Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Importance of the Hockey Puck!

The hockey puck is a little black rubber object… 1 inch thick, 3 inches in diameter and weighing approximately 5 to 6 ounces. Without the puck, a game of hockey cannot be played! This little black object takes a lot of abuse in a game… it is slapped around, passed around, tossed around and gloved/covered up repeatedly etc. It often travels in excess of 100 miles per hour!

Depending how an individual is involved in the greatest game on earth, the following provides a different prospective on this little black object!

Viewers watching on T.V. – The eyes of the camera men are your eyes. The cameraman loyally follows the puck’s progress on the ice. Television viewers must be constantly focused to see this little black object on their screen. The puck can be difficult to see on occasion… innovative ways have been tried over the years such as the “Fox glow puck” to assist the viewer. However, this did not win over the traditionalist. Since the camera follows the puck, the television viewer does not see things developing away from the play. This is a luxury available only when watching the game in person.

Spectators in the Arena Stands – After the sad incident of the young girl being hit and losing her life by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game, it has made every spectator young and old conscious of the importance of keeping one’s eye on the puck, i.e. like a goalie. After this unfortunate and tragic incident, the NHL has installed safety nets at every NHL arena. This will surely help… but folks… always be alert to the location of the puck. The puck has a “mean streak”! A few years back I caught an errant puck in the forehead while playing a fun pickup game. After receiving 15 stitches, it was time to “smarten up” and I bought a visor for my helmet!

The Players – Wayne Gretzky had the playing philosophy… “It’s my puck… you get your own puck!”. He loved to play with the puck, to control the “biscuit” and create beautiful plays / scoring chances. “If you control the puck, you control the game”. Most players cannot play without the puck i.e. defensive hockey. It can drive coaches crazy when players are not complete hockey players and especially when players turn their back on the play i.e.puck. During an average game, a player will handle the puck no more than 25 to 35 seconds. Bobby Orr was the best at controlling the puck and therefore the tempo of the game but even the great Orr handled the puck less than a minute per game. Many players try to out skate the puck but the puck usually travels faster than a player can skate. No matter what, the puck is always faster than the skater. If a coach stood on one goal line and a player started on the far blue line and had a race between a puck that coach shot / passed and the player skated, the player would lose every time. If hockey is one of the fastest games in the world, it’s important to make the best use of the fastest object on the ice. Two good passes can move the puck all the way down the ice faster than most players can stick handle with it. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance to “headman the puck” and use the “give and go” tactics. As mentioned above, the puck can hurt if a player gets in the way of its travel… many defense men fearlessly block shots and goalies use any part of their body to the puck out of the net. Many observers may think a person must be a little crazy to play in goal… no, just a little different!