The sport of Hockey has its roots on the frozen ponds and lakes of North America, and many of today’s top players grew up learning the sport on local canals and other outdoor rinks. Invented by Canadians in the late 1700’s, and first referenced in print in 1799, the game had always been an outdoor sport. It wasn’t for almost another hundred years that Ice Hockey would first move inside, where it has largely remained ever since.
The first indoor game was held on March 3rd, 1875 in Montreal, Quebec at Victoria Skating Center, and was viewed as a novelty event. However, the indoor version of the game took off, and by 1920, Olympic Hockey was inside, although the 1924 Games were once again outdoors. International Championships would range between indoor and outdoor until the mid 1950’s, including an outdoor Gold Medal game in 1957 between Sweden and the Soviet Union, which boasted 55,000 people in attendance, a record that stood for 40 years.
The NHL has always been a strictly indoor league, but there have been a few notable exceptions. The first such game is probably the most curious, as the 1954 Detroit Red Wings accepted an invitation to play the inmates of the Marquette State Prison in a friendly scrimmage on a rink built by Warden’s mate Oakie Brumm. The Wings defeated the Marquette Prison Pirates soundly. So soundly no one remembers the final score, although it was 18-0 after the 1st period. The Wings even swapped a few players with the inmates to even it up a bit.
Hockey is a unique sport, in that the fans can get up close and personal with the game, separated by a mere inch of Plexiglas. This allows for all kinds of great fan/player interaction that you don’t get from other sports. There are two types of fans who sit behind the bench at a hockey game; Fans who like to see the intricacies of how the game works, and crazy weirdos who want to be on television. There’s no better way to ensure you’ll be on the broadcast than to do something wild behind the bench. Here’s how to make sure you get attention:
Insult a team by mocking what their state is famous for
“Do you believe in Miracles?!”Better question: Can you believe the United States Men’s Ice Hockey Team hasn’t won gold in 33 years? After coming heartbreakingly close to pulling an even bigger upset over Team Canada in 2010, Team USA may have assembled the strongest roster since its Gold Medal Lake Placid team from 1980. GMs David Polle, Ray Shero and Director of Player Personnel Brian Burke have a huge talent pool to choose from this time around, and the names of the 48 invitees to orientation camp reflect not only the proven NHL talent that the United States has built up, but also the youth that USA Hockey’s development program has been fostering. The caliber of this talent pool is a testament to the progress that USA Hockey has made in creating a youth development program that rivals that of our Neighbor to the North. With well-respected Jack Adams winner Dan Bylsma behind the bench, Team USA has high expectations not only from fans, but from the international hockey community.
Last November I was working at a poorly managed tractor dealership that was running out of work. Instead of laying me off, they put me “On Call,” with no intention to call me back. So, after a game at the local rink, I was hanging out with the rink manager and asked “you guys hiring?” fully expecting him to say no. Instead, he replied, “Sure, you wanna drive the Zamboni?”
DO I WANT TO DRIVE THE ZAMBONI???? I could barely stutter out a “yes,” hardly believing my good luck. It was like being handed the keys to my dad’s classic Mustang. Every kid wants to ride/drive the Zamboni when they grow up. There’s something inherently cool about that machine. It is completely unique to hockey, and has an aura of hockey legacy that surrounds it. The mythical Zam driver (those of us in the business call it a “Zam…”) is like the wise old sage of the rink, like Hans in the Mighty Ducks (I know he sharpened skates, but no ones dreams of doing that.). Excited kids press their noses to the glass to watch as the Zamboni lays that smooth sheet of glass like a calm shimmering pond. Fans fill out little lottery cards for their chance to ride the Zam at a pro hockey game. And recently, I’ve found that lots of people have driving or riding one on their “bucket list.”
But in reality, its a thankless job. You’re always the killjoy who has to kick people off the ice earlier than they want. You’re also the jerk who takes too long to cut the ice, taking away precious minutes of ice time. Basically, I end up being a glorified lifeguard/janitor making just above minimum wage. Read the rest of this entry →
Goaltending through the years has been an ever-evolving science and trade, combining modern anatomical science with old fashioned grit. Goaltending we see today looks nothing like its bare-faced predecessor. The first goalies weren’t even allowed to go down on both knees to make a save, much less try the groin-busting splits of the Hybrid Butterfly. Pads have changed dramatically in the last several decades, almost too dramatically, as so the NHL has once again implemented new rules in the 2013-14 season to limit the size/shape of netminders’ equipment. Before we go on a walk down memory lane to the yesteryears of Jaques Plante and Gump Worsley, let’s have a look at the anatomy of goalie pads.
Goalie Pad 101:
It’s hard to think of something that hasn’t been improved by technology. Heck, these days you can even repel rats electronically thanks to modern science. The modern goalie leg pad has been modified from the old strap-on pillows to a technological masterpiece of puck-stopping engineering. Mainly, the Knee Stacks, or “Landing Gear,” that allow a goalie to go down on their knees without injuring them, and also allow the rectangular block of the pad to lie flush to the ice, preventing anything from sliding under it (unless you’re Marc-Andre Fleury…) are the biggest improvement.
As the “Butterfly” style improved, the desire to close off the area between the legs (the Five Hole) was remedied by what pad manufacturers call the “Thigh Rise.” Thigh Rise describes how many extra inches above the top of the knee that are added for extra closure when a goalie goes down in the butterfly. Pads are measured from floor to knee, so let’s say you wear a 34” pad, and then want an extra 3 inches of thigh rise, your pads would be labeled 34+3. Thigh Rise offers no extra protection, and removing it does not add any extra risk of injury, but we’ll touch on that later. Adding the thigh rise isn’t enough for most goalies, so to get it to curve inward and create a seal with the other pad a “Break” is added. Some pads have a Break under the knee as well, for added flexibility.
In the olden days of flat wooden sticks, most shots rarely rose above the waist level, and goalies could generally get away with not wearing a mask and having limited chest protection. The modern player is a genetically amped athlete, armed with carbon-fiber curved-blade sticks capable of placing a 100mph shot anywhere they want. Naturally, as shooters got stronger and more accurate, the goalie had to compensate. In 1928, Bruins Goalie Tiny Thompson (below) doesn’t even have a blocker, wears a modified baseball mitt, and looks to only have the most minimal of padding on his chest. Read the rest of this entry →
The December Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was once famously shuffled out of a window during the AFL-NFL player wars and went on to become one of the top big-play receivers of his era.
After playing college football at the tiny, historically black, Prairie View A&M University, Otis Taylor was selected in the 1965 draft by both the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL and Philadelphia Eagles from the NFL. He ultimately signed with the Chiefs and became a key weapon for a Kansas City team that appeared in two of the first four Super Bowls.