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50 Surprising Hockey Facts You Didn’t Know

You might know some of these if you are a hockey fan – or a lot of them if you’re a superfan. But we bet no matter how much you love the sport – there’s no way you know all 50 of these amazing hockey facts.

From the origins of “Canada’s game” to The Gordie Howe hat trick, keep reading to discover how many hockey facts you know!

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Hockey Origins and History

1. The origin of hockey is uncertain.

The exact origin of hockey remains unclear, as variations of the sport have been played throughout history in various cultures. Some believe it dates back to ancient Egypt, where a similar game was played using a ball and curved sticks. Others suggest that it has roots in ancient Persia, where a game called “Gouj” was played. Regardless, the modern version of hockey can be traced back to the early 19th century in England and Canada.

2. Ice hockey was first played indoors in Montreal.

The first recorded indoor ice hockey game took place on March 3, 1875, at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada. The game was organized by James Creighton, a Canadian law student and sports enthusiast, who wanted to create a winter sport that could be played indoors. The match featured two teams of nine players each, and they used a wooden puck instead of a ball to prevent it from leaving the rink.

3. The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was the first organized hockey league.

Founded in 1886, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC) was the first organized ice hockey league. At its inception, it consisted of four teams: the Montreal Victorias, Montreal Hockey Club, Ottawa Hockey Club, and Quebec Hockey Club. The AHAC played a significant role in developing and popularizing the sport in Canada.

4. The term “hat trick” originated in cricket.

While the term “hat trick” is now synonymous with a player scoring three goals in a single game, it actually originated in cricket. In the 19th century, a bowler who took three wickets with consecutive deliveries was awarded a hat or cap by his club. The term was later adopted by hockey and other sports to describe similar feats.

Hockey Facts by the Numbers

hockey facts

5. The longest game in NHL history lasted over 176 minutes.

The longest NHL game ever played occurred on March 24, 1936, between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons. The game lasted an incredible 176 minutes and 30 seconds, with six overtime periods. The Red Wings eventually won the game 1-0, with Mud Bruneteau scoring the winning goal.

6. The fastest hat trick in NHL history was scored in 21 seconds.

Bill Mosienko of the Chicago Blackhawks holds the record for the fastest hat trick in NHL history. On March 23, 1952, Mosienko scored three goals in just 21 seconds, a feat that remains unmatched.

7. The fastest shot ever recorded in the NHL was 108.8 mph.

Zdeno Chara, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins, set the record for the fastest shot ever recorded in the NHL during the 2012 All-Star Game skills competition. Chara’s slapshot reached an astonishing speed of 108.8 mph, breaking his own previous record of 105.9 mph.

8. NHL teams can dress 18 skaters and two goaltenders for each game.

During an NHL game, each team is allowed to dress 18 skaters (12 forwards and six defensemen) and two goaltenders. These players make up the team’s active roster, with substitutions and line changes occurring frequently throughout the game to keep players fresh and maintain high intensity.

9. NHL rinks are 200 feet long and 85 feet wide.

NHL ice rinks are standardized at 200 feet (61 meters) in length and 85 feet (25.9 meters) in width, with rounded corners and a 28-foot (8.5 meters) radius. This rink size allows for fast-paced, physical play and contributes to the excitement and intensity of the sport.

10. The fastest goal in NHL history was scored in just five seconds.

Doug Smail of the Winnipeg Jets holds the record for the fastest goal scored in an NHL game. On December 20, 1981, Smail found the back of the net just five seconds into the contest, a record that still stands today.

11. The first million-dollar contract in the NHL was signed by Bobby Hull.

In 1972, Bobby Hull signed a groundbreaking 10-year, $1 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association (WHA), making him the highest-paid player in the sport at the time. Hull’s landmark contract paved the way for the multimillion-dollar deals that are now commonplace in professional hockey.

12. The first player to score 50 goals in 50 games was Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

In the 1944-1945 season, Montreal Canadiens forward Maurice “Rocket” Richard became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in 50 games. This impressive feat has only been matched by a few players since, including Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

NHL Facts

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13. The NHL expanded from six to twelve teams in 1967.

The 1967 NHL expansion, known as the “Great Expansion,” doubled the league’s size from six to twelve teams. This marked the beginning of the NHL’s rapid growth, which has continued to this day, with the league now featuring 32 teams.

14. The first NHL All-Star Game took place in 1947.

The inaugural NHL All-Star Game was held on October 13, 1947, at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Canada. The game featured a team of All-Stars taking on the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The All-Star Game has since become an annual event, showcasing the league’s top talent and serving as a mid-season break for players and fans alike.

15. The NHL was founded in 1917.

The National Hockey League was established in Montreal, Canada, on November 26, 1917, with four teams: the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Arenas. The league was created as a result of disputes within the predecessor organization, the National Hockey Association (NHA). The NHL has grown to include 32 teams across the United States and Canada.

16. The first NHL outdoor game took place in 2003.

The NHL’s first regular-season outdoor game, the Heritage Classic, occurred on November 22, 2003, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens faced off in front of over 57,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The event’s success led to the creation of the NHL Winter Classic and Stadium Series, which feature annual outdoor games.

17. The first outdoor NHL game in the United States was played in 2008.

The NHL’s first outdoor game in the United States took place on January 1, 2008, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The game, known as the Winter Classic, featured the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the Penguins winning in a shootout in front of more than 71,000 fans.

18. The NHL has had four lockouts in its history.

Labor disputes have led to four lockouts in NHL history, with the most recent occurring during the 2012-2013 season. The most significant lockout took place in 2004-2005, when the entire season was canceled due to disagreements between the league and the players’ association over salary caps and revenue sharing. This marked the first time a major professional sports league in North America had lost an entire season to a labor dispute.

Hockey Facts from Pucks to Zambonis

hockey facts

19. Hockey pucks are frozen before games.

Hockey pucks are made of vulcanized rubber and are frozen before games to reduce bouncing and improve the puck’s glide on the ice. This helps ensure smoother gameplay and greater control for the players handling the puck.

20. The first hockey player to wear a helmet was George Owen.

George Owen, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins, was the first player to wear a helmet in an NHL game in 1928. At the time, helmets were not required, and many players resisted wearing them due to concerns about comfort and appearance. It wasn’t until 1979 that the NHL made helmets mandatory for all new players entering the league.

21. NHL players began wearing jersey numbers in the 1920s.

In the early days of the NHL, players did not wear jersey numbers. This practice changed in the 1920s when teams began assigning numbers to their players for easier identification. Today, jersey numbers hold significant meaning for players, with many choosing numbers that have personal or historical significance.

22. The first goalie to regularly wear a mask was Jacques Plante.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante made history on November 1, 1959, when he became the first NHL goalie to regularly wear a mask during games. After taking a shot to the face and requiring stitches, Plante returned to the game.

23. Sledge hockey is an adaptation of ice hockey for athletes with physical disabilities.

Sledge hockey, also known as para ice hockey, is a modified version of ice hockey designed for athletes with lower limb disabilities. Players use specially designed sleds with skate blades attached and propel themselves using two short sticks with a spike on one end and a blade on the other. Sledge hockey has been part of the Paralympic Winter Games since 1994.

24. The Zamboni revolutionized ice resurfacing.

Frank Zamboni invented the ice resurfacing machine in 1949, which transformed the process of maintaining ice rinks. Before the Zamboni, it took several workers up to an hour to manually resurface the ice. The Zamboni reduced this time to mere minutes, allowing for more efficient game scheduling and improved ice conditions.

Hockey Facts on Rules and Regulations

Hockey Rules Penalties

25. The forward pass was not allowed in hockey until 1929.

Until 1929, the forward pass was not permitted in ice hockey. Players were only allowed to pass the puck backward or laterally, making the game slower and more defensive. The introduction of the forward pass revolutionized the sport, allowing for faster and more dynamic gameplay and increasing hockey’s popularity.

26. The NHL implemented the three-point system in the 2005-2006 season.

In an effort to encourage more aggressive play and increase scoring, the NHL introduced the three-point system for the 2005-2006 season. Under this system, teams are awarded three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, and one point for an overtime or shootout loss.

27. Goalies were not allowed to drop to their knees to make saves until 1917.

Prior to 1917, NHL goalies were not allowed to drop to their knees to make saves, as it was considered unsportsmanlike. With the rule change, goaltenders began using their pads more effectively and developed new techniques, revolutionizing the position and paving the way for modern goaltending styles.

28. The NHL introduced video review for goals in 1991.

In an effort to ensure accuracy in goal calls, the NHL began using video review during the 1991-1992 season. Today, video review is used to confirm or overturn goal calls, verify offside plays, and review goaltender interference, among other situations.

29. The NHL introduced the two-referee system in the 1998-1999 season.

Prior to the 1998-1999 season, NHL games were officiated by one referee and two linesmen. The league introduced the two-referee system to improve the quality of officiating, with the additional referee providing better coverage and more accurate calls.

30. The first player to score a goal on a penalty shot was Ralph “Scotty” Bowman.

On November 10, 1934, Ralph “Scotty” Bowman of the St. Louis Eagles became the first player in NHL history to score a goal on a penalty shot. The penalty shot was introduced as a rule in the 1934-1935 season to penalize a defending player for fouling an opponent with a clear scoring opportunity.

31. The NHL implemented the shootout in the 2005-2006 season.

In an effort to eliminate tie games and make regular-season games more exciting, the NHL introduced the shootout in the 2005-2006 season. The shootout, which consists of a series of penalty shots, is used to determine a winner if a game remains tied after a five-minute sudden-death overtime period.

Boundary Breaking Hockey Facts

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32. The first female to play in an NHL game was Manon Rhéaume.

Manon Rhéaume, a Canadian goaltender, made history on September 23, 1992, when she became the first woman to play in an NHL game. Rhéaume appeared in a preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning, breaking the gender barrier and inspiring future generations of female athletes.

33. Women’s ice hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998.

Women’s ice hockey made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The inaugural tournament featured six teams, with the United States winning the gold medal, Canada taking silver, and Finland earning bronze. The sport has continued to grow in popularity, with more countries fielding competitive women’s hockey teams.

34. The first black player in the NHL was Willie O’Ree.

Willie O’Ree made history on January 18, 1958, when he became the first black player to appear in an NHL game. O’Ree, a forward, played for the Boston Bruins.

35. The first American team to join the NHL was the Boston Bruins.

In 1924, the Boston Bruins became the first American team to join the NHL, marking the league’s expansion beyond Canada. The Bruins’ addition paved the way for the growth of the NHL throughout the United States, which now has 25 teams participating in the league.

36. The first European player to be drafted into the NHL was Thommie Bergman.

Swedish defenseman Thommie Bergman made history in 1969 as the first European player to be drafted by an NHL team. He was selected by the Detroit Red Wings and went on to have a successful career in the NHL, paving the way for more European players to enter the league.

37. The first NHL team to have cheerleaders was the Washington Capitals.

In 1974, the Washington Capitals introduced the NHL’s first cheerleading squad, known as the Red Rockers. While cheerleaders are a common sight in other professional sports, such as football and basketball, they remain relatively rare in the world of hockey.

Cup and Trophy Hockey Facts

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38. The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in professional sports.

The Stanley Cup was first awarded in 1893, making it the oldest existing trophy in professional sports. It was originally donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada, as an award for the best amateur hockey team in the country. Today, it is awarded to the NHL playoff champion.

39. The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded annually to the most valuable player during the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The trophy, named in honor of former Toronto Maple Leaf’s owner and coach Conn Smythe, is often awarded to a player from the championship team, although there have been instances where the winner came from the losing team.

40. The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the league’s top goaltender.

Named after legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender Georges Vezina, the Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL’s best goaltender, as voted on by the league’s general managers. The trophy has been awarded since the 1926-1927 season, with winners such as Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur, and Carey Price.

41. The Presidents’ Trophy is awarded to the team with the best regular-season record.

Introduced in 1985-1986, the Presidents’ Trophy is awarded to the NHL team with the best regular-season record. The trophy serves as an acknowledgment of regular-season success, but it does not guarantee playoff success, as only eight Presidents’ Trophy winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

42. The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Canada.

Established in 1943, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a museum and hall of fame dedicated to honoring the sport’s greatest players, builders, and officials. Located in Toronto, Canada, the Hockey Hall of Fame features exhibits, memorabilia, and interactive displays, offering an immersive experience for hockey fans of all ages.

43. The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy is awarded to the NHL’s top goal scorer.

Named in honor of the legendary Montreal Canadiens forward, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who scores the most goals during the regular season. The award was first presented in 1999 and won by players like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos.

44. The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded for sportsmanship.

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct, and high playing ability. The trophy was first presented in 1925 and has been won by players such as Wayne Gretzky, Joe Sakic, and Pavel Datsyuk.

45. The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded to the NHL’s top rookie.

The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie, as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The award, named in honor of former NHL President Frank Calder, recognizes first-year players who have significantly impacted their teams and demonstrated exceptional skill and promise.

46. The Stanley Cup has been awarded to non-NHL teams.

While the Stanley Cup is currently awarded exclusively to the NHL’s championship team, it was originally a challenge cup, meaning any team could challenge the reigning champions for the title. As a result, several non-NHL teams have won the Stanley Cup, including the Kenora Thistles, the Victoria Cougars, and the Vancouver Millionaires. The Cup became the NHL’s championship trophy in 1926, and no non-NHL team has won it since.

47. The Montreal Canadiens have won the most Stanley Cups.

With 24 championships, the Montreal Canadiens hold the record for the most Stanley Cup wins in NHL history. Their last victory came in the 1992-1993 season. The Toronto Maple Leafs rank second with 13 championships, followed by the Detroit Red Wings with 11.

Some Not-so-Surprising Hockey Facts

hockey facts

48. Hockey is known as “Canada’s game.”

Ice hockey is often referred to as “Canada’s game” due to its cultural significance and the country’s historical dominance in international competition. The sport is deeply ingrained in Canadian society, with millions of fans and thousands of players participating at all levels, from youth leagues to the professional ranks.

49. The Gordie Howe hat trick consists of a goal, an assist, and a fight.

Named after legendary player Gordie Howe, the Gordie Howe hat trick occurs when a player records a goal, an assist, and engages in a fight during a single game. This unofficial achievement highlights a player’s versatility and toughness.

50. Wayne Gretzky holds numerous NHL records.

Known as “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He holds numerous NHL records, including most career goals (894), most career assists (1,963), and most career points (2,857). Gretzky’s skill, vision, and incredible hockey IQ helped him dominate the sport for two decades.

Wrapping up Surprising Hockey Facts You Didn’t Know

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These 50 hockey facts highlight the rich history, exciting gameplay, and notable achievements that have made it one of the world’s most popular and enduring sports. From record-breaking feats and legendary players to memorable moments, hockey continues to captivate fans and inspire new generations of players.

And something else you didn’t know? You can get hockey training online, created by an NHL pro!

Still want more hockey content? Then check out our hockey page for training guides, equipment rankings, and fun facts about our favorite sport!