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Articles: Ice hockey

Ice hockey

Ice hockey is a team sport played between two teams of 6. The game is played on an ice rink with players wear skates to move around. While skating, players use a stick that has a short horizontal part at the bottom to control a puck, a small rubber disk. They can score points by shooting the puck in the opposing team's goal which is guarded by a goalkeeper. Players may try to get the puck away from the one in possession by checking, physically blocking or pushing, tactics that make Ice hockey a very physical and at times violent sport.

Hockey is a family of sports, including ice hockey and field hockey, and the first mention of the word “hockey” has been traced to a book written in 1773 by Richard Johnson and entitled ”Juvenile Sports and Pastimes”. Furthermore, “games of hockey on ice” were already taking place in England since the 1700’s.

The first indoor ice hockey game was played on March 3, 1875 at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink in Canada and the first ice hockey world championship was organized during Montreal’s annual Winter Carnival in 1883. Since 1920, Ice hockey is considered an Olympic sport.

Ice hockey is extremely popular in Canada, United States, Russia and several other European countries including Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Germany. According to a recent survey conducted by the I.I.H.F. (International Ice Hockey Federation), approximately 1.64 million people worldwide play organized hockey. There are more than 600.000 registered ice hockey players in Canada and more than 500.000 in United States. Winter Olympics, Ice Hockey World Championship, Stanley Cup playoffs, World Cup of Hockey are major ice hockey competitions.

An Ice Hockey match

Ice hockey is played between two opposing teams. Each team consists of six players divided into one goalkeeper, 3 forwards and 2 defenders. Ice hockey is a contact sport and during a match, players skate at speeds of 20-30 mph and often slam into each other.

Due to its physical nature, player replacements are very frequent during an ice hockey game. Teams can bring up to 18 players to a match which allows team managers to make frequent replacements. This aspect sets the values of ice hockey on strength and agility rather than endurance.

It is the coach who decides which players will participate in the game. Also a professional coach prepares strategies based on analysis of the opposing team’s past games and is very knowledgeable on what style of hockey the teams play.

Ice hockey is played indoors on an ice rink measuring 61 metres (200 ft.) × 30.5 metres (100 ft.). The ice rink is divided into zones by several lines. Zones are used to determine if a player is in an offside position. The centre red line splits the ice rink in 2 zones while the two thick blue lines split the rink in three zones. The ice rink is enclosed by boards of Plexiglas in order to help keep the puck in play.

The standard ice hockey equipment used by players consists of: helmet, neck guard, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin guard, mouth guard, ice skates, hockey puck and hockey stick; additionally, goalkeepers wear a mask for face protection; The hockey puck is made of black, vulcanized rubber of 3 inch diameter, 1 inch thick, 6 ounces (170 g); hockey stick is made of wood or composite materials.

How an Ice hockey match begins

A match begins with a face-off at the centre of the ice. A face-off is a method used to start the match or to resume play following any stoppage in the game. During the opening face-off, the referee drops the puck between two opposing forwards. All other players take a defensive stance, either in a lateral position or behind the player taking the face-off.

Main rules and tactics in Ice hockey

A game consists of three periods of 20 minutes plus overtime and a penalty-shot shootout if required; during a match, players use their sticks to pass or shoot the puck; the three major rules of play in ice hockey that limit the movement of the puck: "offside", "icing", and the puck going out of play.

In ice hockey, offside refers to a state of play when a player enters his opponent’s zone before the puck itself; icing refers to shooting the puck to the end of the ice from behind the centre ice red line; The puck goes "out of play" whenever it goes past the perimeter of the ice rink.

An ice hockey match is officiated by two categories of officials: on-ice officials and off-ice officials; on-ice officials consist of one referee and two linesmen that enforce the rules during game play; off-ice officials have an administrative role rather than an enforcement role.

During an ice hockey match, fighting occurs quite often and is usually performed by enforcers in order to intimidate the opposing team. Officials deal with fighting by imposing the penalties.

In case of a foul, the offending player serves a time penalty in the penalty box and as a consequence his team plays short-handed. There are three types of penalties: minor, major, and misconduct. The amount of time spent in the penalty box correlates with the severity of the foul.

In Ice Hockey, players can use individual tactics or team tactics as part of an offensive or defensive strategy.

The purpose for an offensive strategy is ultimately to score a goal by taking a shot. There are four basic types of shots: shovel shot, wrist shot, snap shot and slap shot. If a team has a 1-2 points disadvantage and there are several minutes till the end of the match, coaches have the option of removing the goalkeeper and replace him with an extra attacker.

The most common defensive strategy is checking which basically means taking the puck from the opponent. The variety of ways to achieve this aspect has created an entire list of terms like Body checking used to describe a player that uses his hip or shoulder to stop an opponent that has possession of the puck.

Competing in Ice hockey

Ice hockey is a full-contact sport that requires strength and agility. If you want to become a professional ice hockey player you need to find an ice hockey club around your area. Most clubs feature junior sections and women teams as well. In order to play ice hockey at the highest professional level you will need to learn how to skate fast and develop balance and upper-body strength.

The governing body for ice hockey worldwide is the International Ice Hockey Federation. The IIHF has 74 members, regulates international ice hockey tournaments and keeps track of the IIHF World ranking; North America has a separate governing body for ice hockey represented by the National Hockey League (NHL) which includes 23 clubs in United States and 7 in Canada.

Qualifications for men’s tournament at the Winter Olympics follow the IIHF world ranking system. Based on ranking, 12 teams are split in 3 groups of 4 teams. During the preliminary round, each team plays one game against every other team for a total of 18 matches. Based on results, the final 8 teams play elimination rounds to determine the gold, silver and bronze medal.

The Ice Hockey World Championships is the biggest international men’s ice hockey tournament held annually and organized by the IIHF. World Championship features 16 teams in the championship group, 12 teams in Division I and 12 teams in Division II. The teams in the championship play a preliminary round, then the top eight teams play in the playoff medal round and the winning team is crowned World Champion.

Other important tournaments: the World Cup of Hockey which is an international ice hockey tournament that starting with 2016 is going to be held every four years; World U20 Championship, the World U18 Championships, the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the World Junior A Challenge, the World Women's U18 Championships and the 4 Nations Cup and the annual Euro Hockey Tour.

Ice hockey betting opportunities

Punters looking to bet on ice hockey have a rich selection of bet markets to choose from. Top online sports betting websites offer pre-match and in-play Ice hockey bets from major ice hockey matches and tournaments that take place all around the world. Ice hockey has extensive television coverage in US, Canada and Europe and has a solid fan base.

Among major ice hockey competitions that offer betting opportunities are The National Hockey League (NHL), the Stanley Cup and the Winter Olympics. The most common bet types include: match odds, over/under, handicap, team goals, first team to score and many more.