I. History Around 1820 the sport started to catch on among the visitors to the frozen lakes. People had played field hockey and another game in Europe for years, but this new version of the old sport required that its players put on skates. Using metal blades that could be strapped to their boots, the players would cut branches from trees to use as sticks; for pucks they would use round pieces of cork or wooden balls. In the 1870s, each team was made up of nine players skating at the same time, and body checking was not permitted.
There were no substitutions, so players were expected to play the entire 60 minutes of the game. By 1880, the game had begun to grow into the game we know today; teams were reduced to seven-man units. The puck replaced the ball, and sticks were flattened on both sides to allow players to handle the puck better. Pads and gloves that player used in cricket and baseball were used to protect the legs and hands of hockey players. Before this time, players had used anything they could get their hands on for protection. The exact origin of formal hockey is unknown. Some historians report that the first formal game was played in Kingston, Ontario, in 1867.
II. The Object Of The Game Hockey is a simple game. The offense tries to hit the puck into the net and the defense tries to stop them. Each player carries a stick, usually made of wood, and wears protective clothing. Goaltenders, or goalies, carry heavier and wider sticks and wear additional protective equipment, including face masks. Each team uses no more than six players at a time, traditionally positioned as one center, two forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender.
Play begins with a face-off, when the referee drops the puck between the opposing centers. Unlike most sports, player substitutions occur during play. A goal is scored when the puck is driven into the opponent’s goal. A player who scores three goals in one game is said to have scored a hat trick. Games are divided into three 20-minute periods, and, if the score is tied, they proceed into an overtime period that varies under different sets of rules. Penalties are assessed for various infractions, and the offending player is sent to a penalty box for two minutes for a minor infraction and five minutes for a major one.
Teams may not substitute for their penalized players during the penalty, except during a misconduct penalty, which usually requires a player to spend ten minutes in the penalty box. No team can be at more than a two-player disadvantage at a time, and a team with a one- or two-player advantage is said to have the power play.
III. Playing Area Ice hockey is played on an oval ice rink about 200 ft (about 61 m) long and about 85 ft (about 25.5 m) wide and enclosed by a board wall about 4 ft (about 1.2 m) high. Two goals, each 4 ft high and 6 ft (1.8 m) wide, are centered on goal lines at each end of the rink, not more than 15 ft (4 m) from the end wall. Two blue lines divide the playing area into three equal-sized zones: the defense zone, which is nearest a team’s goal; a central area called the neutral zone; and the attacking zone, which is nearest the opponent’s goal. A red centerline also divides the rink into two equal-sized halves. The rink has five face-off circles, one located at center ice and two in each team’s defense zone. The hard rubber disk, known as a puck, measures 1 (2.5 cm) thick and 3 (7.6 cm) in diameter.
IV. Sports Figure Wayne Gretzky (1961- ), nicknamed The Great One, is the National Hockey League (NHL) career leader in goals, assists, and points (goals and assists combined). Playing the center position, he gained wide recognition as the greatest hockey player ever. In addition to his scoring skills, he is noted for his ability to improve the play of his teammates by complementing their playing strengths. Gretzky was born in Branford, Ontario, Canada. He began his professional career with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Organization (WHA) in 1978 and was subsequently traded to the Edmonton Oilers, a WHA team that then joined the NHL in 1979. Gretzkey led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988) before he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings prior to the 1988-1989 season. He led the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993. During the 1995-1996 season he was traded to the St. Louis Blues. After the season’s end, Gretzky signed a contract with the New York Rangers. Through his nineteen seasons he owns or shares sixty-one NHL records. He won the Hart Trophy as the leagues most valuable player nine times, the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer ten times, the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly and outstanding player four times, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs twice.