This winter, as in so many winters past, more than two million people will file into four arenas in the U.S. and two in Canada to watch the strange, violent sport of ice hockey as performed by the padded acrobats of the National Hockey League. Hockey is fast, hockey is harsh, hockey is cruel and comical; a game of sticks and stitches, bruises and pratfalls. The best hockey in the world is played in this six-team league, because the best skaters, the sharpest shooters, the quickest goalies, the toughest professionals that can be found man the rosters. Although the game idolizes its stars and superstars, Canadian city fathers naming streets after them in bursts of civic pride and youngsters north of the border dutifully drowning their flapjacks in the kind of corn syrup that is endorsed by one of their heroes, the spectator, by and large, goes to watch hockey for the game—the single performance that is presented in three 20-minute acts 210 different times a year. In his mind is the hope that maybe tonight, maybe right in front of him, there will be one of those fierce fights for which hockey is so famous. But the spectator is also attracted by the subtle skills hidden in hockey's violence. For an examination of both, turn the page.
There are three elements to scoring a goal. They are, simply, passing, shooting and eluding the defender. When all three are pieced together perfectly the applause in the arena rings loudest, and the sticks of the offense rise in a jubilant salute to the pass, to the skating, to the shot, to the team. When these elements are not in harmony, the attack dissipates. The force of a good attack is typified by the Power Shot of Montreal's Boom Boom Geoffrion (left), which is usually executed from 50 to 60 feet out. By throwing his full weight into the shot he causes it to lift off the ice and soar toward the net.
Detroit Red Wings' Gordie Howe quickly snaps off Skating Shot while moving in at top speed.
Toronto's Dickie Duff executes his Lob Shot by lifting the puck, hoping it will dribble past goalie.
Backhand Shot is sudden, precise, usually comes on rebound. Goalie cannot watch shooter's eyes.
New York's Andy Batngate is specialist with popular Slap Shot. Player stops dead, gets set and hits ice behind puck for force and lift. Disadvantages are lack of accuracy and surprise; goalie can prepare for shot.
Drop Pass is one of the most delicate maneuvers on the ice. It is not a backward pass, but one left, or dropped, by the leading man as he moves forward. He halts puck with his slick and skates on, leaving puck for trailing teammate to shoot or pass.
Confronted by defender, offensive man starts to outside, gives head-and-shoulders fake (above) to draw defensive man out and off balance. Cutting back (below), he then gels puck past defender.
Lob Pass is often used when a defender is between passer and his intended receiver. Puck is flipped over the defender's stick.