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I Don’t Think You’re A Bandwagon NHL Fan: Ice Hockey Basics

August 20, 2014


Greetings. As a life long ice hockey fan (concentrating on the (N)ational (H)ockey (League)), I’ve heard and been involved in conversations about the concept of the “Bandwagon fan.” Sometimes they are viewed as “casual” fans or not “true” fans. well, if you’ve ever been called a “bandwagon” fan or someone has told you that you aren’t a “true” fan, well, I’m you’re friend and there’s good news. Why? Because at one point in my life I was sitting at a hockey game and I didn’t know all the terminology or know the names of the players or understand what “five hole” meant. We’ve all been there. So, for those who perhaps are preparing to go out on a first date with someone you know is a hockey fan and you want to get a bit of primer I’ll happily help you out with that. Perhaps some of you won ice hockey tickets and you’d like to get a few of the basis down ahead of time so you understand a little bit about what you’ll be watching. Maybe you’re a group leader who’s going to be accompanying a group who’ve received the opportunity to see a hockey game for the first time and you were surfing the internet to find a resource that could that’s easy to follow to get your group ready for the outing. Whatever the case may be, here are some nuggets of internet goodness that may be useful.

The NHL has 30 teams. The team I support all the time is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Go Bolts! During the regular season (October through April), the teams play 60 minutes. Those 60 minute are divided into thirds known as periods. The beginning face-off (game beginning drop of the hockey puck or opening face-off) starts at the center ice (middle circle. Each team starts every game with six men (or players) on the ice. Five of the players are “skaters” and one is the goalie (netminder, creasekeeper). The skaters are comprised of two defensemen and three forwards. Two of the forwards are “wings” (wingers, wingmen) and the one in the middle the “center“.

When you are at the game (or even watching it TV or internet), you may feel like you’re having trouble keeping track of the puck. No worries. You’re not the only one. The game moves very quickly and it’s nothing to worry about. It may help to simply watch the movement the players as team units before you try keeping track of the puck. Each team has home colors which are usually solid. The Lighting are the blue team when they play in Tampa Bay, FL. (home) and they’re white when playing elsewhere (away from home). So, if you follow the movement of the “blue” team, you’re eyes will be tracking the game. During the course of the game while following the movement of the team, you’re eyes will “see” the puck, even if you’re not aware of it. Eventually, you’ll start becoming more aware of where the puck is at the same time you’re watching a team play. As a new fan or when not in the habit of watching NHL games all the time, don’t feel as though you even should be focusing on the puck as much as watching the teams move on the ice. This will help a bit later on in being aware of the puck, but also what each individual player is doing on the ice. Of course, some may watch the game a little differently at first, but I’ve been to games with quite a few who haven’t been to a game before and it seems to be something those individuals noticed and mentioned to me during the course of each game, so it’s perfectly fine if you feel like the puck is “hard to see”.

There are four “officials”, two are “linemen” and two are “referees”. Together, they call “penalties” and make sure the players stick to guidelines of play. There are different types of penalties. Most of the penalties called during most games are known as “minor penalties”. Those types of penalties are things like “tripping”. The player who gets a penalty called on him (also applies to the team as a whole) gets sent to the “penalty box” and isn’t allowed to play for two minutes (five minutes for a “major” penalty like “fighting”). That player’s team is then on what’s called a “penalty kill” (man down, 5 on 4) which means the other team is then on a “Power Play” (man advantage, 5 on 4). There are many different types of penalties, but generally, during any particular game it’s the 2-minute penalties (minor) that get called.

It takes a little time to understand why the puck is dropped at certain face-offs at certain times during a period, so in sticking to basics, just know the terms “offensive zone”, “defensive zone” and “neutral zone”. When the Lightning are in their “defensive zone”, they are playing on the portion of ice directly in from the Lightning goalie. For the other team though, that portion of ice is the “offensive zone”. For both teams, no matter what, the middle portion if the ice known as the “neutral zone”. You may not remember all of this when you go to a game or while watching at first, but some of it may come to mind during the game. For those who really do become interested in becoming whatever kind of hockey fan you become, you can always re-read this and as you become more familiar with game play, penalties, a team or teams and perhaps the NHL in general, this blog post might be useful as a general framework or guidepost to explore ice hockey in greater depth. I encourage anyone who does read this before going to a hockey game or viewing one on TV or the internet) to re-read this post afterward and perhaps you’ll find that a few “details” of the game you thought you didn’t understand while you were watching, you actually did. That should make you’re next ice hockey viewing experience a bit less “beginner” and bit more, “Hey, this ice hockey stuff isn’t so bad” and “I’m not a bandwagon fan, I’m just beginning my exploration.”

For those who may have heard a few things about the NHL and men’s professional hockey or seen a few highlight’s on mainstream media, or even seen a few games here and there and are thinking things like “ice hockey is too violent”, or if you wonder why there “appears” to be a lot “fighting “, I can say that there is far more good game play and than there isn’t and there are many wonderful, awesome little moments than there are anything else. Perhaps, even those of us who have been hockey fans our whole lives can refresh our fandom a little and not look at the “little hockey players” who play during intermissions as the “same old, boring thing and wish that there was some other form of “entertainment” on ice during that time. Instead, keep in mind that is the future of ice hockey you’re watching. That’s the future doctor who might one day save your life. That’s someone who’ll become a caring wife, brother, friend. That little ice hockey player is experiencing a moment that doesn’t happen very often and his/her grandma is there. That moment might be the last time that grandma gets before leaving this Earth to see the happy, smiling, joy-filled face if her grandchild. I certainly have not ever missed out on the opportunity to sit and share that moment with the future, to share it, to get a lighthearted little laugh when they’re little faces light all up because they caught sight of the puck in front of, what is to them, a huge crowd and go after it with all their beautiful little hearts so that they can be the one the team who scored the goal. And, yes, of course, joyfully shared in so many moments when that little goalie sees that player coming and leaves the ice knowing that he/she just made the save!

Young or old, the men of hockey are aware that perhaps the “staged” fighting isn’t needed. They know the game may “seem” a bit violent at first. There is much good work being done in that regard. Keep in mind however, that just as they will protect themselves on ice they will also protect their team on ice. Off-ice, which in life is where it counts and doesn’t get all the press and highlights in mainstream media (let’s change that shall we), they will lend a helping hand to each other no matter on what team that person plays or no matter if a person is football and doesn’t “get” hockey – YET. I too would help a fan of another team, even if your team just just creamed my team 8-1, because you’re a human and I share this world with you and I care that you live to have children, be grandparents, be that “stranger” who volunteered to be a sober driver, who may have made me laugh at a hockey game or just out and about in the course regular every day happenings just when I needed it. I’m not the only one who does and that my friends I thank God for every single day.

Whether you are a Hockey fan or not, appreciate the same music as me or not, live in my country or not, there is love and I don’t think you’re an oddball. There is kindness. There is hope. There is compassion. There is a future. There is light. There is caring. There is sharing. This always a way.

A person is never to old to become a hockey fan. A person is never too old to get another chance to be loved. A goalie may get scored on here and there and a shooter may miss a shot. A relationship of any kind may seem as though it has been tested to the point of breaking, but God loves you, I love you, people you know right now love, people you haven’t even met yet love you and I know, despite “appearances” to me, right now, you love me too.

Share the love. Share the joy. Share the music. Share the hockey.

ROCK ON! Goalies, guardians, as usual, mind those nets and should, some of us have we retire, may we also share those moments with the “little goalies” who grow-up and become what we were, just a little better.

Peace to all – mia – if you’ve ever been THAT person who “pushed” on the door that had a sing that clearly read “pull” and did it more that once and wondered in your head why “the door is locked” when you “knew” it shouldn’t be, then you weren’t the only and perhaps it was meant to happen to that, because the person who saw you do it REALLY, REALLY, needed a laugh. It truly does all happen for a reason.

Luv ya universe. Yup, ya got the wrong one and nope, I wouldn’t even be nominated for a “who’s the weirdest of them all” award. I didn’t enter the contest, so that previous sentence makes a good bit of sense doesn’t it. 🙂 Laughter all around!! I’m enjoying “Suits”. Thank you. Oh and Lightning faithful, am I the only one who wonders if Gudas shaves that beard every morning and by game time it just, to him, “hockey o’clock” shadow”? Maybe that’s where he keeps his wallet and keys when he’s wearing an outfit with no pockets? Huh – one of those “mysteries” I suppose.  Yeah, yeah – I know clan goalie – I need to get the links to the right updated, because many of you have websites and you’re revered members of clan goalie too. Well, I am only one person and it’s not like you guys are perfect either – even if that’s what you’re 5th grade teacher told you. (goalies might be a bunch of divas – but this one – yes me -I went all “Wah, wah, wah – I want world peace diva about it” I am who I am man!)


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