or not, there are actually 12 professional hockey teams that represent a city or county in the state of Texas, however, the Dallas Stars attract the most attention solely for being on the main stage. But all hockey is great hockey if you’re willing to learn.

Here’s a guide to the basics for those wanting to dive in.

In the NHL, each game is divided into three periods that are 20 minutes each. Like most timed sports, overtime is bound to happen. Overtime in hockey lasts five minutes and whoever scores the first goal wins the game. No goals within that time? The two teams go into a shootout until a goal is made.

There are no shootouts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, so the game just gets extended until someone scores.

First up, to learn the rules, you have to know the positions.

  • Goalie: Their main goal is to keep the puck out of the team’s net. This may seem simple enough, but it is arguably the hardest position not only in hockey but in sports generally!

  • Right-wing/ Left-wing: These are the players that control the boards and corners. They are responsible for battling the front of the net.

  • Defencemen: The name gives it all away. These are the players who are responsible for not letting the opposing team score.

  • Center: The go-to for offense. This player obviously focuses on the middle of the rink and keeping the sideboards clear.

Now the rules of hockey can be endless, so instead of explaining what players are allowed to do, here’s what they shouldn’t do. Let’s detail some of the main penalties of hockey.

  • Interference: Interfering with the progress of an opposing player without the puck. Players also cannot intentionally knock a stick out of a player’s hand.

  • Cross-checking: Players are not allowed to make a check to another player with both hands on your stick.

  • Elbowing: Self-explanatory, but maybe don’t use your elbow to foul an opposing player.

  • Hooking: Stopping the progress of another player with your stick by “hooking” them is not allowed.

  • Slashing: A big no-no because this is a good, almost great, way to cause injury. There shouldn’t be any hitting of another player with a stick, especially in the neck or face area.

  • Offside: Players can’t enter an offensive zone before the puck gets there.

  • Icing: You can’t shoot the puck from your side of the centerline through the opponent’s goal line. Unless the puck goes into the goal.

  • Tripping: Causing another player to fall using a stick or body part.

These aren’t all the penalties, but they are the most common. Some penalties result in penalty shots, given when a player could’ve gotten a goal but didn’t because of a penalty. Hockey can be a very dangerous sport. It’s important that rules are in place to prevent and slow down injuries.

Got the positions down? The do’s and don’ts? Let’s talk about the placement of the game.

There are six players on the rink for each team. This includes the goalie. There are two referees and two linesmen to watch for fouls and penalties. The goalie can be substituted, but you can’t have an extra man on the ice. This diagram of a hockey rink can be used for better understanding.

Hockey is an intense sport that requires a lot of skill and understanding to learn about. With that intensity, it can be one of the most exciting sports to follow along with, particularly at this moment. Now that you’ve learned a little more about your new favorite sport, celebrate alongside your new team in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs!