'Merica v. Switzerland: Hockey Returns

By Brian Till
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The sport that stands to gain the most from the advance of high definition is, without question, ice hockey. In the mid 1990's, Fox played with FoxTrax, a comet-like tail that trailed pucks as they frenetically bounced around the rink, the color and length of the digital appendage delineating speed. It was an abysmal failure.

But it addressed the main complaint voiced by television viewers -- and, for that matter, live game viewers: that damn, little puck is hard to see.

But HD has made watching games a good deal more enjoyable, and Sunday's game was a terrific milestone for the sport. The U.S.-Canada contest, which was not even a medal game, drew 8.22 million viewers Sunday night. It was perhaps another Olympic gaffe that NBC chose to show the game on MSNBC, which, to my chagrin, DirecTV does not offer in HD, rather than on NBC proper, though it did afford the young channel its second highest rating yet, just behind election night 2008.

The record viewership may also force the NHL to question the movement to cease pausing the professional season to allow players to compete for their given nations.

Early this week, it felt like I could hardly turn around without a new hockey fan stepping from the shadows, skates poking out from beneath a trench coat as they quietly confided their passion for the game.

So, in the spirit of the game's resurgence, and to mark Wednesday's quarterfinal match between the U.S. and Switzerland -- who took Canada to a shootout earlier in the tournament and should not be overlooked -- I've put together a cheat sheet of sorts for the bandwagoneers, who, I should note, are more than welcome aboard. You should all be either skipping out of work to get in front of the big screen or quietly watching the live stream here.

Alas, I would provide a link to prove my credential as a Vermont bred, division III state champion ice hockey forward -- never mind those other two divisions -- but, unfortunately, it seems the glory days passed before the Burlington Free Press went digital.

As a final point, I'd like to find out who decided, in a stunning show of eloquence and ingenuity, to name the rink in Vancouver the "Canada Hockey Place?" 
  
Back check -Skating hard back to the defensive end and trying up an opposing player.

Drop pass - Leaving the puck for a trailing teammate. 

Kill it off - When one team, typically the Americans, dominate so handily that their opponents -- typically former communist nations, current communist nations, or Canucks -- fail to score on a power play. 

Power play - The opportunity one team enjoys when the adversary is penalized and a player, or group of players, must serve time in the sin bin.

Sin Bin - The somewhat sweet personal abode alongside the scorers' table where one serves misdemeanors -- hooking, tripping, holding, slashing, etc. -- and occasional felonies.

Goon - One who spends a good deal of time in the sin bin, and rarely scores, let alone scores hat tricks

Hat trick - Three goals in a game, leading fans to throw caps onto the ice. Natural hat trick  denotes all three goals in a single period scored in succession, with no other goals -- by either the opposition or a teammate -- interrupting the natural flow.

One timer - A shot taken directly off a pass, with the player only touching the puck once, as seen in the first two goals in the above linked clip.

Goin' top shelf - A goal scored in the upper region of the net, ideally the flat, top portion of the goal, perhaps even poppin' bottles.

Garbage goal - Goals scored in skirmishes in front of the net, or on a rebound that requires little skill to "stuff in."

Five hole - The space between a goalie's leg pads, creating a triangle to shoot trough.

Photo credit: timeshifted/flickr

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/02/merica-v-switzerland-hockey-returns/36467/