Photo: AP

So you heard your friends talking about it, got amped up and now want to watch hockey but don’t know what a lot of things mean. Well, you’ve come to the right place my friend.


I don’t blame you. Hockey is, although I’m biased, the best sport on the planet. The Stanley Cup race, on the other hand, is hands down the greatest sports playoff race there is. The emotion that is built up throughout a 7-game series is incredible. Some rivalries dating back nearly 70 years. Blood, sweat, tears, injuries, success, hand-shakes, respect and hits are all part of the playoffs. You battle all that way for one beautiful 35 lb. trophy, although it is said that it weighs nothing when you win it.

Anyways, enough rambling, there’s a lot to go through so let’s get started!

So yes, a team is important! If you’re just getting started it might be a good idea to choose a playoff team since you’ll get to watch them right now. If you’re patient though, wait till the regular season! I personally chose my team, the New York Rangers, because of their style of play. Some people choose it on how good looking the team is or on how many cups they’ve won or on what stars a team has.

No matter how you choose your team, it’s just important to have one. Your options range from perrenial playoff teams like Chicago, dumpster fire teams in the rebuilding stage like Buffalo (which I’ll make a case for) or just straight up dumpster fire teams like Toronto! Okay, I’m kidding, Toronto isn’t that bad but they’re bad. The allure is that they’re a huge hockey market and have wicked talent. The reason to follow teams like Buffalo though is that you get to build and grow with the team. You get extremely attached to the players and see them develop over the years. It’s an incredible thing and if you have the patience for it, it’s well worth it.

Head on over to the NHL Teams page and find which one is close to you!

The teams currently in the playoffs though are the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Okay, so now you have a team. Let’s get you ready for the playoffs.

Ah, the rules of hockey. They can be a tricky beast. We’ll start with the basics and then get into the more difficult concepts. Feel free to reach out on Twitter any time with a question!


Players

There’s 6 players per team on the ice including the goalie. When everybody is on the ice for both teams it’s referred to as 5v5 or even strength. When a team is a man down there’s a different name for it but I’ll get into that later.


Positions

There’s 6 positions. Left Wing, Center, Right Wing, Left Defense, Right Defense and a Goalie. Each play an important role.

There’s also lines for forwards. The best players play on the ‘1st line’ and get the most ice time. For defenseman, they’re called pairings since there’s two defenseman at a time. Like the forwards, the 1st pairing is usually the best pair of defenders on the team.


Time

There are 3 periods that last 20 minutes! Many people say there are more commercials during the playoffs but that’s not actually true. All TV timeouts occur at the 15, 10 and 5 minute marks of the period or the first stoppage after that time. Commercials may last longer but there’s always the same amount of TV timeouts.

OT: During the regular season there’s 5 minutes of 4V4 (Which I’ll get into later.) During the playoffs teams play a sudden overtime of unlimited 20 minute period. Essentially, they play 20 minute periods until there’s a winner.


Goals

Goals are self explanatory but they cannot be kicked in, hit in with a glove or knocked in with the stick above the post.


The +/- Stat Line

If a player is on the ice and a goal is scored, that’s a +.

If a player is on the ice when a goal is scored against them it’s a -.

They accumulate over the course of the game, any time a team has a man advantage +/- is not counted. Let’s say someone was on the ice for every goal scored in a 5–3 win and no goals were scored on the powerplay. They’d have a +2 rating for that game.


Lines Behind the Goalie

Those define where the goaltender can and can’t play the puck. AKA the Martin Brodeur rule. I provided an image description to the left!


Goalie Stats

SV%: Of the shots a goalie faces, how many does he save? The higher this number is, the better.

On a per game basis it’s: [(Total Shots-Goals) / The total number of shots]

Over the course of the season it’s: (Save percentages added up / games played)

GAA: This is the average number of goals a goalie lets in per game, the lower the better.


Penalties

A break down of all the different type of penalties. Source: Wikipedia

There are so many penalty types that it would be way too much to include here for a beginners guide. The important thing to note is that there are major and minor penalties, each dealing a different blow. A major is caused by a worser penalty.

A penalty box is not a friendly place if you’re the visiting team

The most important thing to note is that if you get a penalty, you have to sit in the penalty box for a certain amount of time, decided by the penalty you get, and make your team lose a player for that time. See all the penalties possible in a game here.


Power Play and Penalty Kill

Power play: This is when the other team gets a penalty(s) thus giving your team a man advantage which can be either 5 men vs 4 or the highest you can get is 5 v 3.

Penalty Kill: This is the term for the team that took the penalty, thus making the duration you’re down a man a ‘Penalty Kill.’


4 v 4

This is when there are offsetting penalties or when in the middle of one teams power play they get a penalty which then offsets the teams making it 4 players on the ice for one team vs 4 players on the ice for the other team.


Icing

Ignore my meme-like humour for the markings

The NHL recently introduced something known as ‘Hybrid Icing.’ It’s somewhat difficult to understand but the image to the left should explain it a bit more. It’s when the puck is shot down from behind the center line and then two players race to the line marked in blue to the left. If the team that didn’t dump/shot it in wins the race, it goes all the way back to the dots by the other teams goalie. In the graphic to the left, for example. If the team to the left of the center ice dumps it in and loses the race, the puck drop will be at one of the dots by their goalie on the left. It’s important to note that there is no icing for a team when they’re on the penalty kill. If they’re down a man, they can shoot it down from wherever without an icing.


Offsides

The hardest of all the rules to understand but I hope I make it easy for everyone this way!

Let’s first start with not offsides, otherwise known as onsides. Okay so, the puck has to cross the line before the player. The player can have one foot/leg across the line but his whole body or two legs can’t. Here’s a good photo representation I made. Notice they could have also been fully on the right side of the blue line for it to count.

Now offsides (Ignore the fact that this counted in real life. It’s offsides and that ref dun goofed.) In the photo you can see his whole body and 2 feet are over the blue line, that makes it offsides.


Boom! Now you’ve gotten through the rules, you’re almost ready for some hockey.

A rule that seems simple yet is always broken, especially come playoff time. Think of it this way, if players can shake hands after a grueling playoff series, we can all respect eachother as fans.

  • Respect the person that’s new to the sport. They’re not all bandwagoners and even if they are, who cares! They’re helping grow the sport we love.
  • Hey men, respect women. They’re not puck bunnies. They’re allowed to say a player is attractive much like how we’re allowed to say VS models are attractive. They also know a lot about hockey. Don’t discriminate, that goes for both sexes.
  • DON’T BE RACIST. It’s not hard folks. Don’t be that guy that makes PK Subban have to come out and make remarks on racist comments he received. Hockey players can be amazing regardless of race, skin color, sex or ethnicity.
  • Enjoy the game. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the game but don’t forget how beautiful of a game it is. Don’t get angry at your significant other just because of a loss. That person is far more important than the game. At the end of the day it’s just a game and you’re not even playing it. Just enjoy the damn thing.

Here’s to an amazing 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.