The Appeal of Hockey, Explained by an Actual Canadian

With Los Angeles and New York making it to the finals, this year will mark the 20th consecutive time the Stanley Cup – hockey’s own Vince Lombardi trophy – is won by an American team. To celebrate this Muricah-Fuck Yeah milestone, we’ve put together a primer on the sport with the help of an actual Canadian; they dig this shit so bad they actually put it on their money.


Hockey is a full contact sport in which two opposing teams of 20 players (12 offence, 6 defence, 2 goaltenders) take 5-man shifts on an ice rink and attempt to outscore each other. They have to wear skates and full body armor. Goals are scored, and the game is won, by using a weird stick to shoot a piece of rubber (the puck) into a net defended by a goaltender. Despite its reputation as a team combat sport, you cannot win a game by punching opposing players in the mouth, although it sometimes happens around goals.

The Appeal of Hockey, Explained by an Actual Canadian

The brunt of player contacts happen during hits, or checking. This is when a player in control of the puck is slammed by another player, with the intent of making him lose his shit for a moment. There are numerous rules about what kind of hits are legal, and generally dangerous or vicious attacks are penalized. In fact, while full on fighting is still tolerated, is is increasingly rare and always leads to double penalties. You can even get thrown out of the game, as you would in ANY OTHER SPORT, if you’re being a dick about it.

Hockey Gif Fight Gif


Hockey is fast.

Players skate at about 25 MPH. They pass the puck around at speeds varying between 30 and 60 MPH. They shoot at up to 100 MPH. The rink they play on is 155 feet long and they frequently move the play from one side to the other in less than 5 seconds. The shifts on the ice average at about 50 seconds, and players are expected to play between 15 and 30 minutes per one-hour game. Sportsballs to the wall, if you will.

Hockey is Fast Gif

Hockey is hard.

Goals should be impossible to score in professional hockey. At any moment, players have to move the puck smartly to get a good chance to take a shot at a net mostly covered by a goaltender in full riot gear. They have to do this while five other players are attempting to hit them out of position. This is like pouring a cup of coffee in a rocking boat while an angry man is trying to body slam you and punch the pot out of your hand.

Hockey is Hard gif

Goals do happen, still, and much more frequently than in soccer. Shutouts are infrequent but still exciting: they usually depend on goalies making hair-pulling saves. Still, they key to enjoying hockey is to understand how stupidly hard it is to score goals.

Hockey is a game of inches.

Since the opposition is so stiff, players absolutely have to work as a team to achieve results. No one can skate faster than they can pass, and there are strict rules that outright ban Hail Mary plays: players can only pass the puck so far, and can never shoot it from one end of the ice to the other.

This means that games are won and lost in the details: moving the puck gradually towards the goal, smooth transitioning between offensive and defensive lines, good positioning around the puck, precise passes, smart reading of the plays. Like this guy here.

Hockey Precision Stuff gif

All this being said, the matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers will be an especially exciting one for hockey aficionados: the Kings have 6 of the top 10 hitters in the league, while the Rangers have exhibited incredible speed during the play-offs. This should lead to games where the Rangers attempt to skate circles against players who are doing their best to physically remove them from the rink. This is exactly how boss fights went down in Super Mario 64.

And goddamn it’s awesome.

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  • Fitzgerald Chesterfield

    They have to wear skates and full body armor.I’m calling bullshit on this being written by an actual Canadian, would be “armour”.

    • Adam Mongrain

      We took great care to translate it back into Murican English.

      • Fitzgerald Chesterfield

        A likely story. You almost had me fooled with “offence” and “defence.”But those are some good gifs, eh?

    • $73376667

      And “inches!”

  • Lazy Media

    I’m still “meh” about ice hockey, but it did inspire one of the greatest sports movies of all time, “Slap Shot.”

  • Mojopo

    A value added feature of hockey is that best-selling author and nerd king, Nate Silver, is a hockey fan. I am not saying that hockey fans might be smarter than other people, but we cannot discount the possibility…Shame about the Habs and Blackhawks, but I’m pulling for the Rangers in 5.

  • Vienna Woods

    Go Habs.

    • Bitter Scribe

      Sorry, pal. They fell like my Blackhawks.

  • Bitter Scribe

    When did they change the icing rule so the defense no longer has to actually touch the puck?

  • Enfant Terrible

    Details worth mentioning – players’ heart rates are up in the red zone when they’re skating that hard. They can go like that for maybe a minute and a half, at most. That’s why offensive players are organized into 4 lines of one center and two wingers, who rotate in and out of the game as needed. Same with defensive players. Goalies stay put in front of the net, unless they’re injured or having a bad night.

  • Left Coast Tom

    Hockey is the only sport worth watching on television because it moves really fast, but only if the camerapersons know how to follow the puck. Incompetent camerapersons completely ruin the sport on television.

  • Otto66

    Only a non hockey fan would compare Lord Stanley’s Cup to a football trophy. But, I did like the Red Wing gifs. Rather see the Rangers win but the Kings have been impressive.

  • Molly the Dog

    Watching hockey in October is still more exciting than watching baseball in October.