Ice hockey is the official, national winter sport of Canada, and is immensely popular and celebrated year-round. Canada is home to seven National Hockey League teams, and this wintery sport is a countrywide favourite. No matter what time of year you visit Canada, you will experience everything from ice hockey memorabilia to game-win celebrations. Be able to join in the fun with help from Cover-More’s guide on everything you need to know about ice hockey.

About the sport

Ice hockey is a contact, team sport played on ice, usually in an indoor rink, in which two teams of skaters play with designated hockey sticks with the aim of shooting a rubber puck into their opponent’s net to score points. Games consist of three 20 minute periods, with 15 minute intermissions. This fast-paced, very physical sport is most popular in Canada, the northern United States and Europe—not coincidentally where there is ice in the winter

Ice hockey is beloved in Canada, not only because of its origins, but because this sport is so incredibly entertaining. Watching bulky players dressed in layers of padding and towering on thin ice skates, rapidly skating from one end of the rink to the other in hopes of reaching the puck, and consistently throwing one another into the sideboards makes for a great night. Between the aggression, fast-pace, and lively crowds, an ice hockey game is a thriller with a resilient following.

History

Ice Hockey is evolved from the simple stick and ball games that were played in the United Kingdom during the 18th and 19th centuries. These games were brought to North America, and in Canada, the contemporary sport of ice hockey was developed. Ice hockey became most popular in Montreal, where the first indoor ice hockey game was played on March 3, 1875 at Victoria Skating Rink.

It only makes sense that since Canada developed the sport, this country is also the founder of the National Hockey League (NHL). The NHL was organized on November 26, 1917 in Montreal. It is no wonder why ice hockey is a favourite past time in Canada, since this North American region is the birthplace of the sport.

Today, NHL teams participate in 82 games during their regular season; 41 games each at home and on the road. The regular season runs from October through mid-April, and depending on their record at the end of their regular season, they may be invited to play in the postseason. The postseason is otherwise known as the Stanley Cup playoffs, and goes from April to the beginning of June. This season is an elimination tournament, where the top two teams play each other in a best-of-seven series, and the winning team is crowned the Stanley Cup champion.

Winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate achievement for participants of the NHL. The winners keep the Cup for the year they are champions, then it is passed on to the new winners. The Cup has had some of its own adventures, for instance in 1905 when the Ottawa Senators won the championship, a player threw the Cup into the frozen Rideau Canal just for the sake of it. Another time, in 1925 when the Montreal Canadiens were on their way to celebrate their championship win, their car got a flat tire, and the Stanley Cup was left on the side of the road until the team realized they’re big trophy was missing.

Big moments

Ice Hockey is a very exciting sport and the season is full of thrilling moments. Some of these big moments deal with major rivalries between hockey teams. During the earliest days of the NHL, the league was limited strictly to Central Canada, and all the cities in the league were in close proximity, making for bitter rivalries all around. While many of these rivalries still exist, there are also several newer rivalries that are just as intense. Here are the top rivalries among Canadian teams, and if you are venturing to Canada during hockey season—these are the games to buy tickets for:

Aside from the extreme, historic hockey rivalries, the Stanley Cup playoffs is one of the most major moments during the NHL season. This playoff tournament decides who will be the champion for that season. While tickets can definitely get pricey, these games are some of the most entertaining and lively of the entire season. You can be amidst the die hard fans decked out in their favourite team’s colours and apparel while the last two teams fight for the champion title of the National Hockey League.

Where to go

Canada is home to some of the best hockey cities in North America. This means there are plenty of venues to watch the games from a bleacher seat, and just as many lively bars and restaurants to view a hockey throw down over a dish of Canada’s beloved poutine. Here are some of the best places to get a glimpse of Canadian hockey:

Belle Centre

The Belle Centre is where the Montreal Canadiens call home and is a historical landmark. The home team is thought of as one of the most successful teams in the NHL, and their arena is considered one of the most storied buildings in hockey history since the Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cup Championships.

The Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame was established in 1943 in Toronto and is the ultimate hockey shrine for any diehard fan. This hockey destination is home to all the greats and has over 370 inductees including players, builders and officials. In addition, there are films and an extensive research centre for those looking to study the game’s history. If ice hockey game tickets are not in your budget, the next best thing is the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Air Canada Centre

The Toronto Maple Leafs play at the Air Canada Centre and annually duke it out with their Montreal rival to take home the title of ‘mecca of the hockey world’. However, considering this venue is right next door the NHL Hall of Fame, many loyal fans think this hockey city easily deserves the winning title.

Shark Club

Shark Clubs can be found all across Canada, but their Alberta location is the only establishment to ever win ‘Best Sports Bar in Canada’ twice in a row. This bar is a man cave institution, and one of the top locations to watch a hockey game at. With massive television screens and state-of-the-art surround sound on top of the very rowdy crowd, it is easy to mistake the Shark Club for the actual game.

Rogers Arena

Rogers Arena is one of the most well-done and nicest hockey venues in Canada, and this is especially since it was refurbished due to hosting the ice hockey events at the 2010 Olympics. Home to Vancouver Canucks, and a gathering spot for all their loyal fans, this hockey arena is rowdy, loud and wild on game night. This ice hockey attraction is one of the many great things to do in Vancouver, Canada.

Get your fill of Canada’s favourite past-time but buying tickets to an ice hockey game or visiting some of the most cherished hockey destinations in the region. Either way, enjoy your hockey experiences with a stress-free mind by not having to worry about travel insurance being covered in case of any travel accidents.

Image courtesy of Flickr user s.yume; cropped from original