|Highest governing body||International Ice Hockey Federation|
|First played||19th century Canada|
|Team members||6 per side (including goaltender)|
|Type||Team sport, stick sport, puck sport, winter sport|
|Equipment||Hockey pucks, sticks, skates, shin pads, shoulder pads, gloves, helmets (with visor or cage, depending on age of player and league), elbow pads, jock or jill, socks, shorts, neck guard (depends on league), mouthguard (depends on league)|
|Venue||Hockey rink or arena, and is sometimes played on a frozen lake or pond for recreation|
Ice hockey, known simply as hockey in Canada and the United States, is a team sport played on ice. It is one of the world's fastest sports, with players on skates capable of going high speeds on natural or artificial ice surfaces. The most prominent ice hockey nations are Canada, United States, Soviet Union/Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Switzerland. It is the official national winter sport of Canada, and it has a comparably strong following in certain regions of the United States, notably the Northeast, the Northern Midwest, and Alaska. The term "hockey country" is used to describe ice hockey's geographic region. In all there are 64 members in the International Ice Hockey Federation. As one might expect, its worldwide popularity is concentrated primarily in locales cool enough for natural, long-term seasonal ice cover.
While most of the countries mentioned above have their own professional ice hockey league, North America's National Hockey League is considered the world's premier professional ice hockey league and attracts almost all of the world's elite players.
Ice hockey is a sport that is played by two teams on ice. The players wear ice skates on their feet and can skate across the ice at very high speeds. They hold hockey sticks, which they use to push, shoot or pass a puck around the ice. The players score by shooting the puck into a net; the goaltenders try to stop them.
Six players on each team play at once, but a whole team has over 20 players. Each team has 2 defenders, 3 forwards, and a goalie on the ice at a time. When a player breaks a rule, a referee calls a penalty, and the player has to sit in a penalty box for 2-4 minutes. While the player sits in the penalty box, his team has to play without him, and will have fewer players on the ice until the penalty is over.
The hard surfaces of the ice and boards, pucks flying at high speed (over 160 km/h at times), and other players maneuvering (and often intentionally colliding) pose a multitude of safety hazards. Besides skates and sticks, hockey players are usually equipped with an array of safety gear to lessen their risk of serious injury. This usually includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, heavily padded pants, a 'jock' athletic protector, and leg guards. Goaltenders wear masks and much bulkier, specialized equipment designed to protect them from many direct hits from pucks.
Youth and college hockey players are required to wear a mask made from metal wire or transparent plastic attached to their helmet that protects their face during play. Professional and adult players may instead wear a visor that protects only their eyes, or no mask at all; however, some provincial and state legislations require full facial protection at all non-professional levels. Rules regarding visors and face masks are mildly controversial at professional levels, as some players feel that they interfere with their vision or breathing and/or encourage carrying of the stick up high, in a reckless manner, while others believe that they are a necessary safety precaution.
In fact, the adoption of safety equipment has been a gradual one at the North American professional level, where even helmets were not mandatory until the 1980s.
Ice hockey for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.