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Our hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks, have once again made it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey-talk will be on everyone’s lips – not to mention on everyone’s TV and radio, so here’s a look at the vocabulary of hockey through a description of how the game is played.
Hockey teams have six players on the ice at the same time, five skaters and one goalie. Facing the opposing team’s net, the first three are the attacking players, the forwards. Their positions are called, from left to right, left wing, centre, and right wing. Behind these are two defensemen, left and right, and then, in the net or goal, is the goalie. The goalie wears a protective mask, thicker padding, and big gloves, and he carries an extra-wide stick. A goalie, since he doesn’t skate up and down the rink like his teammates, usually plays the whole game. The rest of the team sit on the bench, ready to jump over the boards onto the ice and take the place of tired team mates who have just finished their shift. Teams usually have three forwards who play at the same time – this is called a “line”, and they come on the ice at the same time as a line change happens. Two defensemen also usually play together, and they come on and off the ice at the same time as well. Sometimes line changes occur after there is “a whistle” as the referee stops the game, but lines can also change “on the fly” while the puck is still in play.
A hockey game has 60 minutes of regular play, which is made up of three 20 minute periods. The game starts when all the players have taken their place on the ice. The referee drops the puck at centre ice for the first “face-off” of the game. The two opposing centres try to win the face-off by hitting the puck back to one of his teammates. The game continues as players skate with the puck and pass it back and forth to each other or stick-handle down the ice. Stick-handling is when one player moves the puck from “forehand” (the puck is on the front of the blade of the stick) to “backhand” (the puck on the back of the blade). He does this to try to keep it away from opposing players who are trying to check him or take the puck away. The forwards advance up the ice past “the blue line” into the opposing team’s end, and shoot or “take a shot” at the net. If the goalie stops the puck, he “makes a save”, but if it goes into the net, it is a goal. Play is then stopped, and there is a face-off again at centre ice.