Doug's Sounding Board


My understanding of hockey

Before this last past hockey season I never paid attention to hockey, but Nicole was a fan and we started going to some Sharks games. At first my watching was more from an aesthetic standpoint. The patterns traced out by the players skating around were interesting to watch but as far as following what was going on I was pretty lost. Why are people constantly going on and off the ice? Why were penalties called? During the regular season my knowledge level didn’t really increase and it took the playoffs announcers to impart knowledge to me about the game.

I still have problems with two rules: icing, and intent to end play. Icing is when a player in their own end of the ice hits the puck across both center lines into the opposite goal line without any other player touching the puck along its journey. Icing isn’t actually called until an opposing player touches the puck in the end area. It doesn’t always seem to apply though; I think the goalie is exempt from causing the icing call. The intent to end play isn’t hard to understand, the whistle blows and the play is dead… almost. Play is actually dead when the referee intends to blow the whistle. This is I think the most abstract rule in all of sports since the referee can say they meant to blow the whistle seconds before they actually do. Most of the time it makes no difference but there was a play where it did make a difference. A puck was still loose but obscured from the referee’s view. It was hit in to the goal but the whistle was blown indicating the play to be dead. Normally a puck in motion gets to count as a goal, but the referee said the intended end of play was when the puck appeared dead to the referee.

The best part I think is that during the playoffs, after I had a good enough grasp of the rules, I started seeing the action as a whole again but instead of seeing it in an aesthetic way I was seeing it as a real-time moving traveling salesman type problem. The players constantly are searching for the shortest path to the goal but the nodes (their teammates) and the legs are constantly changing their values. The weights of the legs are determined by distance and proximity of the opposing players. It’s a very difficult problem to solve! I think very similar problems are solved in soccer, and to a lesser extent basketball.

Now I look forward to seeing what I’m going to learn in the coming season.

Leave a Reply

Doug's Sounding Board is is proudly powered by Wordpress
Navigation Theme by GPS Gazette