While there are 66 total members of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States have finished in most of the coveted 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at IIHF World Championships. Of the 63 medals awarded in men's competition at the Olympic level from 1920 on, only six did not go to the one of those countries, or a former entity thereof, such as Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union. Only one of those six medals was above bronze. Those seven nations have also captured 162 of 177 medals awarded at 59 non-Olympic IIHF World Championships, and all medals since 1954. Likewise, all nine Olympic and 27 IIHF World Women Championships medals have gone to one of those seven countries.
Games between teams hitting an object with curved sticks have been played throughout history; 4000 year-old drawings at the huge tombs in Egypt depict a sport resembling field hockey. The 1366 Statutes of Kilkenny in Ireland mentions "the plays which men call horlings, with great sticks and a ball upon the ground, from which great evils and maims have arisen", which was forbidden so that men would be fit and able to defend the land. The 1527 Galway Statutes, also in Ireland, made reference to "the horlinge of the litill balle with hockie stickes or staves." The etymology of the word hockey is uncertain. It may derive from the Old French word hoquet, shepherd's crook, or from the Middle Dutch word hokkie, meaning shack or doghouse, which in popular use meant goal. Many of these games were developed for fields, though where conditions allowed they were also played on ice. Seventeenth century Dutch paintings show townsfolk playing a hockey-like game on a frozen canal.
European immigrants brought various versions of hockey-like games to North America, such as the Irish sport of hurling, the closely-related Scottish sport of shinty, and versions of field hockey played in England. Where necessary these seem to have been adapted for icy conditions; for example, a colonial Williamsburg newspaper records hockey being played in a snow storm in Virginia. Early paintings show "shinney", an early form of hockey with no standard rules, being played in Nova Scotia. Author Thomas Chandler Haliburton wrote in a book of fiction, about boys from King's College School in Windsor, Nova Scotia, playing "hurley on the ice" when he was a student there around 1800 (Haliburton was born in 1796). To this day, "Shinny" (derived from Shinty) is a popular Canadian term for an informal type of hockey, either on ice or as street hockey. These early games may have also absorbed the physically aggressive aspects of what the Mi'kmaq Aboriginal First Nation in Nova Scotia called dehuntshigwa'es (lacrosse).
In 1825 Sir John Franklin wrote that "The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport" while on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. In 1843 a British Army officer in Kingston, Ontario, wrote "Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice." A Boston Evening Gazette article from 1859 makes reference to an early game of hockey on ice occurring in Halifax in that year.
The first recorded hockey games were played by British soldiers stationed in Kingston and Halifax during the mid 1850s. In the early 1870s, the first known set of ice hockey rules were drawn up by students at Montreal's McGill University. These rules established the number of players per side to 9 and replaced the ball with a square puck.
Based on Haliburton's writings, there have been claims that modern ice hockey originated in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and was named after an individual, as in 'Colonel Hockey's game'. Proponents of this theory claim that the surname Hockey exists in the district surrounding Windsor. In 1943, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association declared Kingston the birthplace of hockey, based on a recorded 1886 game played between students of Queen's University and the Royal Military College of Canada.
The Society for International Hockey Research has had an "origins of hockey" committee studying this debate since 2001 and they defined hockey as: "a game played on an ice rink in which two opposing teams of skaters, using curved sticks, try to drive a small disc, ball or block into or through the opposite goals."
The committee found evidence of stick and ball games played on ice on skates in Europe in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, and viewed these activities as being more indicative of a hockey-like game than Haliburton’s reference.
They found no evidence in the Windsor position of a connection from whatever form of hockey might have been played at Long Pond to the game played elsewhere and to modern hockey. The committee viewed as conjecture the assertion that King’s schoolboys introduced the game to Halifax. They noted that the assertion that hockey was not played outside Nova Scotia until 1865 overlooks diary evidence of shinny and hockey being played at Kingston in the 1840s.
The committee concluded that Dr. Vaughan and the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society had not offered credible evidence that Windsor, Nova Scotia, is the birthplace of hockey.
The committee offered no opinion on the birth date or birthplace of hockey, but took note of a game at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink on March 3, 1875. This is the earliest eyewitness account known to the committee of a specific game of hockey in a specific place at a specific time, and with a recorded score, between two identified teams.
According to the Society for International Hockey Research, the word puck is derived from the Scottish and Gaelic word "puc" or the Irish word "poc", meaning to poke, punch or deliver a blow. This definition is explained in a book published in 1910 entitled "English as we Speak it in Ireland" by P.W. Joyce. It defines the word puck as "… The blow given by a hurler to the ball with his caman or hurley is always called a puck".
The foundation of the modern game centres on Montreal. On March 3, 1875 the first organized indoor game was played at Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink by James George Aylwin Creighton and several McGill University students. In 1877, several McGill students, including Creighton, Henry Joseph, Richard F. Smith, W.F. Robertson, and W.L. Murray codified seven ice hockey rules. The first ice hockey club, McGill University Hockey Club, was founded in 1877 followed by the Montreal Victorias, organized in 1881. The game became so popular that the first "world championship" of ice hockey was featured in Montreal's annual Winter Carnival in 1883 and the McGill team captured the "Carnival Cup". In 1886, the teams which competed at the Winter Carnival would organize the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada(AHAC) league.
In Europe, it is believed that in 1885 the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club was formed to play the first Ice Hockey Varsity Match against traditional rival Cambridge in St. Moritz, Switzerland, although this is undocumented. This match was won by the Oxford Dark Blues, 6-0. The first photographs and team lists date from 1895. This continues to be the oldest hockey rivalry in history.
In 1888, the new Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, whose sons and daughter became hockey enthusiasts, attended the Montreal Winter Carnival tournament and was impressed with the hockey spectacle. In 1892, recognizing that there was no recognition for the best team in all of Canada, (various leagues had championship trophies) he purchased a decorative bowl for use as a trophy. The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, which later became more famously known as the Stanley Cup, was first awarded in 1893 to the Montreal HC, champions of the AHAC. It continues to be awarded today to the National Hockey League's championship team.
By 1893, there were almost a hundred teams in Montreal alone, and leagues throughout Canada. Winnipeg hockey players had incorporated cricket pads to better protect the goaltender's legs. They also introduced the "scoop" shot, later known as the wrist shot.
1893 also saw the first ice hockey matches in the U.S., at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. Amateur Hockey League was founded in New York City in 1896, and the first professional team, the Portage Lake hockey club was formed in 1903 in Houghton, Michigan (although there had been individual professionals in Canada before this).
The five sons of Lord Stanley were instrumental in bringing ice hockey to Europe, beating a court team (which included both the future Edward VII and George V) at Buckingham Palace in 1895. By 1903 a five-team league had been founded. The Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace was founded in 1908 to govern international competitions, and the first European championships were won by Great Britain in 1910. In the mid-20th century, the Ligue became the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Professional ice hockey has existed since before World War I. From the first professional ice hockey league based out of Houghton, Michigan in the United States, it quickly grew into Canada and in many other countries, including Switzerland, Ukraine, Great Britain and Austria.
Ice hockey is played on a hockey rink. During normal play, there are six players, including one goaltender, per side on the ice at any time, each of whom is on ice skates. The objective of the game is to score goals by shooting a hard vulcanized rubber disc, the puck, into the opponent's goal net, which is placed at the opposite end of the rink. The players may control the puck using a long stick with a blade that is commonly curved at one end.
Players may also redirect the puck with any part of their bodies, subject to certain restrictions. Players can angle their feet so the puck can redirect into the net, but there can be no kicking motion. Players may not intentionally bat the puck into the net with their hands.
Hockey is an "offside" game, meaning that forward passes are allowed, unlike in rugby. Before the 1930s hockey was an onside game, meaning that only backward passes were allowed. The period of the onside game was the golden age of stick-handling, which was of prime importance in moving the game forward. With the arrival of offside rules, the forward pass transformed hockey into a truly team sport, where individual heroics diminished in importance relative to team play, which could now be coordinated over the entire surface of the ice as opposed to merely rearward players.
The five players other than the goaltender are typically divided into three forwards and two defencemen. The forward positions consist of a centre and two wingers: a left wing and a right wing. Forwards often play together as units or lines, with the same three forwards always playing together. The defencemen usually stay together as a pair, but may change less frequently than the forwards. A substitution of an entire unit at once is called a line change. Teams typically employ alternate sets of forward lines and defensive pairings when shorthanded or on a power play. Substitutions are permitted at any time during the course of the game, although during a stoppage of play the home team is permitted the final change. When players are substituted during play, it is called changing on the fly. A new NHL rule added in the 2005-2006 season prevents a team from changing their line after they ice the puck.
The boards surrounding the ice help keep the puck in play and they can also be used as tools to play the puck. The referees, linesmen and the outsides of the goal are "in play" and do not cause a stoppage of the game when the puck or players are influenced (by either bouncing or colliding) into them. Play can be stopped if the goal is knocked out of position. Play often proceeds for minutes without interruption. When play is stopped, it is restarted with a faceoff. Two players "face" each other and an official drops the puck to the ice, where the two players attempt to gain control of the puck.
There are three major rules of play in ice hockey that limit the movement of the puck: offsides, icing, and the puck going out of play. The puck goes "out of play" whenever it goes past the perimeter of the ice rink (onto the player benches, over the "glass", or onto the protective netting above the glass) and a stoppage of play should be called by the officials. It also does not matter if the puck comes back onto to the ice surface from those areas as the puck is considered dead once it leaves the perimeter of the rink.
Under IIHF rules, each team may carry a maximum of 20 players and two goaltenders on their roster. NHL rules restrict the total number of players per game to 18 plus two goaltenders.
For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the penalty box and his team has to play without him and with one less skater for a short amount of time. Most penalties last for two minutes unless a major penalty has been assessed. The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing shorthanded while the other team is on the power play.
A two-minute minor penalty is often called for lesser infractions such as tripping, elbowing, roughing, high-sticking, too many players on the ice, illegal equipment, charging (leaping into an opponent or body-checking him after taking more than two strides), holding, interference, delay of game, hooking, or cross-checking. In the 2005-06 NHL season, a minor is also assessed for diving, where a player embellishes a hook or trip. More egregious fouls of this type may be penalized by a four-minute double-minor penalty, particularly those which (inadvertently) cause injury to the victimized player. These penalties end either when the time runs out or the other team scores on the power play. In the case of a goal scored during the first two minutes of a double-minor, the penalty clock is set down to two minutes upon a score (effectively expiring the first minor). Five-minute major penalties are called for especially violent instances of most minor infractions that result in intentional injury to an opponent, as well as for fighting. Major penalties are always served in full; they do not terminate on a goal scored by the other team. The foul of 'boarding', defined as "check[ing] an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards" by the NHL Rulebook is penalized either by a minor or major penalty at the discretion of the referee, based on the violence of the hit. A minor or major penalty for "Boarding" is also often assessed when a player checks an opponent from behind and into the boards.
Some varieties of penalties do not always require the offending team to play a man short. Five-minute major penalties in the NHL usually result from fighting. In the case of two players being assessed five-minute fighting majors, they both serve five minutes without their team incurring a loss of player (both teams still have a full complement of players on the ice). This differs with two players from opposing sides getting minor penalties, at the same time or at any intersecting moment, resulting from more common infractions. In that case, both teams will have only four skating players (not counting the goaltender) until one or both penalties expire (if one expires before the other, the opposing team gets a power play for the remainder); this applies regardless of current pending penalties, though in the NHL, a team always has at least three skaters on the ice. Ten-minute misconduct penalties are served in full by the penalized player, but his team may immediately substitute another player on the ice unless a minor or major penalty is assessed in conjunction with the misconduct (a two-and-ten or five-and-ten). In that case, the team designates another player to serve the minor or major; both players go to the penalty box, but only the designee may not be replaced, and he is released upon the expiration of the two or five minutes, at which point the ten-minute misconduct begins. In addition, game misconducts are assessed for deliberate intent to inflict severe injury on an opponent (at the officials' discretion), or for a major penalty for a stick infraction or repeated major penalties. The offending player is ejected from the game and must immediately leave the playing surface (he does not sit in the penalty box); meanwhile, if a minor or major is assessed in addition, a designated player must serve out that segment of the penalty in the box (similar to the above-mentioned "two-and-ten").
A player who is tripped, or illegally obstructed in some way, by an opponent on a breakaway – when there are no defenders except the goaltender between him and the opponent's goal – is awarded a penalty shot, an attempt to score without opposition from any defenders except the goaltender. A penalty shot is also awarded for a defender other than the goaltender covering the puck in the goal crease, a goaltender intentionally displacing his own goal posts during a breakaway in order to avoid a goal, a defender intentionally displacing his own goal posts when there is less than two minutes to play in regulation time or at any point during overtime, or a player or coach intentionally throwing a stick or other object at the puck or the puck carrier and the throwing action disrupts a shot or pass play.
Officials also stop play for puck movement violations, such as using one's hands to pass the puck in the offensive end, but no players are penalized for these offences. The sole exceptions are deliberately falling on or gathering the puck to the body, carrying the puck in the hand, and shooting the puck out of play in one's defensive zone (all penalized two minutes for delay of game).
A new penalty in the NHL applies to the goalies. The goalies now are unable to play the puck in the "corners" of the rink near their own net. This will result in a two-minute penalty against the goalie's team. The area immediately behind the net is the only area behind the net in which the goalie can play the puck.
An additional rule that is not a penalty in the new NHL is the two line offside passes. There are no more two-line offside pass whistles blown. Now players are able to pass to teammates who are more than the blue and centre ice red line away.
The NHL has taken steps to speed the game of hockey up and create a game of finesse, by retreating from the past where illegal hits, fights, and "clutching and grabbing" among players was commonplace. Rules are now much more strictly enforced resulting in more infractions being penalized which in turn provides more protection to the players and allows for more goals to be scored.
There are many infractions for which a player may be assessed a penalty. The governing body for United States amateur hockey has implemented many new rules to reduce the number stick-on-body occurrences, as well as other detrimental and illegal facets of the game ("Zero Tolerance").
In men's hockey, but not in women's, a player may use his hip or shoulder to hit another player if the player has the puck or is the last to have touched it. This use of the hip and shoulder is called body checking. Not all physical contact is legal — in particular, hits from behind and most types of forceful stick-on-body contact are illegal.
A typical game of ice hockey has two to four officials on the ice, charged with enforcing the rules of the game. There are typically two linesmen who are responsible only for calling offside and icing violations, and one or two referees, who call goals and all other penalties. Linesmen can, however, report to the referee(s) that a penalty more severe than a two-minute minor penalty should be assessed against an offending player, or when a too many men on the ice infraction occurs. On-ice officials are assisted by off-ice officials who act as goal judges, time keepers, and official scorers.
The most wide-spread system in use today is the 3-man system, that features one referee and two linesmen. With the first being the National Hockey League, a number of leagues have started to implement the 4-official system, where an additional referee is added to aid in the calling of penalties normally difficult to assess by one single referee. The system has proven quite successful in the NHL and the IIHF have adopted it for the World Championships, slightly discussed during the 2008 World Championships in Quebec City and Halifax, Canada. Many other leagues are adopting the system for the next season, which only downside at the moment is the increased cost for the leagues.
Officials are selected by the league for which they work. Amateur hockey leagues use guidelines established by national organizing bodies as a basis for choosing their officiating staffs. In North America, the national organizing bodies Hockey Canada and USA Hockey approve officials according to their experience level as well as their ability to pass rules knowledge and skating ability tests. Hockey Canada has officiating levels I through VI. USA Hockey has officiating levels 1 through 4.
An important defensive tactic is checking – attempting to take the puck from an opponent or to remove the opponent from play. Forechecking is checking in the other team's zone; backchecking is checking while the other team is advancing down the ice toward one's own goal. These terms usually are applied to checking by forwards. Stick checking, sweep checking, and poke checking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. Body checking is using one's shoulder or hip to strike an opponent who has the puck or who is the last to have touched it (within a short period of time after possession; usually less than three seconds). Often the term checking is used to refer to body checking, with its true definition generally only propagated among fans of the game.
Offensive tactics include improving a team's position on the ice by advancing the puck out of one's zone towards the opponent's zone, progressively by gaining lines, first your own blue line, then the red line and finally the opponent's blue line. NHL rules instated for the 2006 season redefined icing to make the two-line pass legal; a player may pass the puck from behind his own blue line, past both that blue line and the centre red line, to a player in front of the opponents' blue line. In fact, an errant pass that would normally result in an icing call is negated if the player for whom the pass was intended gains possession of the puck before it crosses the opponents' goal line; thus a "three-line pass" can be attempted with a fast forward as long as an offsides is not committed. Offensive tactics are designed ultimately to score a goal by taking a shot. When a player purposely directs the puck towards the opponent's goal, he or she is said to shoot the puck.
A deflection is a shot which redirects a shot or a pass towards the goal from another player, by allowing the puck to strike the stick and carom towards the goal. A one-timer is a shot which is struck directly off a pass, without receiving the pass and shooting in two separate actions. A deke (short for decoy) is a feint with the body and/or stick to fool a defender or the goalie. Headmanning the puck, also known as cherry-picking or breaking out, is the tactic of rapidly passing to the player farthest down the ice.
A team that is losing by one or two goals in the last few minutes of play will often elect to pull the goalie; that is, removing the goaltender and replacing him or her with an extra attacker on the ice in the hope of gaining enough advantage to score a goal. However, it is an act of desperation, as it sometimes leads to the opposing team extending their lead by scoring a goal in the empty net.
A delayed penalty call occurs when a penalty offense is committed by the team that does not have possession of the puck. In this circumstance the team with possession of the puck is allowed to complete the play; that is, play continues until a goal is scored, the puck is shot, stopped and controlled by the opposing goalie, a player on the opposing team gains control of the puck, or the team in possession commits an infraction or penalty of their own. Because the team on which the penalty was called cannot control the puck without stopping play, it is impossible for them to score a goal, however, it is possible for controlling team to mishandle the puck into their own net. In these cases the team in possession of the puck can pull the goalie for an extra attacker without fear of being scored on. If a delayed penalty is signaled and the team in possession scores, the penalty is still assessed to the offending player, but not served.
Although it is officially prohibited in the rules, at the professional level in North America fights are sometimes used to affect morale of the teams, with aggressors hoping to demoralize the opposing players while exciting their own, as well as settling personal scores. Both players in an altercation receive five-minute major penalties for fighting. The player deemed to be the "instigator" of an NHL fight, if one is determined to exist, is penalized an additional two minutes for instigating, plus a ten-minute misconduct penalty. If there is no instigator, both players stay in the penalty box for five minutes, and neither team loses skaters. They point to less extreme on-ice violence during the era before the rule was introduced. Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe famously observed that "If you can't beat 'em in the alley you can't beat 'em on the ice.
The Neutral zone trap:
The trap is designed to isolate the puck carrier in the neutral zone preventing him from entering the offensive zone. In youth hockey development of the neutral zone trap often begins with the left wing lock. In this tactic the left wing plays in the normal position of the left defence men while in the offensive zone. The left defenceman then moves to the centre. The centre and right wing chase the puck. When the opposing team gains control of the puck, the defencemen and the left wing pull out and set a two man trap along the boards. The left or right wing available, backs up the trap while the centre and right wing pursuit and try to get in front of the play further blocking the offensive attack.
Various procedures are used if a game is tied. In tournament play, as well as in the NHL playoffs, North Americans favour sudden death overtime, in which the teams continue to play twenty minute periods until a goal is scored. Up until the 1999-2000 season regular season NHL games were settled with a single five minute sudden death period with five players (plus a goalie) per side, with the winner awarded two points in the standings and the loser no points. In the event of a tie (if the overtime was scoreless), each team was awarded one point. From 1999-2000 until 2003-04 the National Hockey League decided ties by playing a single five minute sudden death overtime period with each team having four players (plus a goalie) per side to "open-up" the game. In the event of a tie, each team would still receive one point in the standings but in the event of a victory the winning team would be awarded two points in the standings and the losing team one point. The only exception to this rule is if a team opts to pull their goalie in exchange for an extra skater during overtime and is subsequently scored upon (an 'Empty Net' goal), in which case the losing team receives no points for the overtime loss. International play and several North American professional leagues, including the NHL (in the regular season), now use an overtime period followed by a penalty shootout. If the score remains tied after an extra overtime period, the subsequent shootout consists of three players from each team taking penalty shots. After these six total shots, the team with the most goals is awarded the victory. If the score is still tied, the shootout then proceeds to a sudden death format. Regardless of the number of goals scored during the shootout by either team, the final score recorded will award the winning team one more goal than the score at the end of regulation time. In the NHL if a game is decided by a shootout the winning team is awarded two points in the standings and the losing team is awarded one point. Ties no longer occur in the NHL.
The chief difference between women's and men's ice hockey is that body checking is not allowed in women's ice hockey. After the 1990 Women's World Championship, body checking was eliminated because female players in many countries do not have the size and mass seen in North American players. In current IIHF women's competition, body checking is either a minor or major penalty, decided at the referee's discretion.
In addition, players in women's competition are required to wear protective full-face masks.
One woman, Manon Rhéaume, appeared as a goaltender for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in preseason games against the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, and in 2003 Hayley Wickenheiser played with the Kirkkonummi Salamat in the Finnish men's Suomi-sarja league. Several women have competed in North American minor leagues, including goaltenders Charline Labonté, Kelly Dyer, Erin Whitten, Manon Rhéaume, and defenceman Angela Ruggiero.
Sledge hockey is a form of ice hockey designed for players with physical disabilities affecting their lower bodies. Players sit on double-bladed sledges and use two sticks; each stick has a blade at one end and small picks at the other. Players use the sticks to pass, stickhandle and shoot the puck, and to propel their sledges. The rules are very similar to IIHF ice hockey rules.
Canada is a recognized international leader in the development of the sport, and of equipment for players. Much of the equipment for the sport was first developed in Canada, such as sledge hockey sticks laminated with fiberglass, as well as aluminum shafts with hand carved insert blades and special aluminum sledges with regulation skate blades.
Pond hockey is a form of ice hockey played generally as pick-up hockey on lakes and ponds. Pond hockey rules differ from traditional hockey, placing a greater emphasis on skating abilities. Since 2002, the World Pond Hockey Championship has been played in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Canada.
The annual men's Ice Hockey World Championships are more highly regarded by Europeans than North Americans because they coincide with the Stanley Cup playoffs. Consequently, Canada, the United States, and other countries with large numbers of NHL players have not always been able to field their best possible teams because many of their top players are playing for the Stanley Cup. Furthermore, for many years professionals were barred from play. Now that many Europeans play in the NHL, the world championships no longer represent all of the world's top players.
Hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1924 (and at the summer games in 1920). Canada won six of the first seven gold medals, except in 1936 when Great Britain won. The United States won their first gold medal in 1960. The USSR won all but two Olympic ice hockey gold medals from 1956 to 1988 and won a final time as the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. U.S. amateur college players defeated the heavily favored Soviet squad on the way to winning the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics - an event known as the "Miracle on ice" in the United States. Since the 1998 games in Nagano all top players from the NHL have been able to take part and nowadays Winter Olympics games are the most highly regarded international tournament by ice hockey fans.
The 1972 Summit Series and 1974 Summit Series, established Canada and the USSR as a major international ice hockey rivalry. It was followed by five Canada Cup tournaments, where the best players from every hockey nation could play, and two exhibition series, the 1979 Challenge Cup and Rendez-vous '87 where the best players from the NHL played the USSR. The Canada Cup tournament later became the World Cup of Hockey, played in 1996 and 2004. The United States won in 1996 and Canada won in 2004.
There have been nine women's world championships, beginning in 1990. Women's hockey has been played at the Olympics since 1998. The 2006 Winter Olympic final between Canada and Sweden marked the first women's world championship or Olympic final that did not involve both Canada and the United States
The Heritage Classic was an outdoor ice hockey game played on November 22, 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It set the record for most viewers of a single NHL game with 2.747 million nationwide.
The largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game was during the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic when 71,000 people watched the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Buffalo Sabres. The game was held at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is the Buffalo Bills home stadium in Orchard Park, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, on January 1, 2008. This was the first NHL game held outdoors in the United States. The Penguins scored the first goal within the first 20 seconds of the game. The Sabres then scored in the 2nd period to tie the game. The game went into overtime and the Penguins ended up winning during a shoot out on a goal by Sidney Crosby. Both teams wore throwback jerseys - the Penguins donning the powder blue jerseys from the 70s and the Sabres old-logo jerseys from the same era. The game was easily a success from a PR and Hockey standpoint for the NHL despite the cold temperatures and snow.
Previously, this record was held by the Heritage Classic, an outdoor NHL game taking place in Commonwealth Stadium of Edmonton, Alberta, on November 22, 2003. The event involved a regular-season matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. An old-timers game, referred to as the MegaStars game, was played prior to the regular-season match, and featured an alumni of Oilers playing against a squad of former Canadiens. This is the only NHL alumni game in which Wayne Gretzky has played since retiring, and he maintains it will be the last.
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