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Ice hockey: agility and power on skates

Hockey is speed, lightness and aggression. A strange mix[...]Hockey is the only sport in which one-hundred kilos of he-men twirl over two blades and seem to be dancers. Alessandro Baricco

Ice hockey requires athletes to have an incredible mix of quality attributes: players must have the agility and balance of a gymnast, the strength and power of a rugby player, and the hand eye coordination of a shooter.
If we consider that the most important competition is the National Hockey League (NHL), which lasts from October to April and has 82 games, we understand the importance of athletic training. We know hockey more closely: its history, equipment and training.

Ice Hockey

From grass to ice: history of hockey

The term Hockey seems to derive from the French hoquet, the curved stick used by Breton shepherds to guide the flocks. A way to have fun during the time spent on pastures, the shepherds tried to play skill games with the stick and some other objects: stones, pebbles, pine cones and later balls and records.
In this way, the first forms of this sport come to life, played on grass and then on ice.

Dipinto fiammingo con pattinatori sul ghiaccio

Hockey ancestors

A very common game in the Netherlands was kolf (kolven), which was practiced on icy fields, and in the seventeenth century gained enormous popularity not only in the Netherlands, but also in other Northern European countries.
However, it is in the UK and Ireland that we find the real progenitors of hockey, such as Scottish shinty and Irish hurling.


In the shinty game's purpose is to insert a small ball into a goal (or hail) which is located at the end of a long field between 120 and 160 yards. The ball is played with the caman, a stick about one metre long.

A team consists of twelve players - one goalkeeper, two defenders and nine attackers. The game is divided into two segments of 45 minutes each. With the exception of the goalkeeper, no player can play the ball with his hand.


Hurling is one of Ireland's native sports and the goal of this game is to score more points (or goals) than your opponent. Each team is made up of 15 players. The club, called hurley or camán, is traditionally made with the root of an ash tree and measures 64-97 cm (25-38 inches) long with a flat face opposite the handle called bas. The ball, called sliotar, is made of leather and has a diameter of 65 mm (2.55 inches). The goalkeeper plays with a club that has a handle twice the size of the other players. A good shot can reach the speed of 150 km/h (93 mph) and a distance of 80 metres (262 feet).

During a game, players attack the opponent's goal and defend their own goal. When the ball is in the field, it can be played by hitting or lifting it, using the bat, in the air, where it can be flicked on the fly or picked up in the hand; if the ball is picked up, the player cannot throw or carry it for more than 4 steps or 4 seconds; instead, he can hit it with the bat, with his hand or kick. The basement can be used to carry the ball.
It resembles other games practiced in Anglo-Saxon countries: shinty, cammag on the Isle of Man and English and Welsh bandy.


The latter is played by two teams of 11 men on a field similar to that of completely frozen football, the aim of the game is to score a point by throwing a small ball of hard material, by means of the special club, into the opponent's goal. Unlike ice hockey, the goalkeeper plays without a stick and blocks with his hands. The bandy for some historians is the true progenitor of modern hockey.

Despite everything, the foundations of the modern game were found in North America: immigrants brought with them a multitude of games similar to modern hockey, including shinty, Irish hurling and lawn hockey widespread especially in England. These games were adapted to be played also on ice, taking inspiration from another sport such as the lacrosse played by the native tribe of the Iroquois.

The development of the modern game took place in Montreal, Québec. On 3 March 1875, the first documented match was played at the Victoria ice rink in Montréal. In 1877, McGill University students drafted the first seven rules and established the first team, McGill University Hockey Club, in 1880. The game became so popular that it soon became popular at home and abroad. In 1893 the teams in Montreal were about a hundred.

In the same year, ice hockey landed in the United States, with the first match played between the universities of Yale and Johns Hopkins. The American amateur league was founded in New York in 1896, while the first fully professional league was the International Professional Hockey League.

At the end of the 19th century, hockey landed in Europe but it was not until 1910 that the first European championship was held, but the UK team won.

In 1910, the National Hockey Association (NHA) was founded in Montreal. The NHA continued to refine the rules of the game, eliminating the seventh man on the track, the rover, dividing the game into three twenty-minute times each and introducing the concept of a major and minor penalty. After the re-organization of the league with the designation National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917, the league expanded to the United States in 1924.

Una squadra di hockey dell'800




However, 1920 marked the real turning point when hockey was included (although as a demonstration discipline) within the Summer Games in Antwerp. Four years later, Chamonix hosted the first Winter Games of history, which included ice hockey in their programme.

In Europe, one of the first nations to have a national championship was Switzerland, but currently many nations have their own championship. Among the most important are: Russia with the Kontinental Hockey League, Czech Extraliga Czech Republic, Finnish SM-liiga and Swedish Elitserien.

The Hockey Hall of Fame was born in Toronto in 1943, and in 2010 it had 357 members including players, coaches, general managers and referees. Over the years NHL added more and more franchises, from the original six (or the six founding teams), in 1967 it rose to 12, and so on until the thirty current teams. On an international level, the duel between the two major world powers, Canada and the USSR, stood out. In 1993, however, the Canadiens de Montréal won their 24th Stanley Cup, an overall championship record, while they expected 1998 for the first participation of NHL professionals in the Nagano Winter Olympic Games in Japan.

The women's ice hockey movement also began to grow in the last part of the century: in 1990 the first women's world ice hockey championship took place, while in 1998 there was the debut at the Nagano Winter Olympic Games.

And so it comes closer to the present day when in 2004, Tampa Bay Lightning conquered the Stanley Cup, bringing the trophy for the first time to Florida, which was renowned for its sun-drenched beaches, rather than harsh winters.

A few months later the NHL would have been shaken by an incredible event: at the end of the World Cup 2004, the collective agreement expired. Owners and players did not reach an agreement, so much so that commissioner Gary Bettman and owners were forced to impose a lock out. In February 2005, after yet another clash between the two sides, Bettman announced the final cancellation of the 2004-05 championship. Never in the history of professional North American sport, a season had been completely cancelled due to contractual problems.

The agreement was reached only the following year, allowing the regular start of the 2005-06 championship.

How to play ice hockey

The playground

Hockey playground

The playground, more correctly known as the "track", is a rectangular icy surface with a length of between 56 and 61 metres and a width of between 26 and 30 m. All around the track there is a balustrade above which, in order to protect the public, there is a Plexiglas protection; behind the doors there is an additional safety net.
A semicircular door area is marked around the goal, while two blue lines divide it into 3 zones of equal size: the attack zone, neutral zone and defence zone.
The neutral zone is divided in half by a red line: the half way line. At the centre of it, i. e. at the centre of the runway, is the starting point, surrounded by the hiring circle. In total there are five engagement circles, all with a radius of 4.5 m: one in the centre and two in each of the defensive zones.
On the outside of the balustrade, at the level of the neutral zone on the long side of the field, there are the benches of the two teams, while in front of them there are the timekeepers and the "punished bench". Unlike many other sports, the track also runs behind the doors and is smoothed out, to allow the disc to scroll at high speed.
In the NHL the track is slightly smaller, 56 m long and 26 m wide, and has a slightly different division of the areas. This normally results in faster and more aggressive play.

The equipment

Due to the physical and "rough" nature of this sport, a complete protective equipment is prescribed in order to avoid injuries. In addition to special ice skates and the stick, it also includes a helmet with visor, gloves, neck, larynx and mouth protections, and the gumshield. In addition, special protections are provided for the shoulders and chest.
Since the goalkeepers are exposed to greater risks, they often have to carry discs at very high speeds and they have special equipment: in addition to special "goalkeeper skates" and a slightly thicker stick, they carry a helmet equipped not with a simple visor, but with a grill mask, leggings, glove - that of the hand holding the stick - equipped with a "shield" and a "grip glove".

The match

An ice hockey match normally lasts 60 minutes (three times - also called "third parties" - for 20 minutes). Since every game break involves stopping the stopwatch (it's about actual minutes of play), a game actually lasts about twice the actual time. Intervals between times last 15 minutes.

The team that scores the largest number of goals wins, unlike many other sports in ice hockey there is no draw: if at the end of a match the result is still equal, an extra time of twenty or five minutes is played, which ends immediately with the goal of one of the two teams (with the mechanism of sudden death, equal to the golden goal football). If neither team has scored at the end of the overtime period, the game will be decided on with a penalty or, depending on the championship, the overtime may continue. Usually 3 points are awarded to the winning team in the set time, 2 to the winning team after extra time or penalties, 1 to the losing team at extras or penalties and no points for those who lose in the regulatory time.

Giocatori di hockey in azione

The team

An ice hockey team consists of a maximum of 22 players, 20 players in movement and 2 goalkeepers. During a game, a maximum of 6 players can go down on the ice at the same time. The rule is that there are 5 players of movement and one goalkeeper, but in special situations, the goalkeeper can be replaced by a sixth moving player. In early ice hockey there was also a sixth movement player in the position called "rover", able to perform both the task of attacker and defender.

In a team there must be one captain and two alternative captains. As a mark of recognition, they bear on their chest a capital "C" or "A" respectively. The captain is the only one who can ask for explanations on the decisions of the referees. Motion player changes are possible not only during game interruptions, but can also be "flying". The change of all players of movement is possible and is called "line change".

 The referee

The referee is one of the match officials. There is a distinction between' match officials' and' off-ice officers'. The match officials are the referee or the two referees (Officials) and two linesman (Linesmen), in total they are either three or four. They wear black trousers and a black white-black vertical striped mesh. The first referee bears a red band on both arms as a sign of recognition. The referee has general control over the game, players and other officials.
The linesmen, on the other hand, have control over line fouls (offside and forbidden release), are in charge of engagements and assist the referee.

Off-ice officers include - alongside the speaker and timekeeper, a score judge (possibly with assistants), a video-replay judge, who can be summoned to show the images of the actions to the head-arbitre in case of contested decisions, two assistants to the bench points and two goal judges, who sit immediately behind the doors and report the goal to the public with the ignition of the game.


Penalties are decided by the referees. The most common are: "obstruction' (interference);' tripod' (tripping);' high-sticking' (high-sticking);' stick hook' (hooking);' delay of play' (delay of game);' slashing';' irregular charge' (charging);' back loaded' (checking from behind); "elbowing;" too many men on ice ";" misconduct ";" excessive hardness "(roughing);" hold "(holding)" cross check ";" hold the stick ".

Each penalty is indicated by a particular gesture of the referee. The duration of the penalty is at the discretion of the arbiter (but within certain limits). When the referee finds an irregularity to be punished, he raises an arm. The duration of the lesser penalty is 2 minutes. The longest penalty is 5. The disciplinary penalty lasts 10 minutes. The latter can also be of a duration of 20 minutes. The maximum penalty is the match penalty (normally 5 minutes + 20 + final expulsion).

Penalties of 2,5 and 10 minutes are discounted by the punished bench player. His team plays 4 vs 5. For major penalties, the question is different: the player sits on the bench, and his team plays without the man for up to 5 minutes. For the remainder of the penalty time (or for the rest of the match, in case of penalty matches), the player may not go down on the ice, but his place is taken by a team-mate, and the teams return in numerical parity.

The only player who never sits on a punished bench is the goalkeeper. In case of a minor penalty or the first disciplinary penalty, he remains on the pitch, and the penalty is discounted by a team-mate who was on the ice at the time of the penalty, chosen by the captain. In the event of a higher penalty or a second disciplinary penalty, the goalkeeper is immediately expelled and excluded for the rest of the game.

Hockey players fighting

Field brawls

When the going gets tough the tough get going

Although the fight is officially prohibited by the regulations, in North America professional level combat is not officially tolerated, although it provides for a penalty of 5 minutes for each player, while at the amateur level (NCAA and some youth leagues) players receive a penalty of 10 minutes or a suspension.

More than brawls, however, the physical clashes between players are semi-organized fights, regulated by an informal code of honor and with players (enforcers) who have among their roles to start them and carry them forward.

Players who start a fight must throw sticks on the ground and remove their gloves, exchanging shots rigorously with bare hands, usually until one of the two (the battles between more than two players are not allowed) falls to the ground.

The episodes of fighting between players have increased over decades: in the 1960-61 NHL season, there were one for every five games, while in the 1987-88 season each match had an average of 1.3 fights. Afterwards the percentage dropped slightly, and today the average is one fight every two games.

Adam Gopnik, author of the New Yorker, proposed a historical explanation, which involved ethnic and social divisions in late 19th century Montreal involving Scots, British, Irish and French.

Hockey Glossary

POWER PLAY: this is the situation in which a team plays in numerical advantage, because the opposing team is suffering a penalty.

SHORT HANDED: situation opposite to the previous one, a team plays in numerical inferiority, since it is serving a penalty.

FACE-OFF: Engagement, i. e. when the start of the game is whistled at the beginning of a time or after an interruption of play. Two opposing players stand in front of each other within a circle and the puck is dropped by a linesman. The two players try to take possession of the puck.

PUCK: the rubber disc used in ice hockey. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that the name is linked to the verb "to puck", used in the hurling game to indicate the contact or thrust of the ball, coming from Scottish Gaelic "puc" or Irish Gaelic "just", terms that indicate the settling of a shot.

DRITTEL: each of the three 20 strokes in which a hockey game is divided.

SUDDDEN DEATH: additional time (5')

SHOOT-OUT: this is the penalty shot that is used in groups of 5 per team at the end of the extra time to unlock the score.

SIN BIN (but also penalty box): it is the punished bench, or rather the box equipped with a bench, which welcomes players temporarily expelled because they have committed a foul.

CENTRE PLAYER (forward): central attack role.

WINGER PLAYER: Attack role to the right or left of the centre depending on the skill of the player (man or right-handed).

DEFENCEMAN: defence role behind the centre and wings, they have the task of blocking opponents.

GOALTENDER: goalkeeper

EXTRA SKATER: role of attack inserted in the field instead of the goalkeeper, when a disadvantaged team tries, in the final minutes, everything for everything.

HAT TRICK: means triplet. The origin of the name is uncertain, however, it is a fact that the creation of a triplet, followed by the launch of hats in the field by fans.

RINK: skating rink. In the 14th century in England it was used to indicate a closed space, or enclosure, in which two riders could face each other for a tournament or competition, but often also indicated the race itself, or tournament. a round within the competition or tournament. It is also likely that RINK comes from the German root, which has produced the current term RING (ring, circle), today used to define the space in which boxers are confronted.

FREEZING THE PUCK: the goalkeeper "freezes" the disc every time he locks the puck with his glove, thus blocking the game, which he resumes with an engagement in the defensive area.

ON THE THE FLY: The replacement of hockey players takes place on the fly, without interruptions of play.

Ice hockey training

Hockey is considered to be the fastest team sport in the world: it has been calculated that professional players can skate up to a speed of 48 km/h.  The hand-eye coordination is almost miraculous.

A good hockey player plays where the puck is:a great hockey player plays where the puck will be.Wayne Gretzky (The Great One)

Speed and agility go hand in hand with power. The strengthening of the lower limbs is central to the excellent performance in this sport.

ideal training should combine strength training and sprint activity.

Preparation for this sport must be complete and develop all the skills mentioned above. In this way, performance will be optimal and the risk of injury will also be reduced.

Stamina and endurance

Allenare resistenza

Two terms that are often confused or used as synonyms. In fact, they correspond to two distinct characteristics. In ice hockey, you need to train both of them.

Stamina is the ability to sustain long lasting stressful efforts, in the physiological sense of the term, optimizing the use of available force. Practically perform an exercise to the maximum extent possible to the end. The higher the intensity rhythm you can maintain, the higher the level of Stamina involved.

Endurance is different:

Enduranceis basically cardiovascular resistance, i. e. the ability to make a certain effort or exercise, for a certain period of time optimizing the use of oxygen and therefore of heart and blood vessels designed both to transport the valuable vital gas.

Running or rowing for 5 km requires resistance. But to do it at its maximum speed all the time or however for a good part of it, depends on the stamina.

It's easy to understand how cardiovascular endurance is essential in a sport like ice hockey where games sometimes last more than two hours. The power and speed required must be constant, however, so the player has to resort to stamina.

An example of a useful exercise performed on SKILLMILL: sprint the duration of 30 seconds, applying a high resistance followed by a resting phase of 2 minutes. Repeat ten times to obtain maximum results.


Acceleration, sprints, direction changes

We have repeatedly mentioned the speed and speed of ice hockey actions. On SKILLMILL it is possible to vary the resistance "on the fly", simply with a lever: in this way the athlete quickly switches from a rhythm of walking to a slow race to a sprint, without having to adjust the tool.
With SKILLMILL it is then possible to train the agility required by a sport such as ice hockey, we think about the fast changes of direction that you make: examples of exercises recommended on this tool are the lateral race with crossing of the legs, the long knee race and the kicked stroke.


In ice hockey, speed is zero with no explosive power that you have to concentrate on your legs. SKILLMILL allows you to increase the power of the lower limbs by pushing backwards on the platform. Recommended exercises include lower, upper and lateral thrusts and traction.
The physicality of this discipline obviously also presupposes the strengthening of the upper body.

Training the mind

Half of the game is mental. The other half is mental. Jim McKenny

Mental training is also considered to be very useful for improving performance in ice hockey, and agility in players must also be a psychological, not only physical. The legend of hockey, Wayne Gretzky, points out that the greats of this sport are those who know where the disc will be. Players who expect the game, knowing how to read it quickly.
One of the best techniques of mental preparation is the Visualization which consists of imagining yourself in every possible game situation.

Hockey is not a sport, it is an oxymoron in which agility and power meet.

Hockey is artistic skating in a war zone.

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