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  • Journal of Sport History

Hockey: A Global History by Stephen Hardy, and Andrew C. Holman (review)

  • Young Do Kim
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Volume 47, Number 2, Summer 2020
  • pp. 171-173
  • 10.1353/sph.2020.0035
  • View Citation

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Ice Hockey Central

The Evolution of Hockey: How the Game Has Transformed Over Time

Hockey is a game that has been enjoyed by people for over a century. It’s a sport that has evolved tremendously since its inception, from playing on frozen ponds to now being played in high-tech arenas all around the world. The game has changed in every way, from the equipment to the rules to the players themselves.

Over the years, hockey has transformed from a casual game to a professional sport, attracting fans from all walks of life. The evolution of the game has brought new techniques, strategies, and styles of play. With advancements in technology and training, players are now faster, stronger, and more skilled than ever before.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how hockey has changed over time. From the early beginnings of the sport to the modern game, we’ll explore the historical, technological, and cultural factors that have influenced the game we know and love today.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, you won’t want to miss out on the fascinating story of hockey’s transformation.

From Pond to Professional: A Brief History of Hockey

Hockey is a sport that has evolved dramatically over the years. Its roots can be traced back to the 1800s when it was played on frozen ponds and lakes. Today, it is a professional sport played in arenas all over the world. The transformation of hockey from a simple game played on a frozen pond to a full-fledged professional sport is a fascinating story that is worth exploring.

Early Years of Hockey

  • Hockey originated in Canada in the early 1800s.
  • The first recorded game of hockey was played in 1875 in Montreal.
  • Initially, the game was played on frozen ponds and lakes with improvised sticks and pucks made of frozen cow manure or wood.

Introduction of Rules and Equipment

As the game gained popularity, more formal rules were introduced, and the equipment evolved. The first set of rules was developed in 1877, and the first puck made of rubber was used in 188These changes helped to make the game safer and more structured.

  • The first set of rules was developed in 1877 by the Montreal Hockey Club.
  • The first puck made of rubber was used in 1886.
  • In the early 1900s, shin pads, gloves, and helmets were introduced to protect players.

Modern Era of Hockey

Today, hockey is played at all levels, from youth leagues to the professional ranks. The game has become faster and more physical, and the equipment has continued to evolve to keep up with the demands of the game.

  • The National Hockey League (NHL) was founded in 1917 and is now the top professional league in the world.
  • Advancements in technology have led to the development of lighter and more protective equipment, allowing players to play at a higher level.
  • The NHL has expanded from six teams to 32 teams, with players from all over the world.

As hockey continues to grow and evolve, its history reminds us of its humble beginnings and the passion that drove it to become the exciting and dynamic sport that it is today.

The Impact of Technology on Hockey Equipment

Hockey has come a long way since its earliest days on frozen ponds. As the game has evolved, so too has the technology that is used to create and improve hockey equipment . Today’s players are equipped with state-of-the-art gear that provides a level of protection and performance that was once unimaginable.

But how exactly has technology impacted the world of hockey equipment ? Let’s take a closer look.

Material Innovation

One of the most significant impacts of technology on hockey equipment has been in the realm of materials. From the early days of wooden sticks and leather skates, we now have composite sticks, lightweight helmets, and flexible skates. These new materials provide better performance and increased safety for players at all levels.

Composite sticks, for example, are made of a blend of materials that provide increased durability and flexibility . They can be customized to a player’s specific needs and have become the norm in the modern game. Similarly, the use of lightweight materials in helmet construction has reduced the risk of head injuries and improved player safety.

3D Printing

Another significant technological advancement in the world of hockey equipment is the use of 3D printing. This process allows for the creation of custom-fit equipment that is tailored to an individual player’s needs. For example, a player’s skate can now be created to match the exact shape of their foot, providing better comfort and support on the ice.

Additionally, 3D printing has allowed for the creation of complex designs and structures that were once impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing techniques. This has led to increased innovation and creativity in the design of hockey equipment , further improving the performance of players.

Analytics and Sensor Technology

The use of analytics and sensor technology is another area where technology has had a significant impact on hockey equipment. Sensors embedded in equipment such as sticks and helmets can collect data on a player’s performance, including stick speed, shot accuracy, and head impact. This data can be analyzed to provide insights that can be used to improve player performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Furthermore, analytics and sensor technology can help equipment manufacturers identify areas for improvement in their products. This can lead to the creation of new, innovative designs that push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of hockey equipment.

As technology continues to evolve, it is clear that the impact on hockey equipment will only continue to grow. The future of hockey equipment is exciting, with advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality set to revolutionize the game even further.

Breaking Down the Rule Changes that Shaped the Modern Game

Hockey has evolved tremendously over the years, and one of the most significant factors that have contributed to this evolution is rule changes. Rule changes are meant to address specific aspects of the game, such as safety, fairness, and game flow. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most impactful rule changes that have shaped the modern game of hockey.

One of the earliest rule changes that impacted the game was the introduction of the forward pass in 1929. Before this rule change, players could only pass the puck backward, which made it difficult for teams to generate offense. With the ability to pass the puck forward, teams could now create scoring opportunities more easily.

Elimination of the Rover Position

  • In 1940, the rover position was eliminated from the game. This change was made to create a more defined defensive system and encourage more aggressive play.
  • The rover was a player who could move freely between the defense and offense, making it challenging for teams to maintain a structured defensive system.
  • The elimination of the rover position led to the development of the modern defensive system, with two defensemen and three forwards.

Introduction of the Two-Line Pass

  • In 1992, the two-line pass rule was introduced to limit the number of long passes and breakaways, which were deemed to be reducing game flow and causing injuries.
  • This rule prohibits players from passing the puck across two blue lines, which helps keep the game more contained and promotes a faster pace of play.
  • The introduction of the two-line pass has also led to the development of the neutral zone trap, a defensive strategy designed to clog up the middle of the ice and limit scoring chances.

Shootout to Decide Tied Games

  • In 2005, the shootout was introduced as a way to break ties in regular-season games. Previously, games that ended in a tie would remain tied.
  • The shootout gives fans a more exciting conclusion to tied games and puts more pressure on players to perform under pressure.
  • The introduction of the shootout has also led to an increase in the number of games decided by a single goal, which makes the game more exciting and competitive.

How Training and Nutrition Have Revolutionized Hockey Performance

Training and nutrition have become integral components of modern hockey performance, with players and teams investing heavily in both areas to gain an edge over their opponents. By optimizing their physical and mental preparation, players can improve their endurance, strength, and agility, while also reducing the risk of injury.

There are several ways in which training and nutrition have evolved to benefit hockey players . One of the most significant changes has been the shift toward more specific training programs tailored to the demands of hockey. This includes exercises that target the muscles and movements used in the game, as well as drills that simulate game situations to enhance decision-making and reaction times.

Tailored Training Programs

Functional training is a popular approach to hockey training that emphasizes exercises that mimic the movements of the game. This includes exercises that focus on balance, stability, and coordination, as well as strength and power training for the legs, core, and upper body.

Off-ice conditioning has also become a key component of hockey training , with players incorporating activities such as cycling, swimming, and interval training to build endurance and cardiovascular fitness. This helps players maintain their energy levels throughout games and perform at a high level even in the later stages of the game.

Advanced Nutritional Strategies

Optimizing nutrition has become a major focus for hockey players and teams, with many investing in the services of dietitians and nutritionists to create customized meal plans and supplement regimens. This includes a focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide the energy and nutrients needed to support training and recovery.

Hydration is also crucial for hockey performance, with players needing to maintain optimal fluid levels to prevent fatigue and reduce the risk of injury. This includes not only drinking enough water but also consuming electrolytes and carbohydrates to support energy levels and prevent cramping.

Mental Training and Recovery

Mental preparation has become an increasingly important component of hockey performance, with players and teams using techniques such as visualization, meditation, and mindfulness to improve focus, reduce stress, and enhance overall mental health. Recovery is also crucial for hockey performance, with players using methods such as massage, stretching, and ice baths to reduce soreness and inflammation and facilitate recovery between games.

  • Visualization techniques can help players mentally rehearse specific game scenarios, improving their ability to make quick decisions and react effectively to changing situations.
  • Massage therapy can improve blood flow, reduce muscle tension and soreness, and promote relaxation and mental well-being.
  • Cryotherapy involves exposing the body to extreme cold temperatures to reduce inflammation, soreness, and fatigue.

Overall, the integration of advanced training and nutrition strategies, along with mental preparation and recovery techniques, has revolutionized hockey performance. By optimizing these areas, players and teams can gain a competitive edge, reduce the risk of injury, and perform at their best for the entire season.

The Role of Women in Hockey: Past, Present, and Future

Women have played a crucial role in the development of hockey from its earliest days. However, it has only been in recent years that women have gained greater recognition and opportunities to play at the highest levels. Despite the progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure that women’s hockey continues to thrive and grow in the future.

The Past: For much of the history of hockey , women were excluded from playing the sport at all. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that women began to organize teams and leagues, although they were still not officially recognized by the sport’s governing bodies. It wasn’t until 1990 that the first Women’s World Hockey Championship was held, and women’s hockey was added to the Olympics in 1998.

The Present:

Today, women’s hockey is more popular than ever before. There are professional leagues in North America and Europe, and many top-level female players are now household names. However, there are still significant disparities between men’s and women’s hockey, both in terms of pay and exposure. Many women’s leagues struggle financially, and players often have to work second jobs to support themselves.

  • Pay Disparities: The pay gap between male and female hockey players is significant, with female players often earning only a fraction of what their male counterparts make.
  • Exposure: Women’s hockey still receives much less media coverage than men’s hockey, which makes it harder for female players to gain recognition and sponsorship deals.

The Future:

The future of women’s hockey is bright, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that it continues to grow and thrive. Efforts are being made to create more opportunities for female players at all levels, from grassroots programs to professional leagues. The NHL has also taken steps to support women’s hockey, including sponsoring a women’s professional hockey league and hosting the NHL All-Star Game alongside the Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game in 2019.

  • Equal Pay and Exposure: To ensure the long-term sustainability of women’s hockey, there needs to be a concerted effort to close the pay gap and provide equal exposure to female players.
  • Increased Investment: Greater investment in women’s hockey is needed to create more opportunities for players and to help support the growth of the sport.

The Business of Hockey: How Money Has Changed the Game

Money is no stranger to the world of sports, and hockey is no exception. In fact, the business side of hockey has seen significant changes over the years, with money playing a major role in shaping the game we know today. From player salaries to team sponsorships, the business of hockey has become a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to evolve.

But how exactly has money changed the game of hockey? Let’s take a closer look.

Player Salaries

One of the most noticeable changes in the business of hockey has been the rise of player salaries. With the league’s revenue steadily increasing, teams have been able to offer larger and more lucrative contracts to their star players. This has resulted in a significant increase in player salaries over the years, with some of the league’s top players now earning tens of millions of dollars per year. However, this increase in salaries has also led to some controversy, with critics arguing that it has contributed to a growing gap between the league’s top players and the rest of the team.

Team Sponsorships

Another major change in the business of hockey has been the increase in team sponsorships. With the growing popularity of the sport, teams have been able to attract more and more sponsors, which has resulted in significant revenue streams. Today, it is not uncommon to see teams sporting multiple sponsors on their jerseys, helmets, and even in their arena. However, this increased focus on sponsorship has also raised concerns about the impact on the fan experience, with some critics arguing that it can distract from the game and cheapen the sport.

The Future of Hockey Business

The business of hockey continues to evolve, with new technologies, changing fan preferences, and shifting economic realities all playing a role. Some of the most interesting trends in the industry today include the rise of esports, the growth of online streaming , and the increasing importance of international markets. As the industry continues to grow and change, it will be fascinating to see how these trends shape the future of the game.

In conclusion, the business of hockey has undergone significant changes over the years, with money playing a major role in shaping the game we know today. From player salaries to team sponsorships, the impact of money on hockey is undeniable. As the industry continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how these changes continue to shape the game and the fan experience.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Hockey and What It Means for Fans

As the world of sports evolves, so too does the game of hockey. The future of hockey promises to bring exciting changes that will impact both players and fans alike. One major area of focus is technology, which is being integrated into the game in new and innovative ways. From advanced analytics to player tracking, technology is providing fans with more detailed insights into the game.

Another key area of focus is the growth of the sport globally. Hockey is no longer just a Canadian or American game, as countries like Russia, Sweden, and Finland have developed strong hockey cultures. The NHL has also expanded its reach, with teams in Las Vegas and Seattle, and talks of potential future expansion into Europe.

The Rise of Women’s Hockey

Women’s hockey has come a long way since its inception. With the inclusion of women’s hockey in the Olympics , the sport has gained a wider audience and recognition. Recently, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) has started to gain more attention and sponsorship, allowing for more opportunities and growth in the women’s game.

Esports and Virtual Reality

The rise of esports and virtual reality has already made its way into the world of hockey. Virtual reality technology allows fans to immerse themselves in the game like never before, and esports tournaments featuring NHL players have become increasingly popular. While the use of virtual reality and esports in hockey is still in its early stages, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities and how it will impact the fan experience.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the world of hockey, with games being postponed and played in empty arenas. While the pandemic has presented challenges, it has also provided opportunities for innovation and change. The NHL has implemented new safety protocols and adjusted its schedule to accommodate for the pandemic. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how the impact of COVID-19 will continue to shape the future of hockey.

How Has Hockey Changed Over Time?

What were the earliest forms of hockey.

The earliest forms of hockey date back to the 1700s in Nova Scotia, Canada, where people played a game called “shinty” on the ice. This game eventually evolved into what we know as modern ice hockey . The rules were not standardized until the late 1800s, and the first indoor hockey game was played in 1875 in Montreal. Nova Scotia

How did the introduction of the forward pass change the game?

Before the forward pass was introduced in 1929, players could only pass the puck backwards or laterally. The forward pass allowed for more offensive plays and increased scoring, which made the game more exciting for fans. Forward pass

What impact did the Original Six era have on hockey?

The Original Six era refers to the period from 1942-1967 when there were only six teams in the NHL: the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers , and Detroit Red Wings. This era saw some of the greatest players in hockey history and helped establish the sport’s popularity in North America. Original Six

How has technology changed the game of hockey?

Technology has had a significant impact on hockey, from the development of synthetic ice surfaces to advancements in equipment design. Video replay technology has also been introduced to review close calls and ensure accuracy in referee decisions. Technology

How has the role of fighting in hockey changed over time?

Fighting has always been a part of hockey, but the role it plays in the game has changed over time. In the past, fighting was used to settle disputes between players, but today it is less common and often penalized with suspensions and fines. Fighting

What is the future of hockey?

The future of hockey looks bright, with a growing number of players from diverse backgrounds and new technologies being developed to enhance the fan experience. The NHL has also expanded to new markets, including Las Vegas and Seattle, which will continue to increase the sport’s popularity. Future

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Hockey History, as Documented by Prime Minister

hockey history research paper

By Jeff Z. Klein

  • Nov. 4, 2013

The historian Jacques Barzun once wrote, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” That notion probably goes double for Canada and hockey.

The argument will be bolstered Tuesday with the publication of “A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey,” written by Stephen J. Harper, the Canadian prime minister. The book is no mere collection of thoughtful essays or policy recommendations, as one might expect from a sitting politician.

Rather, it is a 320-page scholarly history of an obscure period in Toronto hockey more than a century ago, with footnotes and bibliography. It is as if President Obama published a densely researched study of early basketball in Chicago.

“A Great Game” took Harper nine years to research, write and publish. For the last seven of those years, he has been the prime minister, raising the inevitable question: Doesn’t he have more important things to do with his time?

“At minimum, the book’s release opens us to some serious ribbing down at the U.N.,” Scott Feschuk wrote in the Canadian newsweekly Maclean’s . “Governing Canada — now almost a full-time job.”

But Harper’s book could also be seen as an illustration of hockey’s special place in the Canadian heart and mind, as surely as Barzun saw baseball in the American psyche in 1954. It is part of a larger annual outpouring of Canadian scholarship and art that flows every fall, analyzing, celebrating, imagining, complaining about and telling the story of hockey.

“That Stephen Harper has written this book says the obvious thing, that hockey occupies a pre-eminent role in the Canadian imagination,” said the writer Adam Gopnik, a Montreal Canadiens fan and the author of the 2011 Massey Lectures, “Winter: Five Windows on a Season,” which he delivered to audiences across Canada.

“The way that you show yourself to be authentically Canadian is by engaging with hockey,” Gopnik added. “It’s the distinctive thing that Canadians are superb at, and so deep in the Canadian consciousness because one of the common Canadian experiences is winter.”

The great volume of hockey books, from novels to more standard works like Bobby Orr’s recently published autobiography , as well as music, art, film and theater about hockey in Canada goes largely unnoticed in the United States. “As a subject for literary and intellectual scrutiny, it’s true, hockey has its handicaps,” the American critic Keith Gessen wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 2006, calling hockey “comparatively undocumented.”

But many acclaimed works were produced before and since 2006. The most recent among them is “Keon and Me: My Search for the Lost Soul of the Leafs,” a memoir by the author and musician Dave Bidini about growing up in 1970s Toronto and idolizing the gentlemanly Maple Leafs captain Dave Keon while also enduring the humiliation of frequent beatings from a schoolyard bully.

Steeped in hockey lore, “Keon and Me” has been critically praised since it was published last month. Bidini’s evocation of the Leafs’ last Stanley Cup victory in 1967 succinctly describes a shared Canadian memory, whether or not the reader is a Leafs fan: “People at a parade. Newspapers fluttering out of the sky. Men in fedoras and women in cat’s eye glasses. Downtown. Microphones and laughter. The Chief. And then summertime.”

(Most of Bidini’s readers would instantly recognize that the Chief is George Armstrong, Keon’s predecessor as Toronto captain.)

Speaking by telephone from his Toronto home, Bidini said he admired the language of Canadian sports columnists of the past like Trent Frayne, Dick Beddoes, Andy O’Brien and Scott Young, the father of the musician Neil Young.

“It evolved out of the arenas, the men of the taverns, of ’60s tavern talk, huddled together on cold nights drinking trays of Export after having been to Maple Leaf Gardens or the Montreal Forum,” Bidini said, evoking other Canadian cultural themes.

Bidini’s memoir belongs to a decades-long skein of Canadian hockey-centric works that includes “Night Work,” Randall Maggs’s dark collection of poems about the great and troubled goalie Terry Sawchuk; Guy Maddin’s hallucinatory silent film “Cowards Bend the Knee”; Paul Quarrington ’s ghostly novel “King Leary”; Roch Carrier’s children’s tale “Le Chandail de Hockey” (“The Hockey Sweater”); and the Tragically Hip’s tribute to the tragic Leafs hero Bill Barilko, “Fifty Mission Cap.”

Perhaps the most highly regarded work in the hockey canon is “The Game,” by the former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, which has been republished this month in a 30th-anniversary edition . The memoir — part behind-the-scenes diary of a professional athlete, part meditation on Canada and hockey — is often included on lists of the best North American sports books.

“There’s absolutely a deep connection between hockey and Canadians — it’s profound, it’s deep, it matters to people,” said Dryden, who went on to a career as the Leafs’ president, a member of Parliament and an advocate for reducing violence and head injury in the sport.

But Dryden rejected the notion that hockey was the main defining feature common to Canadians. “Most Americans will assume that most Canadians are born with their skates on, and that there is a preoccupation with hockey that is unlike anything that anyone would experience themselves,” Dryden said. “And I don’t think that’s right.”

Gopnik also noted that there was no hockey in, say, the fiction of Alice Munro, the Canadian who last month won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Harper has written a finely detailed history of the struggle between professionalism and amateurism in early 20th-century Ontario hockey. Harper, a longtime member of the Society for International Hockey Research, has described his studies as “an escape from the pressures of the job.”

In “A Great Game,” Harper had the assistance of a full-time researcher and the editing help of the distinguished Canadian sportswriter Roy MacGregor, but the work is his. It includes insightful examinations of class and religion and the roles they played in a country that still saw itself as a pillar of the British Empire, all viewed through the prism of hockey at the dawn of the pro era.

Harper also makes other observations that will fascinate regular hockey fans. The original Canadiens franchise of 1909, he notes, went dormant in 1910 and was replaced by another Canadiens franchise; the original franchise was sold to Toronto, where it became the progenitor of the Maple Leafs.

“How incomprehensible, then, it would be to the average fan of the Leafs or the Habs to discover that these seemingly eternal adversaries are descended from a common ancestor,” Harper writes.

Inside the World of Sports

Dive deeper into the people, issues and trends shaping professional, collegiate and amateur athletics..

Competing for Olympic Spots:  Two friends had run side by side for more than 10,000 miles. Both vied for a place in the marathon at the Paris Games .

Captivating New York:  It has been 50 years since the Knicks last won the N.B.A. championship. Now, a freshly promising team has enthralled the city .

A Different Kind of Superstar:  Nigel Sylvester, one of the world’s most famous BMX riders, has used social media and collaborations to become one of his sport's most recognizable figures .

Americanizing English Soccer:  U.S. investors are gobbling up the storied teams of the English Premier League — and changing the stadium experience  in ways that soccer fans resent.

A Sense of Home:  For generations of immigrants in New York, Sunday soccer at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens  is more than a game.

A Century Ago, Women Played Ice Hockey

Ice hockey came to the U.S. from Canada at the end of the nineteenth century. Women started playing immediately, forming their own clubs.

A women's hockey team, 1931

With its reputation for aggressive play punctuated by violent fights, ice hockey looks to many modern eyes like a distinctly masculine sport. But, as the historian Andrew C. Holman writes in the Journal of Sport History , when it first caught on in the U.S., it was popular with women as well.

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Ice hockey came to the U.S. from Canada at the end of the nineteenth century. Immediately, some women started playing. Holman found surviving photographs of female players, including women’s teams in Philadelphia and student athletes at Mount Holyoke College. But women’s hockey really got serious in the years during and after World War I.

The rise of the sport came at a time when women were increasingly attending college, joining professions, and taking on wage work. With this came the controversial ideal of the “strenuous woman,” who should be strong and capable, rather than meek and frail like a model Victorian lady.

Starting in 1916, Holman writes, women’s ice hockey teams popped up at many colleges and as amateur clubs off campus. By 1917, New York and Boston sported women’s ice hockey teams, who traveled to compete against each other and played against other women’s teams in their own cities.

In 1920, the Boston Globe  was enthused that fans “will have the pleasure of seeing a team of rosy cheeked, fluffy haired girls in a hockey team… The leader of this group of girls weighs only 115 pounds and is only 5 feet 2 inches tall. She has grit, however, and the muscle, for she says, she is as strong as many men who weighs [sic] twice as much as she.”

Also in 1920, Boston’s Back Bay Hockey Club began developing a plan for a formal intercity league, which  would include teams from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But the league never actually happened. In fact, by the middle of the decade, women’s ice hockey had begun to decline.

Holman writes that this decline was partly the result of the sport’s vulnerability to commercial forces. Given the expense of keeping a skating arena open, amateur clubs could only function if they made money for arena owners and hockey promoters. But those commercial interests, as well as sports writers and other leaders of the sports establishment, soon settled on a single vision for promoting hockey to the public: a distinctly male one, featuring “bloodshed and mayhem” alongside skill and strategy.

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At the same time (in the early 1920s), the pendulum on women’s behavior began swinging the other way, with the emerging argument that competitive sports threatened women and girls’ morals . In 1923, the Women’s Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation adopted an “Athletic Creed” encouraging “play for play’s sake” and decrying female athletes’ “exploitation” in spectator sports or for commercial purposes.

As college and amateur athletic promoters drew back from supporting women’s ice hockey, and as commercial interests determined that women’s games couldn’t produce enough profits, the sport foundered. Today, female players still struggle to get the respect and support that their counterparts sought a century ago.

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Hockey History

by Dick Baldwin 1972-1973 UB Hockey Media Guide

Ice Hockey, under the influence of neighboring Canadian spunk, enjoyed meager status through the 1930’s at Buffalo. There were earlier attempts to establish a program, the University was represented by a team in 1896, but play was officially recognized as part of the eight-sport intercollegiate package in 1933-34. (Other sports – football, basketball, golf, tennis, cross-country, track, and wrestling).

Construction of the new library was completed on the site of the early outdoor ice rink; thus, the sport froze. Mild winters prevented organized practice and game scheduling. Three rink sites were proposed by the athletic department, but the plea for puck space went unanswered.

With the absence of a proper rink interest on and off campus diminished. A band of buffs didn’t let the entire program die, however, as the sport stayed alive on an intramural basis and one night a week the “team” would play a practice game at Nichols Prep.

Not until 1962 did bonified “club” hockey return to the campus. An early ace was Dan Gorney reputed to be extremely accomplished in all facets of the game.  Gorney with student manager Ivan Makuch organized the program and kept it solvent, mostly on an assessment of $25 per player. The athletic department donated retired football jerseys and a sympathetic ear. Funds were not forthcoming at the time for club sports.

The club team had its early moments – mostly early A.M. for practice at the rented Ft. Erie Arena. Skating sessions often commenced at midnight and lasted until weary legs gave out. Later (1965) the team headquartered at the new Amherst Recreational Center on Millersport Highway.

The hockey bug bit undergraduate Howie Flaster ’66, a no n-skater from New York. Flaster put the growing U/B hockey house in order, recruiting brisk young talent from neighboring Canadian hotbeds. He continued to lend direction to the sport as a graduate student and part-time assistant in the athletic department.

Lorne Rombough, Ft. Erie, helped gain attention for the young Bulls through the 1966-67 club season when he scored 38 goals in 17 games. Rombough went into professional hockey upon graduation and soon should be joined by other Buffalo graduates.

The club sextets scheduled any team willing to skate with them. Despite the open-end invitation, the Bulls pounded pucks home at Amherst and on the road. But there were unpleasant moments, too, such as a 24-0 offensive lesson from Oswego St. in 1965.

For 1965-66 the athletic department started to contribute to the hockey fortunes. AD Jim Peelle liked the fast-stepping game and was determined to assist the program, as the team became a member of the Finger Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (FLCHL).

Trey Coley, ex -Colgate ace, joined the program as head coach for the 1966-67 season. This team went 7-7-1 with a campus following building, plus a FLCHL Tourney birth. The next year the Bulls hit headlines with a 16-1-0 record. They won 16 in succession and the league flag. The 1968-69 unit under Coach Steve Newman, father of Captain Bill, posted an overall 19-5-0 summary. UB lost the tournament championship to Canton Tech 3-2.

In 1969-70 ice hockey became a varsity competition under the complete governance of the athletic department. The search was out for a full-time mentor, but the position remained vacant for the duration of the season. Canadian Bibber O’Hearn took the team most of the way through a 17-game slate and the Bulls played 14-3-0 with a perfect 8-0-0 in the FLCHL. They lost the championship tourney title to Canton ATC.

The stability of hockey was established prior to the 1970-71 season when Ed Wright, Boston U ’69, joined the P.E. staff as the first full-time professional coach. Wright brings to Buffalo a wealth of experience as a star performer with BU’s annual NCAA championship Terriers.

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Systematic review article, the science and art of testing in ice hockey: a systematic review of twenty years of research.

hockey history research paper

  • 1 Laboratoire de recherche sur le hockey UQTR, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada
  • 2 Department of Human Kinetics, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada

Introduction: Ice hockey is a complex sport requiring multiple athletic and technical attributes. Considering the variety of tests developed, on-ice testing protocols have been created to measure the physiological and mechanical attributes associated with performance. To our knowledge, a lack of technical resources exists to help stakeholders opt for on-ice protocols from among those developed. It becomes crucial for researchers and practitioners to select relevant and context-specific procedures. This systematic review of the literature outlines an inventory of the on-ice tests that have been used in the domain of ice hockey research over the last twenty years, and summarize protocols mostly used in major athletic components.

Methods: A search was performed on three databases (PubMed, SPORTDiscus and Scopus) by following the PRISMA guidelines. Specific keywords were selected to find publications using on-ice testing protocols in the methodology. Four aspects of athletic attributes were used to categorize the protocols: aerobic capacity, acceleration-speed, agility-change of direction and ability to repeat skating sprints. Analyses were conducted regarding four categories of observations: population under study, on-ice reported test(s), outcomes measures and main findings.

Results: A total of 107 articles were included, resulting in 55 on-ice tests related to the on-ice assessments of four major athletic components: aerobic capacity ( n  = 7), acceleration-speed ( n  = 6), agility and change of direction ( n  = 23) and repeated skating sprint ability ( n  = 19). Testing in male and older cohorts (≥16 years old) predominates, with a primary focus on the competitive amateur level. The selected tests were mainly designed for assessing on-ice physiological responses and fitness ( n  = 38), talent identification-team selection ( n  = 19), efficiency of interventions ( n  = 17) and validation purposes ( n  = 16).

Conclusion: A prevalence of on-ice skating tests to assess the ability to repeat intense efforts, agility, acceleration and speed components exists, which are relevant and linked to match requirement. The wealth of on-ice tests used in the literature reflects the need to adapt the on-ice evaluation process to the population, constraints, and goals. This review is a valid toolbox and can benefit for researchers and practitioners interested in testing hockey players from different levels, with a variety of aims and needs, by helping them to select the relevant procedures to their environment and practice context.

1. Introduction

Ice hockey is a team sport that consists of multiple technical tasks such as skating, sliding, shooting and body checking and is organized with phases of play interspersed with passive recoveries ( 1 ). As an intermittent team sport, it requires attributes of acceleration, speed, power, endurance and the ability to repeat short and intense efforts ( 2 ). The physiological demands of modern ice hockey have increased over the last decades ( 1 , 3 , 4 ). Performance assessment has become a field of expertise that is crucial for researchers and practitioners (e.g., coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, scouts, program directors), who need to be aware of the mechanisms that predispose hockey players to perform in key situations ( 5 ). In this regard, several areas of interest are being studied: talent identification, team selection processes, performance analysis, and monitoring individual progress after strength and conditioning training ( 6 ). Conducting testing protocols are useful to determine potential and capacity to perform as well as readiness for competition in ice hockey ( 7 ). By assessing athletes and allowing a better understanding of determinants of the performance, the process of optimizing these physical attributes becomes part of player development ( 2 , 8 ). As an example, it has been shown that athletes' on-ice performances can be improved by developing their athletic capacities with strength and conditioning ( 9 , 10 ). However, further research is still needed to provide clear scientific evidence that supports the associations between functional fitness, on-ice testing protocols and game performance in real settings ( 11 ).

1.1. Testing in ice hockey: from strength and conditioning room to real-game settings

Performance in ice hockey is assessed from three main scientific perspectives: off-ice fitness or athletic capacities ( 12 ), on-ice specific fitness attributes ( 13 , 14 ) and on-ice game performance ( 15 , 16 ). Although previous researchers have studied functional fitness evaluation for both the youth ( 17 , 18 ) and professional levels ( 19 , 20 ), this approach is essential for adapting strength and conditioning training programs to an athlete's needs ( 2 ). Off-ice assessment methods commonly used (i.e., jumps, acceleration, speed, change of direction, upper and lower-body strength, shuttle run, balance), are useful for establishing an athlete's profile in order to monitor their progress over an entire season ( 7 , 21 ). There is an extensive description of the testing batteries used, and their role in reaching the high levels of athlete development is well defined ( 22 ). The most common one is the NHL Draft Combine ( 23 ), which consists of a group of multiple off-ice tests. In this regard, they were shown to have weak predictive validity, especially since they may be less specific to the requirements of on-ice demands ( 24 ).

To counteract the limitations of off-ice tests, scientific interest has focused on on-ice fitness specifically in recent decades. The first on-ice testing protocols were conducted over twenty years ago with an emphasis on aerobic capacity, acceleration, speed and change of direction ( 25 , 26 , 27 ). On-ice performance can be assessed in multiple ways, from the empirical evaluation of on-ice skating test times with stopwatches or photo-electric cells ( 18 , 28 ), modern technologies ( 14 , 29 , 30 ) and biomechanical and kinematics pattern movements analysis ( 31 , 32 , 33 ). Finally, diverse approaches allow for in situ assessment, where it becomes possible to measure and track players' instantaneous on-ice performance during in-game situations. Previously analyzed with traditional methods (e.g., video analysis or qualitative observation grids) ( 34 , 35 ), technological improvements have promoted the accuracy and reliability of on-ice performance assessment during game situations (e.g., accelerometry, local positioning systems or automated analysis software) ( 36 , 37 , 38 ).

In summary, we can conclude that two performance-assessment approaches coexist in the domain of ice hockey: “off-ice” fitness tests and specific “on-ice” tests. As mentioned previously, given that off-ice tests may not be specific enough to the requirements of ice hockey, increased attention to on-ice assessment seems to offer the path to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying performance in ice hockey ( 39 ). In this regard, systematic reviews focused on longitudinal off-ice fitness, physiological parameters and on-ice evaluation ( 40 ) as well as on-ice performance testing with an emphasis on straight sprint acceleration and speed ( 41 ). Nevertheless, many challenges remain when researchers attempt to establish associations between attributes tested on the ice and how these attributes translate into real performance in competition settings ( 42 ).

1.2. Objectives: bridging the gap between research and application

When seeking the most reliable and valid options for testing hockey players, researchers face multiple options regarding the best ways to assess the attributes needed to excel. Regarding a major specificity of this sport, there is currently no exhaustive literature review, to our knowledge, of on-ice test protocols used with specific populations and different levels of expertise. From this perspective, bridging the gap between science and its application in practical settings (e.g., less controlled environments) is relevant for both researchers and practitioners. For researchers, an in-depth knowledge of the methods used to assess ice-hockey attributes, with regard to strong external validity, is valuable in their search to replicate research designs specific to the populations studied. More practically, a complete repertoire of on-ice testing protocols is relevant for ice hockey and strength and conditioning coaches as well as federations because it allows them to select methods that are appropriate and adapted to their players' characteristics (e.g., sex, age, level of play, etc.). Accordingly, the aim of this systematic review is threefold: (1) to present an inventory of the on-ice testing protocols most frequently used to assess physiological and physical attributes relating to ice hockey; (2) to provide a critical overview of the characteristics used in this research including population under study (playing level, sex, age group), study design; validation; and outcomes measures, and (3) to propose recommendations for research-practitioners on the methods that were used in their areas of interest. These recommendations will serve as a framework for designing replicable designs (e.g., in research) and/or implementing testing sessions adapted to stakeholders' purposes (e.g., fitness testing, team selection, assessment goals, required equipment, etc.).

2.1. Identifying the research question

The systematic review process is a suitable and appropriate method to quantify several studies with different designs, establish links between them and synthesize them ( 43 ). This type of design allows researchers to answer questions such as “ How many on-ice tests are mentioned in scientific research that aim to assess the physical, technical and physiological qualities of hockey players ?” Next, it describes the population, type of study design and observed associations of the different tests in order to identify current contributions and related scientific shortcomings in the field of ice hockey. As mentioned earlier, the main objective of this review is to inform researchers of what has been done in on-ice performance testing and provide measurement tools for practitioners to assess hockey players.

2.2. Finding relevant studies

Article identification and selection was done in accordance with PRISMA guidelines ( 44 ), as illustrated in Figure 1 . An initial search in three main sport science databases (PubMed, SPORTDiscus and Scopus) was performed on August 2022 using the terms ice hockey and test * as keywords for all databases searched. Searches were limited to articles in English published since January 2000. We justify this time frame for many reasons. Firstly, the introduction of professional (NHL) players at the 1998 Nagano Olympics contributed to the globalization of ice hockey, which resulted in an increase of scholars' interest towards the science of ice hockey. The profile of modern ice hockey players also changes over the years. For example, an article published by Triplett and colleagues ( 45 ) showed that National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey players morphology has changed over the last decades. This suggest that the level of athleticism that is needed to excel in ice hockey might be different than it was in the late 1990's. Some other factors, such as rule changes (e.g., removing the blue lines, introducing 3 vs. 3 overtimes, etc.) and the emergence of multiple junior-prospects tournaments also contributed to make ice hockey evolve in terms of the required attributes to attain the highest standards. A final argument that could be used is that, from the 2000 s to the present, we have seen an acceleration in the rate of ice hockey publications ( 46 ), explaining our decision of a “2000 to 2023” time frame.

Figure 1 . Stages of systematic review-PRISMA to identify on-ice tests in ice hockey.

Since then, speed and agility have become an important aspect of the game. To obtain specific information regarding the validity of the selected tests, we looked for the original study without noting year of publication (between 1950 and 1999). Next, we added articles published from August 2022 to May 2023 as well as articles which were not in the databases mentioned above but which corresponded to the inclusion criteria. Endnote (Clarivate, London, United Kingdom) was used and, after all titles of the three databases were uploaded, the software automatically identified and removed duplicates. Relevant articles were then screened for eligibility after reading the title and abstract of each remaining record, following the same manual PICOS procedure strategy (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes and Study design) as for the database search and inclusion criteria ( 47 ).

2.3. Selecting relevant studies

Two researchers (MB and GM) independently screened the title and abstract for each selected record by applying the PICOS framework. Inclusion criteria were: (1) male and/or female ice hockey players; (2) any articles containing at least one on-ice hockey test; and (3) ice hockey on-ice test that evaluates aerobic capacity, speed, agility or change of direction and ability to repeat sprints. Exclusion criteria for eliminating irrelevant records were: (1) article was not written in English; (2) test was not performed on the ice; (3) testing procedure was not clear (e.g., skating distances or test explanations); and (4) there were no test assessing attributes other than those mentioned above (e.g., technical on-ice test). After completing these steps, the researchers read each eligible article in full to narrow the list to all relevant studies that answered the research question. If the evaluating authors disagreed about the inclusion of an article, the decision was made by a third researcher (JL), also after reading.

2.4. Classification of information

Based on ice hockey game performance analysis ( 1 , 4 , 48 ), we identified four categories of physiological and physical attributes associated with the sport requirements: (1) aerobic capacity, (2) skating acceleration and speed, (3) change of direction (CoD) and agility, and (4) Ability to repeat sprints. Aerobic capacity was defined based on physiological considerations ( 3 , 48 ) and refers to the use of an incremental protocol where objective measures (e.g., skating speed, distance) increase are observed throughout the test, while subjective parameters are following the same path (e.g., heart rate, intensity, blood lactate) until exhaustion. In speed assessment, a short maximum effort is exerted once in a linear or circular fashion ( 28 , 41 ). Agility tests refer to efficiency in executing preplanned changes of direction such as tight turns, braking, crossovers and transitions from one skating technique to another over a short distance ( 26 , 49 , 50 ). As shown by Novak and colleagues ( 50 ), the transfer from off-ice agility to on-ice skating agility seems plausible in terms of trainability among cohorts of elite under16 (U16) Czech players. A fourth component, which is repeated skating sprint ability (RSSA) is the capacity to reproduce intense or maximal short duration efforts interspersed with brief recoveries ( 51 ). However, this ability to repeat such intense efforts involves both aerobic (e.g., high number of repetitions, 60 s or less brief and partial recovery) and anaerobic (e.g., short duration intense efforts less than 10 s) energy systems at the same time. RSSA is therefore considered an important attribute of the sport in ice hockey ( 48 , 52 ). Furthermore, we are aware that hockey skills are a key component of the toolbox a hockey player uses to excel during a game. Thus, most ice hockey federations have developed testing batteries to test hockey players' skills at different stages of their development. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tests for talent identification and Hockey Canada's National Skills Standards and Testing Program are good examples of such materials ( 53 , 54 ). However, we decided to exclude these kinds of protocols, since the aim of this review is to identify tests used in a research context focused on on-ice physiological and athletic testing. For each category of physical attribute mentioned above, we classified all information based on four aspects: population characteristics, reported on-ice tests, outcome measures and main findings.

2.5. Population

For each study retained, we recorded the population's age (mean), sex, level of play and geographic location. For the mean age, the standard deviation was not considered for classification into the four age groups, which were categorized based on the Long-Term Athlete Development model (LTAD) ( 55 ): (1) under 12 years; (2) 12–15 years (youth); (3) 16–19 years (early expertise); and (4) 20 years and +(advanced expertise). In cases involving more than one age group, each subgroup was considered in the number of studies. Sex was classified as male and female. Three playing levels were categorized: youth hockey, competitive amateur (college, university and junior), and professional level. Studies including more than one playing level were classified for all levels under study. The variable “place” was classified according to geographic context: Europe, North America and other (Asia and Australia).

2.6. Types of associations

Types of associations were analyzed to specify the context in which studies were conducted and were classified based on selected studies' outcomes measures: physiological variables, talent identification, training effects (e.g., following interventions), validation, test parameters, off-ice testing, and other measures (e.g., biomechanical, impact of equipment/nutrition). The authors noted three categories of research designs: observational, (quasi) experimental and validation studies. Researchers gathered all information by formatting an Excel document to include these details. They then extracted the information by attributing a numeric code to each article to classify and analyze the distribution of each type of study.

3.1. Selection of articles

Figure 1 illustrates the PRISMA procedure followed for article selection. A total of 1,504 articles were found through a search of three databases: PubMed ( n  = 394), SPORTDiscus ( nn  = 439) and Scopus ( n  = 671). The combined database search yielded 849 titles after removal of duplicates, and 18 studies were added manually ( Figure 1 ). Analysis of the titles and abstracts of each article resulted in the identification of 148 studies for full text review. Among these, 23 studies were excluded for failure to meet quality assessment criteria. At completion of the qualitative analysis process, 107 studies met all the eligibility criteria and were included in the statistical analyses, resulting in 55 on-ice tests. Table 1 provides a summary of the articles in the literature: a total of 107 articles representing 55 on-ice protocols. As displayed, results indicate that tests were designed for assessing aerobic capacity ( n  = 7), skating acceleration and speed ( n  = 6), agility-changes of direction ( n  = 23) and repeated skate sprint ability ( n  = 19).

Table 1 . Summary of articles reviewed.

3.2. Descriptive results

Table 1 examines a general overview of the included articles, with emphasis on each tested attribute and study parameters (i.e., age, sex, level of play, location, type of associations).

3.2.1. Population characteristics age.

For the populations studied, the age groups most frequently tested in the scientific literature included players over 16 years old, divided into those over 20 years ( n  = 59) and those 16–19 years ( n  = 39). Players under 12 years and 12–15 years old were less tested (respectively n  = 3; n  = 21). Specific to the categories of athletic attributes, older cohorts (e.g., ≥16 years old) were most frequently assessed for on-ice acceleration-speed and ability to repeat skating sprints. Conversely, younger groups of athletes (e.g., <15 years old) were mainly tested on skating agility and on-ice acceleration-speed attributes. Sex and playing level

Regarding sex, males were by far most frequently tested ( n  = 95) compared to females ( n  = 27), for each tested attribute. Some differences were observed according to level of play, where results indicate that the literature focused more on amateurs ( n  = 58) than youth or professional level players (respectively n  = 37 and n  = 22). On-ice speed tests were mainly administered among amateur cohorts ( n  = 33), youth assessment focused more on speed and agility components ( n  = 26; n  = 21), and professional athletes were tested in similar proportions on all physical attributes. Geographic location

Results show that geographic location was well distributed. More on-ice evaluations were conducted in North America ( n  = 57) compared to Europe ( n  = 49), and only two studies were carried out in other countries (Asia and Australia).

3.2.2. Design

Most of the research done in on-ice hockey testing consisted of observational studies ( n  = 69), while experimental and validation protocols were less frequent (respectively n  = 22 and n  = 16). These results are similar when the focus shifts to each specific attribute, with a primary focus on on-ice acceleration and sprinting qualities over other attributes.

3.2.3. Aims and outcomes

Results demonstrate that the main objective of research conducted in ice hockey on-ice assessment relates to physiological variables ( n  = 38). Below, talent identification, training effect and validation are subsequent outcomes showing similar proportions ( n talent  = 19; n training  = 17; n validation  = 16). Then, test parameters, off-ice testing and other studies objectives were implemented in the same ratio (respectively n  = 5; 4 and 9). On-ice acceleration and speed components along with agility were the two major athletic attributes assessed in the focus on on-ice testing in hockey research.

3.3. Summary of articles included in the systematic review

Table 2 presents results from all the retained articles that focused on on-ice testing in ice hockey. For each article, specifications in regard with population characteristics, reported test, outcome measures and main findings are presented.

Table 2 . Basic characteristics of included articles focused on on-ice hockey testing.

3.3.1. Descriptive results with physical attribute focus

Table 3 examines a specific overview of the most used on-ice protocols in the scientific literature for each physical attribute tested. Results present tests that appears three times or more in the literature.

Table 3 . Classification of articles by tested attribute with emphasis on the most used on-ice protocols.

3.3.2. Aerobic capacity

A total of 21 articles were found including tests of on-ice aerobic capacity in ice hockey players. The authors listed seven different tests where the majority of studies involved ice hockey players who were 20 years and older ( n  = 12), were male ( n  = 21) and played at the amateur level ( n  = 11). No studies were found on the on-ice aerobic capacity of ice hockey players under 12 years old. Additionally, four studies assessed on-ice aerobic capacity in female ice hockey players. Two of these were designed to test validation, while the others discussed the differences in the physiological parameters of males and females during graded exercise ( 75 ). Skating Multistage Aerobic Test (SMAT) is the on-ice aerobic protocol that appears most frequently in articles in the literature, most often regarding the age ranges of 16–19 years ( n  = 4) and 20 years+ ( n  = 3). Athletes from the amateur and professional levels were most often tested for aerobic capacity. These studies focused almost exclusively on male players ( n  = 9).

3.3.3. Acceleration-speed components

There are 66 articles in the present review, corresponding to six tests to assess on-ice acceleration and speed components in ice hockey. Forward acceleration or sprint are the most commonly used protocols (respectively n  = 55; n  = 45), followed by backward acceleration, backward sprint and full speed. As for skating distances, the most frequently applied protocols are the 6.1 m forward skating sprint test for on-ice acceleration and the 30 m for on-ice forward speed. All these are applied progressively for age cohort groups, with a prevalence among older athletes ( n  = 34 for 20-year-old group; n  = 18 for 12–15 year-old group and n  = 2 for ≤12 year-old group). From a level of play perspective, more tests were conducted at the competitive amateur level ( n  = 33) than at the youth ( n  = 26) or professional ( n  = 13) levels. This athletic attribute was more often assessed in North America than in Europe ( n America  = 36; n Europe  = 29).

3.3.4. Agility and change of direction abilities

On-ice agility and change of direction tests appeared 47 times in scientific publications. A high variability is observed in the selection of this category of tests, since 23 tests were found to evaluate this athletic quality, 17 of which appeared less than three times. Furthermore, there is a considerable gap in the literature regarding validation of agility tests, since only one test, the specific overall skating performance test (SOSPT), was validated over the timeframe of this review. The use of agility testing across the different studies was mostly targeted to male athletes ( n  = 42) aged 20 years and older ( n  = 23) playing at a competitive amateur level ( n  = 20). Only two studies were found regarding the assessment of agility in young ice hockey players under 12 years old. This on-ice attribute is assessed as much in North America as in Europe ( n America  = 24; n Europe  = 22), while Asia has one study. On an individual basis analysis, the Cornering S turn is the most frequently used on-ice test ( n  = 12) and implemented in both sexes. This protocol is well documented in the literature across the age ranges of 12–15, 16–19 and 20+ years old ( n  = 2; 4; 6) and is similarly represented in all levels of play ( n youth  = 6; n amateur  = 4; n pro  = 3).

3.3.5. Ability to repeat skating sprints (RSSA)

Ability to repeat on-ice skating accelerations, sprints or intense effort tests are well documented in ice hockey assessment, with 41 articles corresponding to 19 different on-ice protocols. A substantial and similar variability in agility is also observed in the selection of this category of tests, since 13 of the 19 tests occurred less than three times. In the various studies, tests of skating sprint repetition ability involved mainly male athletes ( n  = 34) in an older population (i.e., 16–19 and over 20 years old; cumulated n  = 44) compared to younger cohorts (under 12–15 and under 12 years old; cumulated n  = 5) playing at a competitive amateur level ( n  = 22). From an individual perspective, the Reed test appears to be the most conducted test ( n  = 6), while others (i.e., repeated shift test, modified repeated sprint skating, endurance test, multiple repeated skate test, line drill) follow below (from n  = 5 to n  = 3).

3.4. Summary of on-ice protocols trends

Table 4 highlights observations and practical applications of usage trends for each physical quality assessed. SMAT is the most conducted test for on-ice aerobic capacity assessment and is both valid ( r  = 0.97) and reliable ( r  = 0.92) ( 105 ). Acceleration and speed variables are mainly assessed with 6.1 m forward skating and 30 m skating sprints with a high reliability (ICC ≥ 0.83, TE ≤ 0.5%) ( 63 ). The cornering S test is the most common protocol for evaluating on-ice agility and change of direction. Nevertheless, although there is no consensus on ability to repeat sprints, trends seem to establish that the Reed repeat sprint skate test and the repeated shift test are practical options for assessing this athletic component.

Table 4 . Observation trends, benefits and constraints of the most used on-ice protocols.

4. Discussion

The general aim of this systematic review was to describe the extent to which evaluation protocols for different populations of ice hockey players have been used over the last twenty years. To this end, we identified four key categories of attributes related to ice hockey performance: aerobic capacity, speed, agility and ability to repeat intense efforts or sprints. Despite researchers' efforts so far to document the usefulness of assessing hockey players ( 22 ), this review provides a complete overview of the work carried out in the specific fields of on-ice testing in ice hockey. Because on-ice tests are specifically linked to the actions of hockey players, we believe that stakeholders (researchers, strength coaches, coaching staff, etc.) can benefit from such an inventory by relying on tests adapted to the populations of athletes with whom they work. Considering the evolution of this sport and the physical characteristics of top-level hockey players ( 45 , 82 , 146 ), we limited our search to work published over the last two decades. We also excluded test protocols designed to measure technical or tactical skills, since this category refers mainly to young developing athletes. In this respect, hockey federations in most countries have already developed a list of tests based on their strategic orientations in terms of sports development ( 54 , 147 ).

Regarding the populations studied and their attributes, it is interesting to note that the inventory of on-ice tests offers observations consistent with the attributes observed, as illustrated in Table 1 . First, the on-ice agility and change of direction component predominates in the studies conducted with the youngest populations (e.g., 12–15 years old). This result is logical, given this attribute is a key element for young players aiming to further develop their hockey expertise; it is, moreover, consistent with most models of sports development ( 148 ). Our results suggest that young athletes under 12 years of age are relatively rarely evaluated, which is logically linked to the long-term athlete developmental stages. Such is not the case for their counterparts aged 16 and over, where evaluation becomes predominant in the progressive development of ice hockey-specific expertise ( 149 ). In more advanced populations (e.g., age group, level of play), we observe the importance of measuring the ability to repeat sprints, which is in line with the relevance of this on-ice performance indicator at the highest levels of competition ( 50 , 92 ). Nevertheless, the most recent studies increasingly emphasize anaerobic (or hybrid) processes and their potential impact on performance in a game or competition context ( 145 , 150 , 151 ). In line with such results, the anaerobic component remains an important part of identifying potential NHL players, as it was demonstrated by Heller and colleagues ( 152 ) who tested elite Czech players. Our results for the acceleration and speed component, with a major utilization of 6.1 m and 30 m skating distances, are consistent with those of a previous systematic review ( 41 ).

As for test reliability and validity, results reveal that most of the protocols move in two opposite directions. First, the inventory proposed by our review suggests that most of the tests have very satisfactory levels of reliability and validity, at least with the populations studied using these protocols. Examples include the SMAT, 30-15 IIT, Yo-Yo IR, forward skating acceleration and sprint, cornering-S turn agility test, or even some ice hockey-specific repeated sprint tests such as the 7 × 15 m or the SOSPT. Another considerable part of these tests, however, has not been validated or replicated through an objective scientific process. This is mainly the case for tests targeting agility or ability to repeat intense skating efforts. Given their relevance, particularly for assessing the development of young talent, it is vital to identify and develop specific standardized, reliable and valid on-ice protocols to maintain qualitative analysis and optimal procedures to track progress and enable comparisons. Despite the lack of scientific insight, there is a definite advantage to assess in a sport-specific context that resembles a real game as closely as possible if the test is designed consistent with sport requirements ( 11 , 104 ). As shown in Table 3 , it exists a variability depending on the attribute evaluated. Aerobic and acceleration-speed capacities are assessed with a small range of tests (respectively n  = 7 and 6), with a majority of them that have been validated and used in most research, in a logical manner. Conversely, a large variability has been highlighted in CoD-agility and ability to repeat skating sprints attributes, with a wide range of tests (respectively n  = 19 and 23) developed to assess theses capacities in ice hockey athletes. Assess capacities as CoD, agility and RSSA in a specific ecological perspective on the ice has some issues in contrast of aerobic or speed qualities, which seems to be easier to standardize.

Most of the tests considered in this systematic review do not include the puck in the assessment, as described in Table 2 . We think that it is logical mainly for practical reasons because puck loss during on-ice testing would lead to the athlete being required to repeat the test, which would increase the total evaluation time. Pucks could also damage specific measurement systems such as photoelectric cells. Therefore, it would be necessary to implement these on-ice tests both with and without pucks, to assess potential puck control differences and provide better support for each athlete. However, the use of the puck in on-ice acceleration, speed, CoD and agility tests could reveal an interesting detail about the offensive aspect of players. For example, a player who can reach a high percentage of his maximum on-ice skating speed while controlling the puck, as compared to a team-mate who degrades his skating speed in same conditions, is also an essential factor to consider for training and performance purposes.

This review also reveals that female players has so far received very little attention in the field of on-ice testing compared to their male counterparts. Considering the different physical capacities and the different role they can play in the selection process for female athletes, a more specific focus on the development of tests specific to female hockey players could offer some interesting advancements ( 11 ). In other words, it may not be optimal to consider the skills of female hockey players similarly to those of males given the game is structured differently, which could lend greater importance to other aspects.

Regarding level of play, our results indicate that most studies focus on the amateur sphere, with less attention paid to professional and youth levels. Data sensitivity at elite levels limits the possibility of evaluating athletes for research purpose, information is confidential and restricted to staff members who cannot communicate results because of privacy data protection. At youth levels, however, a plausible explanation could be that the development of technical on-ice skills takes priority over evaluation when an athlete lacks the necessary technical prerequisites, making evaluation needless. Our analysis reveals that most studies of on-ice performance evaluation are descriptive. This is understandable considering it's easier to observe trends, relationships and correlations than to conduct more in-depth studies within structures, clubs and federations (e.g., longitudinal follow-up, effect of specific training on on-ice performance). Moreover, on-ice evaluation batteries are intended for formative or selective purposes.

4.1. Practical applications

The inventory proposed by this review helps identify the avenues to explore for a more enlightened view of the (evolving) status of ice hockey players worldwide. For researchers, it is a relevant guide that allows studies to be replicated based on the characteristics or variables being studied. An inventory of on-ice tests also gives researchers an indication of the populations under study. The tool enables teams' coaches to make informed choices that will facilitate analysis and interpretation of the standards achieved by the populations under study. Coaches can also use on-ice testing by integrating it as a drill during practices to develop each attribute in a high pace manner. For example, agility test ended by a shot can be used at the start of practice to develop skills and agility to mimic game specific situations. Another option might be using RSSA test at the end of the practice and include several shots during each recovery time to develop the ability to perform and maintain precision shots despite fatigue and enjoying more the conditioning aspect of the drill. For strength and conditioning coaches, the assessment of all four areas of physical attributes is relevant for designing adapted training programs and verifying the outcomes of specific ice hockey conditioning training. It could also help them to better identify and select the off-ice tests which are closest to the on-ice tests most frequently used in the literature, with the aim of providing assessments that are more tailored to athletes' needs.

4.2. Limitations and perspectives for future research

Despite the insights offered in this review, its limitations suggest avenues for future research. A first limitation is the identification of studies considering players' on-ice fitness-performance. Here we considered only those published in academic journals. Some interesting approaches might reside in other types of publication, such as unpublished theses, hockey federations' technical manuals or reports, and unpublished work. As an example, Hockey Canada has designed on-ice protocols and standards with a battery of tests, some based on the scientific literature and others that were empirically developed ( 54 ). Further research should also consider the on-ice tests designed and used mainly by federations and ice hockey clubs to analyze in depth the benefits of such assessments. However, the purpose of this study was to identify tests that were used and replicated in different research contexts. Additionally, we focused on a date range of the last twenty years of research (i.e., 2000–2002), a limitation in that we may have missed scientific articles published before that time, affecting proportions and results. Another limitation relates to emerging testing approaches that require advanced technologies such as global and local positioning systems (e.g., GPS, LPS), inertial movement units and object tracking methods. Since the reliability and validity of such technologies is well supported ( 16 , 153 ), these promising approaches are now well established in soccer, while they have become more popular in the field of ice hockey research in recent years ( 36 , 37 , 154 ). From this perspective, we believe that such new and precise assessment methods will provide additional opportunities for researchers and professionals interested in measuring players' attributes without testing them in the traditional ways identified in this review. This study finds that fewer ice hockey tests are conducted in female cohorts and that this trend should be reversed in future research so as to develop this research area and its practical application to female ice hockey athletes. Due to the large variability of testing procedures concerning agility and RSSA capacities, future research should also aim to determine which assessment is most highly related to in-game performance, despite the issues mentioned above, to validate and standardize an on-ice RSSA test useful for teams' coaches and researchers.

5. Conclusion

Considering ice hockey match requirements and protocols used in the literature, the systematic review highlights the widespread use of on-ice skating tests to assess ability to repeat intense efforts, agility, acceleration and speed on the ice. Since on-ice tests relate specifically to the actions of the ice hockey player, we believe that ice hockey stakeholders can benefit from this practical and useful inventory tool through the guidance of tests adapted to the characteristics of the athlete populations they work with. Despite the issues and constraints of athletes’ testing, there is a need to assess as close as possible to real game conditions, on the ice with a full protective equipment, by using various specific skating patterns. This review proposes relevant options and solutions for researchers and practitioners (i.e., ice hockey coaches, on-ice skills specialists, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic therapists) who aim to integrate on-ice testing with different populations and objectives. The increasing emphasis on age-related on-ice evaluation indicates that ice hockey is a late-developing sport, where assessment becomes more relevant at an advanced age of expertise. Most research designs do not yet consider the associations between on-ice testing and performance in real competition settings. Indeed, live-match data are also complicated to collect, whether from an ethical, methodological or technological perspective. This review also suggests a need and relevance for developing and validating tests that assess ice hockey-specific skills and decision-making abilities. Performance in ice hockey is multi-factorial and depends on physical attributes (e.g., acceleration capacity, speed, power) and individual technical abilities (e.g., skating technique, capacity to change direction efficiently and quickly, passing accuracy). However, the interaction between the expression of these components and the unpredictable context of intermittent team sports remains an area that has not yet been fully assessed and decrypted. Agility is a complex but fundamental quality to evolve at the highest levels, refers to information and decision-making, playing intelligence, the core elements which each athlete must develop during their sporting career and which are challenging to evaluate from an ecological and specific perspective.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Author contributions

JL led the systematic review project, MB and GM contributed equally and shared first authorship. MB, GM, FT, and JL contributed to the research conceptions and study design. MB and GM executed the study, investigated formal analysis and collected resources data. MB analyzed data, designed and organized the results tables and did the literature review process. GM and JL wrote the first draft of the article. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

JL received a governmental grant from Ministère de l'Éducation du Québec [ Initiative Projets Synergiques ']. The project was also funded by MITACS (IT31707) between 2021 and 2023.


Authors acknowledge the contribution of UQTR Ice Hockey Research Laboratory group members for their help and participation in this research.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords: performance assessment, on-ice test, skating, aerobic capacity, acceleration, speed, change of direction, repeated sprint ability

Citation: Bournival M, Martini G, Trudeau F and Lemoyne J (2023) The science and art of testing in ice hockey: a systematic review of twenty years of research. Front. Sports Act. Living 5:1252093. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2023.1252093

Received: 3 July 2023; Accepted: 4 September 2023; Published: 28 September 2023.

Reviewed by:

© 2023 Bournival, Martini, Trudeau and Lemoyne. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Gaëtan Martini [email protected]

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