On the occasion of Budapest hosting the Division 1/A tournament of the 2018 World Championship of the International Ice Hockey Federation (held between 22 and 28 April at the Budapest Sportaréna), we’ve rounded up 8 cool facts about the icey sport, in hopes of bringing you closer to this relatively obscure game (at least compared to the popularity of football and water polo).
Unlike football or basketball, the origins of ice hockey are murky, at best. While some say a version of the game was played by the French and Irish as far back as the 1700s, others claim it was invented in the mid-1800s when Canadians with homemade sticks would skate on frozen ponds in Ontario. In the early days of ice hockey, players used a frozen patty of cow poop as a puck.
Ice hockey is one of the fastest sports ever played (behind such things as NASCAR and Formula-1). Players’ speed can reach a whopping 50 km/h, while the hardest recorded ice hockey shot in any competition was a 177.5 km/h slapshot by the Russian athlete Denis Kulyash, in 2011. Not even a cheetah, the world’s fastest animal (120 km/h), could have outrun that puck!
Although the standard ice hockey rink is not especially big (60 meters long and 30 meters wide), the players traverse huge distances within the course of a game. Teams often skate more than a 100 kilometers during one match! As a result, an average professional hockey player during an average game can lose as much as 3 kilograms (mostly water, though).
In Detroit, fans often throw octopi on the ice during the playoffs, when the Red Wings score. The tradition dates back to the Original Six era, when it only took eight wins — one for every octopus tentacle — to capture the coveted Stanley Cup. It was started by brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano, who sold fish for a living: at the 1952 playoff games they’ve tossed the octopus they’ve brought with them onto the ice, and the Red Wings went on to win the cup. The octopus has been a good luck charm in Detroit ever since. Similar customs exist elsewhere, too: in Nashville, for example, fans throw catfish onto the ice.
Bears playing ice hockey?! You might think it’s fake news, but in fact they’ve been trained and forced to play ice hockey in Russian circuses ever since the 1960s. In 2009, a 5-year old skater bear tore to pieces his muzzle and lashed out at 25-year old circus director Dmitry Potapov, dragging him across the ice rink and causing the man severe injuries, leading him to die. The moral of the story? Leave ice hockey to the professionals.
There is a team of hockey-playing Canadian Roman Catholic priests called the Flying Fathers. They only play exhibition games against local hockey teams to raise money for charities. The organization was founded in 1963 by two priests from Northern Ontario. Since then, they’ve played more than 900 games, and have raised over 4 million dollars.
The City Park Ice Rink is the largest, and one of the oldest ice rinks in Europe: opened in 1870, it hosted the 1929 tournament of the Ice Hockey European Championship. The ice rink was refurbished in 2011: the amelioration process included the redevelopment of the skating area, thanks to which it grew by 15 percent, and now consists of a 180 × 67 metres skating rink and an international standard ice hockey rink.
Hungarian ice hockey supporters are considered by many in the industry as the world’s best hockey fans, thanks mostly to the Hungarians’ habit of singing the national anthem regardless of the result. Kevin Pratt, in an article on the website of Canadian sports channel TSN had this to say of the Hungarian fans’ performance during the 2016 world cup: „And then they sing. Loudly. Proudly. A thousand fans of the losing side, serenading the second-place team. But the result on the scoreboard never matters to them. They do it to honour the effort.They do it to feel proud of their country. Every time they sing like they’ve just won the World Championship.”