Last updated on July 20th, 2021
Ice hockey is a hugely popular sport in territories like North America, Russia, and Europe. Yet, the sport so many have come to love today, has come a long way. Hockey is one of the world’s most popular sports, and specifically in the U.S with the National Hockey League (NHL) being the most coveted and the largest in the entire world. Having been founded on November 26, 1917, in Montreal, Canada, the NHL has 31 teams with 24 of the teams coming from the U.S and the rest from Canada. We look at some of the most interesting facts about Ice Hockey over the sport’s evolution.
1. The early hockey pucks were made from fecal matter. Yes, you read that correctly. Legend has it that hockey pucks during the early days were made from cow poop. The cow poop patty was frozen and used as a puck for games. The early days were definitely interesting times for ice hockey.
2. Frozen pucks are the order of the day. Even during the cow poop days, hockey pucks were frozen. This tradition continues today. Before each ice hockey game, pucks are frozen in an effort to ensure the game is safer for the players and the audience. This is because being frozen stops the pucks from bouncing during play.
3. The hockey puck today is made from hard rubber, has a diameter of about 3 inches, and weighs approximately 6 ounces. These hard, black, rubber pucks are still frozen before each game to prevent bouncing in and out of play and other potentially dangerous and uncontrolled movements.
4. Speaking of rubber pucks, the first rubber pucks were made from Lacrosse Balls. When Ice Hockey first moved indoors, whole balls were used. However, rink owners found that slicing these Lacrosse balls into thirds and then keeping the middle would prove to be the better option. This standard design became official in 1885.
5. Although Hockey pucks, by design, have been used since almost inception, it is true that the word “pucks” did not become a thing until February 7, 1876. Since then, February 7 was dubbed the Hockey puck’s birthday.
6. On rare occasions hockey pucks have been split during games. Center Patrick Kane and forwards Andrew Procho and Shane Doan have each managed to break a puck against a goal post during their games.
7. While you can be anything in life, the last thing you want to be is a hockey puck. This is according to comic Don Rickles anyway. In the popular animated movie — the original Toy Story (1995) — Don Rickles’ cleverly coined insult was “don’t be a hockey puck.”
8. The average NHL game has a lot in common with a baker’s dozen… almost. While a baker’s doze is 13, the average NHL game comes close with using approximately 12 hockey pucks per game. This is because hockey pucks tend to thaw quickly and NHL players must use frozen hockey pucks. As such, they are constantly being replaced during the game by game officials. One game used as many as 22 pucks.
9. It is very rare that only one hockey puck is used during any given NHL game. However, it has happened. The last time one hockey puck was used during an NHL game, was in 1979. This game is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
10. Prior to 1906, Hockey pucks became the center of contention, cuts, and bruises for players — literally. This is because hockey pucks were placed on the ice between players who would use their hockey sticks to face-off. We can clearly see how this was unsafe. After 1906, the rules were changed and refs would, instead, drop the puck.
11. NASA has used Hockey Pucks weighing 2 tons to train their astronauts. Due to no gravity in space, the threat of free-floating equipment and people drifting off is very real. To combat this problem, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, prepared astronauts for the environment by using what they officially described as “two-ton hockey pucks” hovering over the floor to train astronauts. These “pucks” are pushed around by aspiring astronauts.
12. The average North American hockey rink is about 200 feet long and 85 feet wide, and regulation hockey nets are six feet wide and four feet tall.
13. Just as murky as the origins of the ice hockey puck are the details concerning the origin of ice hockey as a sport. Some credit the origins of ice hockey as dating back as far as the 1700s where a variety of the game played by the French and Irish. Others say it was not until the mid-1800s in Ontario Canada when Canadians would use homemade sticks and skate on frozen ponds.
14. The Canadian account of the origins of ice hockey is the more popular account of the sport’s history. So much so that the sport is considered to be a Canadian sport.
15. To further the notion of Ice Hockey as a Canadian sport, the Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Ontario — the city where some of the earliest version of the game can be traced to.
16. While the Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto, Ontario, it is Montreal that holds the record for the most wins. Montreal Canadiens (the heart of Canada’s French-speaking population) have won the most Stanley Cups in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL). They have a total of 23 wins, with their last win being in 1993. Perhaps there is a French connection to hockey’s history after all.
17. Speaking of Montreal Canadiens’ dominance in the sport, the 1956 Montreal team had a total of 12 players who would go on to become Hall of Famers.
18. Montreal Canadian players not only dominate the sport, they also revolutionized it. Jacque Plante, a Montreal Canadian player, is credited with creating the modern goalie mask. Plante first wore a face covering in his November 1, 1959 game. Clint Benedict also wore a leather mask for a few of the games he played during the 1930 season.
19. 1974 was the end of maskless Ice Hockey. In 1974, the Pittsburg Penguins’ Andy Brown became the last goalie to play a game without a mask.
20. The coveted Stanley Cup outdates the NHL by a full 24 years. That is, the Stanley Cup was created in 1893, while the NHL was officially established in 1917 on November 22.
21. The Stanley Cup was named after Canadian Governor General Lord Stanley of Preston. Governor General Lord Stanley of Preston donated the trophy, which was 7-inches in height at the time of the donation.
22. The Stanley Cup has been awarded every year since 1914, excepting two instances in history. In 1919, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, and in 2005 during the NHL lockout, the Stanley Cup was not awarded.
23. Winners of the Stanley Cup has snacks in the trophy. Much bigger than the 7-inches of the original Stanley Cup, players from the winning team get a full day with the trophy and often participate in the tradition of filling the trophy with snacks and eating them from ‘The Cup.’ Pun intended.
24. In addition to taking part in trophy snacking, Stanley Cup winners (players, teams, and executives) alike all have their names engraved on the trophy (we can begin to see why it has grown significantly from the original 7-inches in size).
25. There is a total of 12 women who have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup trophy. No they were not players. You guessed it, they were team owners and executives.
26. The first million-dollar contract in the sport was awarded in 1971. While today’s professional hockey player may be used to player contracts in the millions, this was not always so. In 1971, Bobb Orr became the first player to receive a million-dollar contract when the Boston Bruins signed him to a five-year contract at a rate of $200,000.00 for each year.
27. From million-dollar contract players to one-dollar man, the NHL has virtually seen it all. Kris Draper became the one-dollar man after he was traded by the Winnipeg Jets to the Detroit Red Wings for a whopping 1 dollar. Although the deal was a strange one, Draper went to play in excess of 1000 games for Detroit before retiring in 2011. At the time of his retirement, he has a total of 161 goals and 203 assists.
28. Ice Hockey is mostly an indoor sport, making it possible to go to a game even in the thick of January winter. This reality adds to the uniqueness of the sport and the popularity of the same. In this regard, it is one of those winter sports that audiences can enjoy in relative comfort (it is still a little chilly indoors, just without having to deal directly with the harshest conditions during the game).
29. The Winter Classic and Heritage Classic are two distinct and special occasions where the sport of ice hockey takes place outside the indoor arena. The annual Winter Classic as an annual event started in 2008 and holds approximately twice the number of spectators.
30. The response to 2008’s Winter Classic was so positive that it inspired the re-institution of the Heritage Classic where Montreal Canadiens would play the Calgary Flames in February. This was the first staging of the Heritage Classic since 2003 when Montreal played against Edmonton Oilers.
31. The average player records at best up to 3 points per game. So, in 1976, when Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs racked up 10 points in a single game, he went down in hockey history. He scored 5 points on February 6, 1976, along with 5 assists in his team’s game against the Boston Bruins.
32. Speaking of records, Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins, was the first player in the NHL to record 100 points in a single season. He achieved this feat in 1969.
33. The most NHL records held by any player is 61. This record of the records is held by the legendary Wayne Gretzky.
34. Hockey is one of the fastest moving sports around. While it may feel like some sports stop for everything (Hey NFL), Hockey is divided into three 20-minute periods during which players are moving at top speed up, down, and around the ice, firing shots with speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.
35. In addition to being fast-moving, the average NHL season is long with the average team playing a total of 82 games a year at a rate of three to four times a week. No wonder hockey always seems to be on.
36. A win is a win is a win. Alexander Wennberg scored an often talked about goal by squatting behind the goal until the puck which got inadvertently lodged into his pants fell out. He then went on to score a goal that counted.
37. Another legendary goal was by Philadephia Flyers’ goalie Ron Hextall who became the first goaltender to score a goal in the opposing team’s net.
38. The NHL’s shortest player was Roy Woters who was only 5 feet, 3 inches tall. He played a total of 484 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Americans as goaltender. He was an active player between the years 1925 and 1937.
39. From the shortest to the tallest, the tallest player in the NHL history is Zdeno Chara. He was a defenseman who first played for the New York Islanders in 1996. He has since played for the Boston Bruins, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2011. He has a total of 500 career points, has played more than 1000 games, and is 6 feet, 9 inches tall (and almost 7 feet when wearing his skates).
40. Hockey is a full-contact sport that is not for the faint-hearted or the weak. Players must be able to endure realities like being thrown into the board and having open ice checks headed in their direction. They also have to be willing to bodily block shots from fast moving pucks and accept that they could break bones and lose teeth by the end of any given game. Yikes!
41. In addition to enduring the full-contact nature of their sport, NHL players must also be aware that the game can become volatile. It is simply not uncommon for NHL players to come to blows. Who can blame them, really? With all that adrenaline and physical contact, tempers are bound to flare.
42. Most NHL fights result from ‘taking one for the team.’ That is, an enforcer may stand up for a team member he felt took an unnecessary hit. In other cases, a player may simply start a fight is his team needs a wake-up call after falling behind. Sometimes, all the players from both teams simply opt to square off.
43. Ice Hockey is great for weight loss — sort of. In an average ice hockey game, players can lose an average of about 5 to 10 pounds of mostly water weight. It is for this reason that players must stay hydrated and full with lots of protein and hydrating liquids — all of which are usually available to them on the bench and in the dressing room. Talk about intense.
44. The team The Anaheim Ducks were named after the Disney Hockey movie, The Mighty Ducks (one of our personal favorites too). The team was founded in 1993, one year after the movie which was released in 1992.
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