Sports 101

The National League Hockey players may have returned to the rink after shutting down the season for the Olympics, but they face serious repercussions from the US Olympic Committee after trashing hotel rooms in Nagano. Unless the responsible players come forward with an apology, the committee could ban all players from future Olympics.

Q: Why does a hockey stick's blade curve at the end?

A: In the late 1950s, New York Ranger Andy Bathgate noticed that if he twisted the blade of his stick, his slap shots would hook, dip, and rise. Not only did his slap shots increase in velocity, but the accuracy also increased. Soon, the age of the "banana blade" was born, and manufacturers designed sticks with curved blades. The maximum allowable curve today is 1/2 inch. Players can be penalized for exceeding that maximum.

Q: What are pucks made of and why are they frozen before a game?

A: A puck is made of vulcanized rubber, and is 1-inch thick and 3 inches in diameter. It weighs between 5-1/2 and 6 ounces. Pucks are always frozen before games because it reduces their bounce on the ice surface. A puck can travel as much as 120 miles per hour. The National Hockey League freezes about 24 pucks before each game and provides the off-ice officials with a bucket, usually holding a dozen frozen pucks.

Q: What is body checking?

A: To bump or physically make contact with an opponent above the knees who is in possession of, contesting for, or approaching the puck. This is legal as long as the contact is made from the front or side from no more than two strides away and the checker's feet do not leave the ice at the moment of contact. Checking with too many steps or strides becomes charging, which is a penalty.

Q: How many periods are there in a game?

A: Three 20-minute playing intervals separated by two 15-minute intermissions.

Q: What are blue lines?

A: There are two blue, 12-inch-wide lines running parallel across the ice, each 60 feet from the goal. They divide the rink into three zones and define each team's territory. The middle is the neutral zone. A player crossing the opposing teams blue line may not precede the puck, and may only be passed from player to player in the same zone.

Q: What is the attacking zone?

A: The area between the opponents' blue line and their goal.

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