If you’ve ever watched an ice hockey game then you know there’s no ball. Unlike many other sports, ice hockey uses a little black object known as a hockey puck. Ice hockey skaters must fight each other with sticks, even fists, to get the puck across the rink, past the goalie, and into the net to win the game.
You probably already know what the puck is for – to shoot and score as many goals as possible. But have you ever wondered about its origins? If you’ve been curious to know where the puck came from, then you’ve come to the right place.
Background of the Hockey Puck
The first hockey pucks used in early outdoor hockey games were pieces of frozen cow dung. Other early versions were made out of wood cut from the branches of trees. Sometimes even stones would suffice.
Then around 1875, rubber balls were sliced in thirds and only the middle section was kept. But cutting balls wasn’t a sustainable practice. By the 1900’s, pucks were made by gluing two pieces of used tire rubber. However, the pucks didn’t last long and would often split in two.
Finally, a new method was developed after the invention of vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear in 1839. Pucks were made in large factories by mixing rubber with special bonding materials and a type of coal dust called carbon black. The mixture was then shaped into pre-forms, cut and cured in an oven.
The result of this process is the present day hockey puck. Regulation National Hockey League (NHL) pucks are 3 inches by 1 inch thick and weigh approximately 5.5 ounces. The edge of the puck has a series of grooves carved into the surface so a hockey stick has something to grab to when the puck is shot.
Hockey pucks are only made in four different countries: Canada, Russia, China and the Czech Republic. During a game, pucks remain frozen in a cooler to prevent them from bouncing on the ice. Teams put their entire supply of pucks in a freezer for the entire course of the season. Pucks are rotated so that older pucks are used first.
The FoxTrax Puck
The NHL used a new kind of hockey puck at the beginning of the 1995-1996 season. That year, Fox Television Network obtained the rights to air the NHL All-Star Game and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The network believed they could attract new viewers to the game by designing a puck that emitted different colors of light.
Each puck contained a computer board, battery and 20-pin holes that guided infrared emitters, each pulsing about 30 times per minute. 16 sensor devices placed around the rink communicated with the emitters to follow the puck’s movement. The sensor devices were linked by fiber optics to computers outside in the “Puck Truck.”
When processed by a computer, the light emitted by the puck could only be seen on a television screen. A small blue halo followed the puck everywhere unless it was shot at a higher speed. A red tail appeared if the puck was shot at speeds exceeding 50 mph. The tail turned green if the puck reached speeds over 75 mph.
The Origin of the Word
It is thought that the word puck comes from the Old English word “pouke” which means “devil,” “evil spirit,” or later as a verb that means to jab or prod (someone or something). In Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the “Puck” was a mischievous Satyre spirit who was constantly getting into trouble by “poking people the wrong way.”