Hockey is a rough and tumble sport, known for fights breaking out and a lot of injuries among the players. The main thing that makes hockey different from soccer, football, basketball or baseball is that it’s played on ice on skates. Roller hockey on skates is almost the same sport on dry turf, and it is also one of the most popular sports in the world with more than 2 billion fans.
Playing on ice of course means that a game of hockey is inevitably going to be fast-moving and unpredictable. Also, the players have the ability to control the game more than referees or umpires do — and more than in any other team sport. The players can speed up the game or slow it down, and they do it all while playing on blades of steel.
Early evidence shows that a type of hockey was played 4,000 years ago in Egypt, and it even sprung up independently in different corners of the world among the Aztecs as well as in Ancient Rome and Greece.
But, it was the British who solidfied the modern game of hockey in the mid-18th Century, starting in public schools. Clubs were formed, and a set of rules were formalized in 1886. The Canadians also contributed to developing the game early on and the first indoor hockey game was played in 1875 in Montreal. The Stanley Cup started in 1893 as the pinnacle achievement for hockey.
Hockey became an Olympic sport in 1908 and was in-and-out of the Olympics until 1928, and then it was in for good.
With 10 players and a goalie, field hockey can be played on grass, watered turf or artificial turf, or indoors. The sticks are made out of wood or carbon fiberglass and there’s a round, hard plastic ball about 8 to 9 inches around. The game is two periods of 20 minutes or four quarters of 10 minutes.
The basic game on ice is played with two teams of six players each, one goalie blocks a netted goal, and the players hold sticks used to control a three-inch puck. The game is played in three 20-minute periods with substitutions that can happen at any time, and a mandatory 17-minute break between the first and second period.
A team could be down a player for 2 to 10 minutes if they’re put in a penalty box, which gives the other team a distinct advantage. Every goal is one point, and if there’s a tie, there could be a sudden death shootout until one team surpasses the other.
Obviously lots of protective gear and helmets are needed for ice hockey playing, but field hockey can be played in any clothing that is comfortable. However, to get a grip on the field, cleats are needed for shoes, and shin guards are used to protect legs. Players also usually have goggles, gloves, and a mouthguard to prevent injuries.
Not only do players need to be proficient at skating for ice hockey, they have to handle a stick and know how to control a puck.
Along with that, here are 10 other essential hockey skills:
1. First Touch
This means to receive the puck and be able to control it. It’s also called “trapping.” If you do it fast enough you will have time to look up and see what you can do next.
One of the most important skills to master in the game, the hit of the puck depends on a lot of factors such as your head and body position, hip rotation, wrist action and foot position. This is a skill every teammate needs to master because it’s important for every position.
Leading, also known as positioning, allows you to have more time with the puck and make better decisions. It takes anticipation and understanding of the game to create space for yourself or a teammate.
The best plays come when there’s accuracy in passing between players. Different kinds of players may want to improve different passing skills. For example, a defender could wish to focus on fake slapping while a striker may want to improve a one-touch passing technique.
5. Flat Stick Tackle
This defensive maneuver involves the stick, and does not involved any body contact. It’s a way to steal the puck from an opponent with channeling and jabbing. A clean flat stick tackle is a necessity for all players, and important even for a goalie.
6. Jabbing or Poking
The jab, or poke, tackle is considered one of the most under-used skills and is used to pressure the player and change the direction of where the puck is heading. It involves jabbing the stick, but it doesn’t have to be at the puck, it can be used to jab next to the puck to limit an opponent’s space.
7. Tomahawk or Reverse
One of the toughest skills in hockey, this shot is where a player turns a hockey stick upside down and swings it so that the inside edge hits the puck.
A similar shot is the Reverse slide which can be used to knock a pass away faster. It slices the puck on the edge of your stick and uses a short and low backswing.
8. V Drag
The V Drag is also called a Dummy and used to drag the puck (or ball) from the right to left (or from left to right) to eliminate a member of the opposition. It got its name because the drag of the puck creates a V-shape. It is used to get out of tight situations when under pressure.
9. 3D Skills
It’s one of the toughest things to defend against, but when a player masters his or her’s 3D skills, it makes you an immediate advanced player. Once you master stick control, consider lifts of your puck to do pops or jinks and still keep the puck under your control. It’s used against players who like to make flash stick tackles and is considered an art in the game of hockey.
Something you can hone, but is not necessarily a skill, a good player has to learn how to be deceptive. This means being deceptive in how you approach a goal or an opponent.
It gives the opposition a difficult time when anticipating your next move, and can be done as simply as dropping your shoulder one way before you change direction to go the other way. The trick is to maintain your balance, especially if you are on skates.
Whether you play hockey on a field or on ice, the skills of the game are the same, and both can be quite exciting to watch, and play.