|Ice hockey emerged in 19th century Canada.
Similar games go back centuries in Europe,
notably in the Netherlands and Russia, but
the Canadian version became the international
standard in the 20th century. Players in
the top pro league, the National Hockey League
(NHL), are roughly 60% Canadian, 20% American
and 20% European (the latter mainly from
Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden
In Canada, or in parts of the northern U.S.
where it is most popular, the sport is called
simply "hockey." In North America,
the standard ice rink is 200 x 85 feet. The
Olympic rink, which is the standard in Europe,
measures 200 x 100. Goal nets measuring 6
feet wide and 4 feet high are placed at either
end of the rink.
There are 6 players on each side. Their object
is to drive a rubber puck, 3 inches in diameter
and 1 inch thick, into the goal defended
by the opposing team. One of the players
on each side, variously called a goalie,
goaltender, goalkeeper or netminder (in descending
order of frequency), wears distinctive equipment
that helps in blocking shots taken by the
Body contact, or "body checking,"
is permitted to impede the puck carrier.
In many recreational leagues, as in the fast
growing women's game, checking is either
severely limited in scope or prohibited.
At the other end of the spectrum, the top
pro leagues tend to permit more body contact
than a strict reading of the rules would
suggest. Outside the NHL and pro minor leagues
in North America, all other amateur and pro
leagues worldwide eject players for fighting
Certain infractions (excessive roughness,
dangerous play, holding, tripping, illegal
checking or delay of the game) are punished
by penalties that force the offending side
to skate with one fewer player for a set
span of time (usually 2 minutes). This gives
the opposition (which is said to be on the
power play) a greater chance to score a goal.