Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What Coach's Corner Didn't Tell You

   Television evenings for me these days are the Stanley Cup games. But between the first and second periods when Don and Ron begin their inarticulate chatter on Coach's Corner my concentration slips and my mind drifts. I get to thinking about things like: who invented that black rubber hockey puck anyway?
   I’m glad I asked. There is no officially recognized answer.
   The first recorded mention of a hockey game was made by British explorer Sir John Franklin. Sir John, who before losing his way and perishing in the Arctic, wrote that his crew members exercised by playing hockey on the ice at Fort Franklin, Northwest Territories in 1825. He did not mention what they were using for a puck. Likely it was a ball, or piece of ice or a frozen musk-ox turd.
   Vulcanized rubber was invented in 1839 but rubber didn’t enter hockey until the 1880s. Cow patties, stones, balls, lumps of coal, frozen potatoes and pieces of wood all were used in the meantime.
   Balls proved too difficult to keep in the playing area. Wood was much better. Game enthusiasts began shaping the wood into squares, then rounds easily produced by cutting tree limbs.
   The Victoria Hockey Club of Montreal began using rubber pucks in the late 1880s. The first rubber pucks likely were made by cutting a rubber ball in half, then trimming the halves.
   Today the standard puck is an inch thick, three inches in diameter and weighs six ounces. They are frozen before play, which helps reduce bounce, making for better control.
   Other non-essential information you might want to have for the remaining days of Stanley Cup madness:

-       The word hockey comes from the French word hoquet, which means shepherd’s hook.
-       Hockey did not evolve from the North American Indian game of lacrosse. It evolved from the British stick and ball games of shinty, hurley or bandy.
-   No one knows for sure where the word puck came from. Probably it is derived from old Scottish and Irish puc and poc, meaning to poke or push. Makes sense. There's much pushing and poking in the game these days.

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