Icing the puck
Last month, I got picked up by a random guy in a pub who took me to a local ice hockey game in Albany. The games back in NYC cost a ludicrous $120+ so for a mere $10 I couldn’t say no.
It was a minor league game but probably half of the players will soon be in a major league team, so this really was a high quality game and I learned a lot. My companion was an IT guy too and he seemed to appreciate my detailed analysis as he answered every little question I had about the rules, strategy and equipment. My mistakes were frequent and humorous as I often forgot the real ice hockey term. e.g.
Me: “Could he have put the puck on ice just now?”
Him: “You mean freeze the puck?”
(Note: Freezing the puck is when the goalie covers it to force a stoppage.)
These were the things that amazed me the most about ice hockey:
– The puck rarely stays flat. Despite its smooth shape, it was constantly bouncing and spinning at awkward angles. The players quite frequently flicked it into the air to avoid each other, too.
– Players are constantly substituting each other. The average time on the ice is apparently only 48 seconds. I didn’t believe it but I timed it myself and it’s true. This makes for an even faster game because every man skates his heart out for his 48 seconds of ice-time. They swap on and off even while the puck is in play, but they’re so good at it that I barely noticed.
– Sticks break all the time. I saw perhaps 10 sticks break during the game. When they break a stick, they can’t use it but they’re allowed to use their skates until they can make it back to the bench.
– The puck is hard to see. It’s so small and fast. Apparently this is the main complaint that non-hockey-fans have and it’s the main reason this sport is not as big as football, basketball or baseball. On numerous occasions, when a penalty whistle was blown, I had no idea where the puck had gone and it took me a good 30 seconds to figure it out.
I wouldn’t say that I love the sport, but I certainly now appreciate and understand it much better. Good luck in the season, Albany, and thanks for the man-date, random guy Jeff.