At its most basic, ice hockey is a team sport in which players try to score points by getting a puck into the opposing team’s goal. Oh yeah, and they are doing it with a stick! Whether you’re thinking about trying out or you’re trying to settle a debate with your crazy uncle, you are here because you found yourself wondering, is hockey hard?
Ice hockey is the second hardest sport to play, second only to boxing. Hockey players must have strength, endurance, concentration, and the ability to skate at high speed while making quick decisions.
Knowing that something is difficult should not scare you away from it completely, however, as hockey can be a fun and rewarding sport. Continue reading to learn more about the sport as well as the reasons why it’s considered one of the hardest sports.
When Was Ice Hockey Invented?
Tracing the origins of a sport can be difficult because people have been playing sports since ancient times. However, even though we cannot say for sure when or where hockey was invented, we can thank Canada for modernizing it and turning it into the sport we know and love today.
Throughout history, there have been multiple games that were played by hitting some type of object around with a stick, with the earliest known version being a game played over 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. These stick and ball games eventually evolved into similar games that were played on ice when the flooded fields froze over.
In 1872, James Creighton moved from Nova Scotia to Montreal, Canada. Among the possessions that he brought with him when he moved were ice skates, hockey sticks, and a game with some very basic rules. Eventually, in 1875, Creighton started organizing hockey practices and on March 3, 1875, the first indoor hockey game was played with students from McGill University.
Throughout the years, the game has evolved; rules have been added and changed, gear has become mandatory, safety is a much higher priority, and hockey is now an Olympic sport played by millions of people around the world.
But… What Is Hockey?
Ice hockey is a team sport in which players, on ice skates, try to score points by hitting a puck into the opposing team’s goal. While this might sound easy, hockey is anything but simple.
Hockey is played in a rink 200 feet long by 85 feet wide and features several lines that all play an important role in the game. Teams have six players, and each player holds a unique position on the ice. Players score by passing and shooting the puck while the opposing team does everything in their power to both gain control of the puck and keep the other team from scoring without getting penalties.
Learning the rules of hockey can take some time as there are several penalties that a player (and fan) will need to understand before playing or watching the game. If you want to learn more about the rules and regulations of the game, you can find a more extensive list here.
Is Hockey a Hard Sport to Play?
ESPN did a study to find out how different sports compared to one another in terms of difficulty. To do this, they assembled a panel of experts made up of sports scientists, academicians who study the science of muscle movements, star athletes, and top sports journalists. While the results are largely opinion-based, it was still interesting, and according to the study, hockey was ranked as the second hardest sport to play when compared to 60 other sports.
Each team was rated in ten categories and then sports were ranked depending on those numbers. Again, this is not a scientific study, but it is still interesting to see what a panel of experts had to say about the sport and its degree of difficulty.
|Endurance Perform a skill or action for a prolonged period.||8.63||7.25||5.38||7.75|
|Strength The ability to produce force.||8.13||7.13||8.63||4.50|
|Power Bring strength in the shortest time.||8.63||7.88||8.13||5.13|
|Speed The ability to move quickly.||6.38||7.75||7.13||7.25|
|Agility The ability to change direction quickly.||6.25||7.63||6.38||8.25|
|Flexibility Stretch joints across a wide range of motion.||4.38||4.88||4.38||4.75|
|Nerve The ability to overcome fear.||8.88||6.00||7.25||3.63|
|Durability Withstand physical punishment over a prolonged period.||8.50||8.25||8.50||6.25|
|Hand-Eye Coordination Ability to react quickly.||7.00||7.50||5.50||6.50|
|Analytic Aptitude The ability to evaluate and react appropriately to strategic situations.||5.63||7.50||7.13||7.50|
|Total Difficulty Score||72.375||71.750||68.375||61.500|
What Makes Hockey Hard?
So, if we are to believe some of the top names in sports, hockey is one of the most difficult sports to play, but what is it that makes hockey so hard?
You Have to Learn to Skate
Not only do you have to learn how to skate, which is honestly hard in itself, but you have to learn how to skate while wearing heavy equipment, at fast speeds, while 6 other people are trying to knock you over! Anyone who has spent any time ice skating knows that this is not an easy feat, and ice skating itself is a sport that can take years to master.
It Can Get Cold
Because you are playing on ice, and not slush, you will be playing in an environment that is cold enough to keep the ice, well, ice. You might be thinking, with all that moving and heavy equipment, staying warm should be a breeze, but sweating can actually cause you to become colder. Additionally, the probability of being injured rises when you are cold because your muscles contract in cool environments.
It Is Dangerous
Hockey is one of the most violent sports played in modern times, and between a rubber puck flying widely around at high speeds and people skating around on thin metal blades, it is no surprise that players often get hurt playing the sport. This becomes even more dangerous if the referees do not intervene when things begin to get out of control.
Mobility and Coordination Are a Must
During the game, there are a lot of people in a very small space, and players must be able to move quickly, efficiently, and coordinate their movements with those of the players around them. Plus, they have to do this while traveling at high speeds on ice skates.
You Have to Have Eagle Eyes
If you are looking for a laid-back sport, hockey is not the sport for you. It is a fast sport, and a lot can happen in the span of even a few seconds. Players have to be able to watch everything that is going on around them or they might take a puck, or stick, to the face.
It’s Physically Exhausting
Hockey players must have the endurance and stamina to keep up with their team, haul heavy gear around for prolonged periods of time, and take a thrashing from the opposing team. Additionally, between slapshots, body checks, and getting banged up with sticks, players often leave the rink bruised and sore.
It’s Mentally Draining
Hockey is a physically violent sport, but people often underestimate the mental toll the game has on the players. Hockey is a lot like watching a mini-war unfold on ice, with players beating the crap out of one another while following a complex set of rules and regulations. It is common to see players become so emotionally invested in the game that they last out at other players or even the referee.
Hockey has more games than any other professional sports league. While football plays 16 games a season, spread over the course of several months, hockey has 82 games, with matches being held almost every day. The player’s reward for a grueling season? Two more months of play-offs.
Learning how to skate is hard. Learning how to skate with forty pounds of gear is even harder. Learning how to skate with 40 pounds of gear while trying to learn the complex rules of hockey sounds impossible! Seriously, hockey has to have more rules than any other sports league. Even the rink is slashed with lines and circles that all mean something different.
Hockey is a hard sport to both learn to play and play because it is both mentally and physically draining. Players need to have the power and speed of a football player, the stamina of a track star, and the concentration of a chess player, and they need to have it all while skating at fast speeds and being slammed around by the opposing team. That being said, all sports are difficult in their own right, and hockey can be a fun and rewarding sport to get into.