Sunday, April 4, 2010

It wasn't that long ago

Remember the days when crowds at the Blackhawks games used to look like this?

It wasn't that long ago, either. 2003-04 season, and the beginning of the season following the lockout.

This shot is from a Bulls game I went to this evening, just before they sang the National Anthem. Also, since the only sports events I've ever attended at the UC have been Hawks game, it was really unusual to have a totally quiet Anthem singing (until "home of the freeeee", of course). 

I have seen friends and family become hockey converts this winter. (Thank you, Olympics.) I'm expecting more people to jump on the hockey bandwagon once Chicago nails the division title and once the Stanley Cup race really heats up.

That's ok. We welcome more fans. Those of us who've loved hockey a long time have enjoyed for many years what you're just coming to appreciate. Ask us questions, we don't mind. Hockey is a relatively simple game, although it may at first seem complex with all the players constantly switching in and out, and words like "icing" and "crease" being talked about.

If you're new to the game, here's your ultimate "Hockey for Dummies" primer:

1. The game consists of three periods of 20 minutes each. 

2. The only player likely to be on the ice the whole time is the goalie. Everybody else switches in and out based on "lines". Since you're new to hockey, don't worry about "lines" too much and simply be aware that there's 5 players + 1 goalie on the ice per side. 

3. The bulk of penalties have to deal with things related to the stick: too high, caught in somebody else's skates, tripping, hooking, slashing, making mafia-esque hits to the knees, etc. Penalties may also be parceled out for fighting, "unsportsmanlike conduct" (usually having to do with swearing at the refs) or a few other infractions.

4. Most penalties result in the offending player being put in the penalty box (taken off the ice) for 2 minutes, during which time his team must play shorthanded. This is called a "power play" for the other team. If the penalty is severe enough, the player may be ejected from the game.

5. I'm not even going to get into the whole "icing" thing, but just think of it as a way for a team to clear its end of the ice.

6. In NHL regular-season play, if the score is tied at the end of 3 periods, the game goes into five minutes of overtime and whoever scores first wins. If the game is still tied at the end of that overtime, it then goes to a shootout. During a shootout, 3 players from each side shoot one-on-one with the other team's goalie; whichever team manages more goals wins. Two 3-player shootouts can occur; and if the game is still tied, it goes to sudden death, single shooters alternating off.

For anybody new to hockey, that's probably the main stuff you need to know. If something new and odd comes out that you can't figure out, lean over and ask the person sitting next to you - we're happy to help you learn.

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