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Although the game of ice hockey originated in Canada, the popularity of the game has moved south. Currently, there are more than 1500 indoor ice rinks and 1000 outdoor rinks in the United States on which to play the game on. This year, more than 500,000 youth are registered with USA hockey. To play, a person must master some basic skating skills, including stopping and turning.

Hockey skates are a must. They have blades that are directly riveted to the bottom of the boot. The blades are shorter and more curved than figure skates and do not have a toe pick. Because the game involves shooting a hard rubber puck around, additional safety equipment is needed as well. Players need shin pads, padded hockey pants, elbow pads, shoulder pads, a neck guard, helmet and padded gloves along with a stick to move the puck around. To protect the teeth, players wear a mouth guard similar to the ones used in football.

This equipment can be expensive but the good news is you can find tons of used gear cheaply priced. In fact, many rinks have a closet where they will loan young players equipment to get started. My daughter and son played their first season with this used gear after a couple of seasons of hockey skating classes.

Besides skating classes, most rinks offer recreational and travel hockey opportunities. Kids who play are classified by age: Mite (8 and under), Squirt (10 and under), Pee Wee (12 and under), Bantam (14 and under), Midget Minor (16 and under), Midget Major (18 and under).

Recreational teams play other teams in the rink or surrounding rinks while travel hockey teams play across town or in other cities or even states. These teams usually consist of 15 to 20 players which includes 2 goalies.

There are 3 periods in hockey and the length of those periods depend on the age of the players. The older the player, the longer the period. In the pros, a period is 20 minutes with 20 minutes in between for a rest period. Usually youth games run about an hour with a one minute break between periods. Each team has 5 players on the ice and a goalie. Three of the players act as forwards and two stay back for defense. The game is started with a puck drop in the center of the ice. The goal is to get the puck in the opposing net. Players have to learn to quickly change out during a natural lull in the game. If a player commits a penalty or foul like tripping, elbowing or an illegal hit, they must serve time in the penalty box. Most penalties are two minutes but there are some exceptions depending on the severity of the action.

Hockey is a fast-paced game that requires concentration and athleticism. It’s great for staying in shape and improving hand-eye coordination. It can be more expensive and has a higher degree of injuries than many other sports, but kids who play it usually love it.