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The GIST's Guide to Hockey

Canada and hockey, could two things BE any more intertwined? We might be biased, but this might be the most important sport to get #thegist of!

GIF-NHL player Sidney Crosby talking about hockey as therapy

The GIST

The point of the good ol’ hockey game is to have the most goals after three, 20 minute periods of play. Each team has five players (three forwards and two defence) plus one goalie on the ice at a time.

How is it organized?

The most popular hockey league in the world is the National Hockey League, aka the NHL or “chel” if you’re a true “hockey beauty” *rolls eyes*. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences and are then further divided by divisions. There are 31 teams (With Seattle coming as the 32nd team for the 2021-22 season) and 82 regular season games.

At the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each division and then the remaining top two teams in the conference, regardless of the division (this playoff format is v. controversial because sometimes one division is stronger than the other, meaning that two of the best or strongest teams in the conference may have to play each other in the first round) will move on to the playoffs. This means each division will have a minimum of three and a maximum of five teams in the playoffs. The playoffs consist of four rounds of best-of-seven series (teams must win four of the possible seven games to advance) with a chance to win the coveted Stanley Cup aka “Lord Stanley” in the end.

The best of the best

The 2019 Stanley Cup Champions are the St. Louis Blues! It was a BFD because it was the Blues’ first EVER Stanley Cup in the 52-year history of the franchise. The team was led to glory by rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington, who somehow looked calm, cool and collected between the pipes despite it being his first season in the NHL. *tips hat* Other top players in the league include Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers).

All my ladies, let me hear y’all!

The women’s hockey scene has gotten mighty messy as of late. At the end of its 2019 season, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) (one of two professional women’s hockey league based in North America at the time) unexpectedly folded due to unsustainable business operations. It consisted of six teams, four based in Canada, one in the US, and one in China, and left a lot of female hockey stars without a team.

That left women’s hockey with the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) which has just five teams centralized in the Northeastern US. However, in both the former CWHL and the current NWHL, players get paid next to nothing compared to their male counterparts. Most of the league’s players juggle full-time work and pro-hockey as the league’s average salary is just $15k. To put this in perspective, the lowest amount an NHL team can pay a player is $700k. Can you say #WageGap?

So in 2019, more than 200 of the world’s best female hockey players joined forces to fight for change. They are currently boycotting (refusing to play) in the current professional hockey league structure with the goal creating a viable cross-border league with better working conditions (is health insurance so much to ask?) and better pay. That means no Marie-Philip Poulin, no Hilary Knight and no Brianne Jenner to watch this season. Welp.

But, you can watch them on their Dream Gap Tour this year. It’s a short-term bandaid but will hopefully help create a long-term solution. For now, the conversation seems to be at a standstill and the future of women’s hockey hangs in a kind of uncomfortable limbo. Subscribe to The GIST and follow our social channels to stay up-to-date on more of this news.

Fun facts

Impress the local hockey bros by knowing these random hockey facts:

  • The Stanley Cup was created in 1893. It was named for Lord Stanley of Preston, a Canadian Governor General.

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins (that’s Sidney Crosby’s team!) used to have a real-life penguin mascot. Pete, as he was affectionately called, was introduced in 1968 before a game against the Pennsylvania state rival Philadelphia Flyers.

  • There is more than 2,200 names engraved on the Stanley Cup (FYI, each team has their names engraved after winning), but only 12 women have made the cut, either as owners or team executives. Let’s get to adding to this tally, shall we?

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Glossary

Period:

A hockey game consists of three 20 minute periods.

Overtime:

If there’s a tie at the end of the game, it goes into overtime, also known as OT. During the regular season, OT is five minutes long of three-on-three hockey (as opposed to the regular five-on-five) which means there’s much more room for the players to speed around and make long passes. If it’s still tied at the end of OT, the game goes into a shootout to decide a winner.

IMPORTANT: There’s no shootouts in the playoffs, the game just continues with 20 minute five-on-five overtime periods until a team can score a goal.

Shootout:

A shootout happens at the end of a tie game in the regular season. Each team chooses three shooters to go one-on-one with the other team’s goalie. If it’s still tied after each team take their three shots, teams select one player at a time until a one team comes out on top.

Shut out:

When the goalie doesn’t allow a single goal the entire game. Super impressive.

Hat trick:

Three goals in one game by the same player. When a player gets three goals, it’s tradition for the fans to throw their hats on the ice in celebration. Pro tip: if you want to get in on the tradition, leave your fancy hats at home.

Natural hat trick:

One player scoring three successive goals — as in no one from your team or the other team scores in between. Talk about overachiever.

Gordie Howe hat trick:

Named after the infamous Gordie Howe. It’s when you get a goal, an assist and a fight all in one game. It doesn’t get much more “hockey” than that.

Slap shot:

When you see the shooter wind up and bring their stick up above their waist and just LET ‘ER RIP. NHL players can sometimes get their pucks moving as fast as 160km/hour. Imagine trying to stop that!

Wrist shot (wrister):

The kind of shot where curl it back and let it fly with a flick of the wrist to put the puck exactly where you want it to go. This is not as hard of a shot, but generally a lot more accurate than the slap shot and is all about agility and quick release.

One-timer:

When someone shoots the puck directly off a pass without stopping to control the puck. Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) is absolutely known for this shot.

Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard:

A name to know! He played for the Montreal Canadiens and was the first player ever to score 50 goals in one season. He was also the first to reach 500 career goals. There’s a trophy in his name that’s awarded annually to the leading goal scorer in the NHL.

Calder Trophy:

Awarded to the Rookie of the Year who really impressed in their first NHL season.

Hart Memorial Trophy:

This award is given to the MVP (most valuable player) of the NHL’s regular season. While the Stanley Cup is the highest team honour, this is the highest individual honour in the league.

Vezina Trophy:

An award given to the best goaltender of the regular season.

Conn Smythe Trophy:

This trophy is a beauty. It’s awarded to the player that is the MVP during the Stanley Cup playoffs (rather than the regular season) and can go to a goaltender, forward or defence!

Stanley Cup:

AKA Lord Stanley! *Baby this is what you came for* The name of the game is to win the Stanley Cup at the end of the season and playoffs. Once you win it, your name is engraved on the Cup forever (kind of).

Conference Finals:

Think semifinals. It’s called the Conference Finals because the best two teams in the East play each other while the best two teams in the West play each other. The winners of those series will play one another for the Stanley Cup.

Penalty:

When a player does something that’s against the rules (e.g., hooking, tripping, diving, fighting, slashing, etc.). When this happens, the player is sent off for two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes or a whole game (if the infraction was real bad). That player’s team must play shorthanded until the penalty is full served. Not good.

Shorthanded:

Shorthanded means your team is playing a player down because a teammate managed to find their way into the penalty box. If your team ends up scoring even when you’re down a player, it’s called a shorthanded goal. It’s something special that should be celebrated!

Penalty Kill:

Your team gets a penalty and are therefore down a skater. So, you try to kill off (aka not let the other team score) that penalty — that includes being able to ice the puck (see below).

Icing:

This is when a team fires the puck down the ice from their side of the red (centre) line and it goes all the way past the other team’s blue goal line without touching anyone along the way. The whistle is blown and play is stopped, and the puck comes back to the defensive zone of the team that iced the puck.

Teams will ice the puck sometimes by accident, during a penalty kill (in which case they’re not penalized), or if they’re tired and just want to get the puck out of their zone. However, the team that ices the puck can’t make a change (make subs) so it’s not the best strategy.

Face-off:

To start any play you first need to have a face-off. The five players on each team assemble in their designated positions. The ref drops the puck into the middle of the two centre forwards and they battle each other to gain possession of the puck first.

Powerplay:

The other team has a player in the penalty box and so that you have one more player than your opponent (five vs. four) for the duration of the penalty. Once/if you score, the penalty is over and the opponent can come out of the penalty box (unless it was a major penalty). Just like the penalty kill above, there are detailed lineups and plays to capitalize.

SOGs:

Shots on goal.

GAA:

Goals against average. This is calculated by goals allowed times game length (usually 60 minutes) then divided by minutes played. This includes overtime goals but NOT empty net or shootout goals.

TOI:

Time on ice.

Breakaway:

You’ve got the puck, look up and there is no one between you and the goalie. OH BABY!

Offside:

This is a big part of hockey with the blue line representing the offside line. On offence, you can’t enter the zone until the puck does. This prevents cherry picking and someone just hanging out by the net waiting for a stretch pass!

It also means that once your team is in the zone, it’s important to try to keep the puck in for as long as possible, because once it goes back the blue line, all players need to leave the zone too before the pick can be brought back in. On the flip side, the defensive team will be just trying to ‘clear the zone’ and get the puck out to force all the players to leave too.

Assist:

Awarded to the player who passes the puck or the last person to touch the puck before the player who scores. Normally, two assists are given for each goal, representing the last two players to touch the puck before the goal scorer.

SV:

Save percentage for a goalie. AKA amount of goals stopped divided by the total amount of shots on net.

Goaltender Interference:

You know that blue half circle at the front of the net. That’s called a crease. A player is NOT allowed to make contact with the goalie in the crease or the goal can be disallowed. These are pretty hard and controversial calls for a ref to make.

Lockout:

Essentially a strike for hockey players, but in in this case the team owners “lock out” the players until they can reach an agreement on their union contract. There’s been four lockouts in NHL history! The NHLPA (Players Association) and the NHL bigwigs (owners) negotiate terms to play. Generally one side thinks the other side is getting paid too much.

Don Cherry:

Along with Ron McLean hosts Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). HNIC is hosted every week between the first and second periods and then again at the end of the game. Ron and Don famously break down the game, with Don (aka Grapes) constantly interrupting and frustrating Ron. Ya gotta watch it.

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FAQs

Why do hockey players only wear half a face visor? Don’t they get hit?

Oh gosh. The helmet controversy. TBH, this is a tough one. Back in the day and we mean wayyyy back in the day, hockey players didn’t even wear helmets. Crazy right? Then, FINALLY, somebody gave their head a good shake and said “I think wearing helmets would be a good idea.” In certain leagues (including in women’s hockey), and up to a certain age, players are required to wear full-cage helmets. In the pros, however, you have to be at least 18 years old to wear a visor. Wearing only a half visor gives players more visibility and breathing room, but obviously less protection. Many players don’t even wear visors at all, and it’s not a rule that they have to. Still, some teams have made it a rule that their players must wear visors, and some teams have made it a rule to wear helmets during warm ups after a few too many accidents

Why is hockey so popular in Canada? Why do we have so many teams compared basketball and baseball?

Because hockey is Canada’s sport! We invented hockey, are obsessed with hockey and we have the climate for it! We’re born with the ~ice~ in our veins. What more do you need to know?

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The GIST’s Guide to Fantasy Hockey

We promise you don’t have to be able to name the entire Toronto Maple Leafs roster like that hockey bro in your office in order to be at the top of your fantasy league. Here’s #thegist on the important stuff.

Just Google the word “fantasy” and it’ll land you right in the thick of podcasts, YouTube videos, articles and draft predictions for the four major sports leagues (that’s the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL). This fantasy stuff is a BFD! In fact, we also have a guide to fantasy football you can check out. But back to hockey…

WTF is fantasy hockey?

Fantasy hockey is one part real, one part fake and 100% a whole lot of fun. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pick a team of players that is better than any other team in your fantasy league. The players are real, the points they score are real, but the combination of players together is what makes it fantasy. You have the opportunity to create a dream team (or the dreamiest looking team, depending on your draft strategy *swoon*) made up of your favourite players and, ideally, the players you think will do the best this season.

Okay I’m in. How do I play?

To play, you’ll need to join a league. A lot of workplaces will get groups together to do this. Or you can join a league for free online. We’d recommend taking a look at these websites:

Then it’s time to do a little prep work (this is a lot more fun than homework or that powerpoint presentation your boss keeps hounding you for). You’ll want to make up a list of players that you have the most interest in and want to try and get on your team. Most often, teams are made up of nine forwards, six defensemen, one utility player (forward or defenseman, your choice), two goalies and five to seven bench spots (these are the extra guys you’ll need when someone gets hurt, goes on a cold streak or doesn’t play for a few days).

Each day, as an owner, you get to set your lineup and pick which players hit the ice and which players will ride the pine. Then sit back and relax as your fantasy site calculates scores for you live, so you can watch your guys play in real life and watch your fantasy team rocket to the top of the standings at the same time.

Got it. But how do I be good?

You could pick your team based on best hockey flow (oh hey there William Nylander) but maybe go with something a little more practical if you want to compete with the best fantasy owners in your league. ESPN and Dobber Hockey  have some top player lists that can help you with this.

If your league is hosted on Yahoo (which it likely is), the site will also give you a list of players the experts think will have the best season. Don’t get overwhelmed by these sites. They’re showing you way more information than you’re probably ever going to need to know.

This sounds fun. What else do I need to know?

Here’s a list of things that will definitely come up so you’re ready for the big leagues.


Draft Day - This is undoubtedly the most important day of your fantasy year because this is the day that you get to build your team. The most common type of draft is a snake. Each team will have a predetermined draft number (if your league has ten teams, you’ll get to draft somewhere between first and 10th). In a snake format, the 10th team to draft also gets to pick the 11th player because the order switches directions. This means that, as awesome as it is to draft first, you’ll have to wait around until the 20th player to get to choose again.

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5 Team 6 Team 7 Team 8 Team 9 Team 10
Draft # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Your goal is to draft the best player that’s still available. And don’t worry, Yahoo will give you suggested picks so you don’t have to frantically flip through your research if the guy you really wanted went one draft pick ahead of yours.

ADP (Average Draft Position) - Each fantasy site will show the average draft position of players. This is the average spot that that player was taken across all of the drafts run on that website. The higher the ADP, the more in demand that player is.

Trades – Just like the real NHL, your league will give you the option to trade. This can be great news if the #1 player you really wanted on your team went to someone else, though you’ll likely have to give up something big in return. Trades are a great way to shake things up and get access to players you might have thought were gone forever.

Waiver Wire - This is where you’ll be able to get players that weren’t chosen in the draft. Sometimes players get hurt or they underperform and you’re going to want to give them the snips. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell them *wink*) You can replace them with players from the waiver wire. As long as no one else owns a player, they are fair game for you to add to your squad.

Sleeper Pick – These guys are not actually asleep (hopefully). A sleeper pick is a player that has the possibility of being a big breakout star, kind of like an underdog. It’s not a guarantee, but if you get lucky he could be one of the best guys on your team. At one point, both Mark Scheifele and David Pastrnak were sleeper picks — now they are two of the best guys on their respective teams.

Head-to-Head - This is the most common type of fantasy league. Say your league has 12 teams, each week you’ll face off against another team. Your goal is to be better than the team you’re up against in a number of categories; goals, assists, shots on goal, blocks, hits, etc — the categories will depend on your league. At the end of the week, you’ll get one point per category that you won.

Rotisserie League – Wipe the drool off your face, this has nothing to do with chicken (unfortunately). This type of league might be a little easier to understand than head-to-head. Think of rotisserie like “total points”. Every category is tallied from the beginning of the season to the very last game. To win, you must have the most points at the end of the year.

Each league will have categories that are a little bit different (some might include penalty minutes, others might not), so tweet us questions (@thegistnewsca or @thegistusa) if you want help with your specific league!

Some draft tips to get you started:

  • Get acquainted with the top ten guys in the league. It’s always going to be debatable, but your first round pick is probably the most important.

  • There is no right or wrong way to draft, but try to get a core group of players early (three forwards, two defense and a goalie) and then start to fill in the gaps where you think you might be lacking talent.

  • Don’t waste a high draft pick on a goalie – sometimes they pay off, but more often than not they aren’t worth reaching for. Goalies are notoriously unpredictable, and even the best in the league (like Carey Price) can have bad seasons. You’re better off taking a more reliable player with that draft pick.

  • OUR HOTTEST TIP (fire emoji): Still stressed after reading all of this? You can stage a mock draft online on Yahoo here. This comes with no pressure and just gets you acquainted with how the drafting process works. We cannot recommend this enough if you’ve never joined a fantasy league or drafted before. Practice makes perfect and all that stuff, ya feel?

Fun fact to share on draft day:

Fantasy hockey might not be the biggest fantasy format, but it was the first! Fantasy hockey launched on the web in early 1995 and it paved the way for all other fantasy formats.

Still have questions? That’s what we’re here for! Slide into our DMs, tweet us @thegistnewsca/@thegistusa or hit us up with an email — we want to help you be the best fantasy hockey owner you can be.

Written By: Alexis Allison
GIST Guest Writer and Hockey Guru

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The GIST’s Guide to the Stanley Cup Playoffs

It’s impossible not to smile watching NHLers pick up that big shiny trophy, give it a big kiss and skate their victory lap around the ice.

 

The GIST

Here’s how it all goes down. The NHL is divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Those conferences are further split into divisions called the Metro and Atlantic (in the East) and the Pacific and Central (in the West). There are 31 teams in the league.

At the end of the regular season, the top three teams from the four divisions and four wild card teams (the remaining best teams in each conference) make it to the playoffs. The Eastern Conference teams and the Western Conference teams square off against each other for three rounds, with the best of each conference making it to the Stanley Cup final.

How’s it organized?

The first round matchups are determined by the amount of points a team earned during the regular season. The division leading team that accumulated the largest amount of points in the conference plays the wild card team with the least amount of points. The other division winner plays the wild card team with the highest number of points. The second place team will play the third-place team with home ice advantage.

Fun facts to know

Have fun with these trivia facts and impress your friends:

  • The Stanley Cup is not your average trophy. Each year, the players and personnel on the winning team have their names engraved on the Cup. There are five bands on the Stanley Cup with room for 13 teams per band. When there’s no longer room left, they take off a band and keep it in the Hockey Hall of Fame (located in Toronto).

  • The Cup has its own babysitter 24/7! Talk about high maintenance. The Cup has a representative from the Hockey Hall of Fame with it at all times called the “Keeper of the Cup”. Philip Pritchard has been the “Keeper” since ‘91 and also updates a Twitter account so fans can see where the Cup is and what it's up to from day to day.

  • There are eight incredible women who have had their names inscribed on the Cup because of their involvement on the business side of the teams.

  • The Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston who bought the trophy for 10 guineas (around $50 at the time) and donated it to Canada’s top amateur hockey club after he and his family became obsessed with the sport.

  • Once the Cup spent a night in the Ottawa Canal… The Ottawa Hockey Club (now the Ottawa Senators) won it in 1905 and had a little bit too much fun celebrating. The team brought the Cup outside and decided to try and kick it (then a lot smaller) into the Rideau Canal. They were successful and then… forgot about it?? WTF guys! The next day, the rest of the team realized the Cup was missing and it was retrieved. Phew.

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Written by Guest Writers: Kourtney Meldrum & Duaa Rizvi

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The GIST’s
Guide to the World Juniors

 

The holidays. A time to relax, open presents from Santa and make small talk with extended family (“yes Aunt Beth, I’m still single”). One thing that’s always a highlight of the holidays is the annual World Junior Hockey Championship (often referred to as WJHC or World Juniors). 

 

The GIST

The WJHC is one of the most anticipated hockey events of the season. Think of this tournament as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show of Hockey.

The WJHC is an annual round-robin hockey tournament where the top ten hockey countries in the world compete to become top dog. This tournament is different because all the players are young bucks and have to be between the ages of 16 and 20, hence the “Juniors” in the name.

How's it organized?

The ten teams are split up into two Groups: Group A and Group B. In the preliminary round, each team plays a total of four games in a round-robin style, playing each team in the Group once. Teams are awarded three points for a win in regulation, one point for a tie at the end of regulation and two points for a win in OT (overtime) or a shootout. Of course, no points are awarded for losing.

After this round, the top four teams in each group move on to the playoff round. The playoff format gets a wee bit complicated, but a simple way to think of it is that the four teams in Group A play against the four teams from Group B, with the first place teams from each group playing against the last place team from each group and the second place teams playing against the third place teams. Ultimately, the tournament awards gold, silver and bronze medals, just like the Olympics.

If there is a tie in one of the medal games, the bronze game will end with a 10-minute sudden death overtime period (just like recess, the last goal wins!) and the gold medal game will end with a 20-minute sudden death overtime period. These overtime games are always v. dramatic!

The best of the best

Since the tournament began back in 1977, Canada has dominated the World Juniors with 17 gold medals — more than any other country that participates.

The best of the past

The World Juniors is kind of like a prequel to the NHL and the vast majority of today’s NHL’s hot shots got their first true shot at stardom playing in the WJHC. For example, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is currently the highest paid ‘tendy in the NHL. But, back in 2007, fresh-faced Price was in net for Canada at the WJHC. His goaltending in that tournament was simply incredible and was the major reason Canada won the gold medal. Price also snagged the MVP and Best Goaltender awards.

A few of the top past WJHC players also include Brent Burns, who played in 2004, and now plays with the San Jose Sharks (and arguably has one of the best beards in the NHL); Sid the Kid (Sidney Crosby), who played in both 2004 and 2005 earning a silver and then gold for Canada and has now won 2 Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Connor McDavid (otherwise known as McJesus or the only reason the Edmonton Oilers are remotely good again), who played in 2014 and 2015, earning a gold in his second tournament.

Ladies leave your man at home

Unfortunately, although it’s 2018, there is still no World Juniors U20 event for women *exasperated sigh*. However, women do have the U18 World Championships. This tournament functions the same as the WJHC except it’s for female athletes under the age of 18 and there’s no body-checking allowed.

Impress your Dad

It’s a fact that basically all Canadian Dads are obsessed with the WJHC. So here’s some knowledge to impress the best:

  • The game between USA and Canada on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, was the first-ever outdoor game played in WJHC history. This game was hosted at New Era Stadium which is normally home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

  • Buffalo was the first city to host the World Juniors for the second time, with the first occurring in 2011. The fact that Buffalo is so close to the Canadian border was definitely a factor in this decision.

  • You’ve got to love the classic Canada vs. US rivalry — they’ve faced each other four times for the gold medal, with the U.S. coming out ahead three of those times.

How can I watch?

You can watch all games on TSN or on the TSN App. Pro tip: if a family member (or generous friend… I mean, it is the holidays) has Bell or Rogers cable, you can use their login information to watch live from the TSN website for free. You’re very welcome for this life hack. Consider that our Christmas/GISTMAS present to you.

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