Guide to Becoming an NHL Fanatic
Not only is it cold in the arena where athletes play ice hockey games, but if you’re unfamiliar with the rules, you might get a chilly response from a fan if you ask them to run you through the basics midgame.
Instead of earning a cold stare that sends shivers down your spine, it’s time to learn all the necessary details to start enjoying the NHL (National Hockey League). So lace up your skates and read our Guide to Becoming an NHL Fanatic. This will take you out of the penalty box and put you on the ice!
Even though it’s called the National Hockey League, it is actually an organization that contains 30 teams located in the U.S. and Canada. There are seven teams in Canada, the most in any of the four major sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL). The 30 teams are broken up into two conferences – Eastern and Western.
The Eastern Conference is made up of 16 teams across two divisions of equal size, the Atlantic and Metropolitan. The Western Conference is made up of 14 teams also in two divisions of equal size: the Central and Pacific.
These teams must win enough games in the regular season to make the playoffs (16 teams progress), with the goal of taking home the Stanley Cup. It is awarded to the final winner at the conclusions of the playoffs.
Hockey is a fast sport. While three 20-minute periods sound like a long time, minimal stops of play and quick transitions between offense and defense means there is no time to change the channel or leave your seat. In fact, the only times that the clock stops are when there is a penalty (rules infraction), the puck leaves a play, or a goalie secures it (known as “freezing”).
Each team tries to score more goals than the other, scoring when the puck moves into the goalie’s net. If there is a tie at the end of regulation (three periods), the game shifts to a five minute, three-on-three overtime. If they’re still deadlocked, the game goes to a best-of-five penalty shootout. If there’s still a draw, then the shootout continues as sudden-death penalty shots, where the next team that misses loses. Hockey isn’t short on action.
The last rule to keep in mind is the power play. Resulting from a player breaking the rules, and subsequently being forced into the “penalty box” for a period of time, this leaves another team with a man advantage on the ice. This is a great chance for a team to score and usually forces the disadvantaged team to become defensive with their play.
Each team lines up with six players on the ice, going head-to-head in the pursuit of a win.
- Goalie: As men responsible for protecting the net, they’re the ones with the crazy cage masks protecting their faces. Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins are two of the best in this position. And they’re worth watching for the amazing saves they pull off!
- Defensemen: Defensemen, charged with protecting the goalie and initiating the counter, play a dual role. With two on the ice, one is responsible for the left side of the ice and the other the right. Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings are two to keep an eye on in this position.
- Forwards: Playing either on the left or right wings, or as a center, these athletes score goals. Or at least that’s the plan. They generate the attack and put the defense on their heels. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks are offensive players that light up the arena with their shooting skills.
Who is Icy-Hot?
Here are a few hot teams in the coolest professional sport that you should be watching:
- Florida Panthers: Yes, they play ice hockey in Florida, and this team is really good! They set multiple franchise records this season – including sending four players to the All-Star game! And the future looks bright for the Sunshine State’s youngest NHL team.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: Even though this franchise has only been around since the 1960s, they’ve won four Stanley Cup titles in that time, including the 2015-2016 series. They play with finesse, favoring speed and skill over brutal defense. If you’re looking for a team that’s set up for future success, look no further than the “Pens.”
- Washington Capitals: Suffering an early exit from the 2015-2016 postseason, their captain Alex Ovechkin looks to lead them back to the playoffs next season. The three-time league MVP gives everything for his team. Will they be able to help him finally win the elusive Stanley Cup?
You might not be ready to throw on some pads, lace up a pair of skates, or start body-checking other players into the boards, but you’re now ready to watch NHL games like a true fan.
You know the fundamentals, which teams to watch out for, and even the names of the different positions. Don’t forget – as you get ready to take in a game or root for your new team – to pick up officially licensed NHL merchandise or apparel from the best place to find them, Fanatics.com.