Ice hockey is played in three periods of twenty minutes and six players from each side attempt to get the puck in the back of the net as many times as possible. A team consists of the goaltender, a defensive line of two players, and an attacking line of three. Generally speaking, these lines are combinations of players who combine well. Hence, instead of substituting an individual, an entire line is replaced when fresh legs are required.
Ice hockey is a full contact sport. Pushing, shoving and barging are part and parcel of the game, and legal as long as one does not approach from behind. The line is drawn at elbowing, tripping, attacks to the head, and “boarding” – where a player facing the white boards and protective glass surrounding the pitch is propelled violently into them – all of which incur a two minute penalty in the sin-bin. When this happens, the other team is said to be in “power play” as they have more players on the pitch.
“Roughing” is also a minor offence when a player strikes another player or when a goalkeeper uses his equipment to punch an opponent. Full on fisticuffs leads to a five minute penalty, and in the National Hockey League (NHL) fights are sometimes started deliberately by a team’s most aggressive attacking line in order to create momentum or take out a particularly skilled opponent.
Unsurprisingly, this is considered a dangerous sport. Despite extensive padding and helmets used, a combination of razor sharp blades, 30mph speeds, and the freedom to ram into whomever one chooses ensures that injuries are more than common (a quick YouTube search will proves this).
There is nothing but an awe-stricken respect for the Cambridge Blues team, the Women’s Blues and the Eskimos (the “B” team – why not get involved?), who travel all the way to Peterborough every Sunday evening to train. The Cambridge-Oxford Varsity match is a long standing rivalry and last year outgoing captain Thor Richardson led the team to a decisive victory. In fact, for the first time in history, all three Cambridge teams won their Varsity matches last year. Here’s to another year of success!