What's Hockey?

In preparation for the resumption of the long-delayed season, we've compiled a brief refresher on "hockey."

"Hock-ee"?

Ice hockey, the the sport which resumes today in North America, was played in non-frozen form as far back as 4,000 years ago and all the over world, ranging from Egypt to Mongolia, according to Wikipedia.

What's Hockey?

Today it exists as field hockey, ice hockey, and the kind where you wear rollerblades. Ice hockey, the version that matters (relatively speaking), is played on a frozen "rink" made of "ice" and uses a "puck" that must be hit with "sticks" into a "net." There are six players on either side at any given time—one, who tends the net, is called the "net-tender" and if players commit penalties, they get sent to a box, known as the "hockey prison" or "ice box."

A puck is like a ball?

Sure.

Who plays hockey?

Mostly the Canadian and Russian equivalent of what we would call "farm-boys," though there are no farms in those places, only ice. When young men from Canada and Russia aren't politely agreeing or filming insane traffic accidents, respectively, they play hockey, and lots of it. Sometimes they're large and gap-toothed, sometimes they're lithe and delicate. Sometimes they even hail from places in America, like California, and sometimes they come from from toxic-waste dumps in Siberia. It's a colorful group! (Not literally.)

What's Hockey?

Russia.

And they just randomly get together to play whenever the mood strikes?

Not if they want to make millions of dollars doing it—that's why we have the National Hockey League, or NHL, which organizes games between its 30 teams, except when it fails to do that, as it did in the 2004-05 season, and as it had during this season to date. There are two teams in Florida!

Why did they stop playing?

Because the league was making too much money, oddly enough, and they couldn't figure out how to split up the surplus.

So they're playing a little more than half a season. What will be the differences this year?

Well, the date of the Winter Classic already came and went, so that's off the table. You don't know what that is? Forget it. Basically, the big difference this year is in travel and interconference play, or lack thereof. Teams will only face other teams within their own conference, which means they travel less, so as not to strain deadlines during the compacted season. That will effect the relatively spread out Western Conference more than the relatively cozy Eastern Conference. Some teams in the Eastern Conference (Devils, Rangers, Islanders and Flyers) will need to move 15,000 miles or less for their various road games this season; some teams in the West will have to travel over 27,000.

When will they start playing again?

Like, 30 minutes from now. Here's today schedule (times EST):

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia 3:00 PM | NBC
Ottawa at Winnipeg 3:00 PM | CBC
Chicago at Los Angeles 3:00 PM | NBC
NY Rangers at Boston 7:00 PM | MSG/NHLN
Toronto at Montreal 7:00 PM | CBC
New Jersey at NY Islanders 7:00 PM | MSGP/MSGP
Washington at Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Carolina at Florida 7:30 PM | FSCR/FSFL
Detroit at St. Louis 8:00 PM | FSD/FSMW
Columbus at Nashville 8:00 PM | FXOH/FSS-M
Phoenix at Dallas 8:00 PM | FXAZ/FXSW
Colorado at Minnesota 9:00 PM | ALTITUDE SPORTS/FXNO
Anaheim at Vancouver 10:00 PM | CBC

Great. Anything else I need to know?

Probably! But you'll pick it up, or try to briefly and then lose interest. Welcome back, hockey.