Hockey pucks are flat, solid, black disk-shaped objects made of vulcanized rubber. Regulation National Hockey League (NHL) pucks are black, 3 in (7.6 cm) in diameter, 1 in (2.54 cm) thick, and weighing 5.5-6 oz (154-168 g). The edge has a series of "diamonds," slightly raised bumps or grooves. The diamonds give a taped hockey stick something to grip when the puck is shot. The blue pucks used in junior hockey are sometimes only 4 oz (143 g).
During a game, each team keeps a supply of pucks in a freezer at all times. When a professional hockey team receives their supply of pucks for a season, they are rotated so that the older pucks are used first. During games, pucks are kept frozen in an icepacked cooler, which usually sits on the officials' bench. All pucks are frozen to reduce the amount of bounce.
Though no one knows exactly how the hockey puck got its name, many believe that it was named for the character in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. Like the impish flighty Puck, the hockey disk moves very quickly, sometimes in unexpected directions.
Played in Europe for several hundred years, field hockey is a predecessor of ice hockey, which sprang up in Great Britain during the 1820s. The game blossomed in the British protectorate of Canada in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Canada where long, cold winters are a certainty, ice hockey soon became the national game. Hockey also became popular in the northern parts of the United States during the same time period.
At first, amateurs dominated hockey and the rules were ever changing. The first professional league was organized in 1904 and called the International Hockey League. It only lasted three years. In 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) was created, and is still the top level of professional hockey played in North America today. With the establishment of the NHL came codified rules and regularization of the game. Today, hockey is played by all ages, both men and women, throughout North America and many parts of the world.
In the early years, c. 1860-1870s, a rubber ball was the object used in hockey. Because the ball bounced too much, a block of wood was sometimes used instead. The modern hockey puck was invented around 1875. There are two different versions of its origination. One story claims that in 1875, students at Boston University sliced a rubber ball in half to make a puck. Another version places the evolution in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The owner of one of the first indoor ice rinks, Victoria Rink, also allegedly sliced a rubber ball in half. In any case, the first recorded use of a flat disk was in Montreal in March 1875.
Early pucks were made by gluing two pieces of rubber together (sometimes from recycled tires). Because of this construction, the pucks could split when they hit the goal post. During the 1931-1932 season, a puck with beveled (sloped) edges was used. By midseason, complaints by players and teams led to the return of the original puck. Though there was no official NHL puck until the 1990-1991 season, the basic construction from the early 1900s remained the same.
During the 1995-1996 NHL season, a slightly different puck was introduced. While the outside of the puck remained the same, the inside and effect was totally different. That year, the Fox television network obtained the rights to air the NHL All-Star Game and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Fox believed that to attract new viewers to the game, the network had to make the smalllooking puck easier to follow on television. To that end, they developed an enhanced puck called the FoxTrax puck. It contained a computer board and battery at its center and 20-pin holes all over the puck (12 on the edges, four on top, and four on the bottom) that guided infrared emitters, each beeping approximately 30 pulses per minute. These emitters communicated with 16 sensoring devices placed around the rink to follow the puck's movement. The sensoring devices were linked by fiber optics to computers outside in the "Puck Truck."
When processed by computer, the FoxTrax puck had a completely different look to the television audience. It had a translucent blue halo, which was supposed to make the puck more visible on a small screen. When a player shot the puck at speeds exceeding 50 mph (80 kph), a red tail appeared on television. If the puck reached speeds over 75 mph (120 kph), the tail was green. When put into play, each FoxTrax was remotely activated by a wireless controller. Unlike standard pucks, which were used until they went into the stands or otherwise damaged, FoxTrax pucks could only be used for about 10 minutes before the battery ran out. While Fox-Trax pucks weigh about the same as NHL regulation pucks, they cost much more to make. Each puck had a value of about $400.
From its first use, players complained that the FoxTrax puck did not move the same way a normal puck did. The FoxTrax puck also did not hold the cold as well. FoxTrax pucks became bouncy much more quickly than their regulation counterparts. When the Fox network declined to renew its contract to air the NHL All-Star Game and play-offs after the 1998-1999 season, the FoxTrax puck was no longer used or manufactured.
A hockey puck is made of vulcanized rubber. The top and bottom of some pucks are decorated with team and/or league logos. These logos are silk-screened on to the rubber. The silkscreen process uses a rubber-based ink and four-color processing.
In addition to the rubber and silk-screened ink, the FoxTrax puck included several computer components—a lithium battery; 20 infrared emitters; a ceramic oscillator; an accelerometer; CMOS logic and switching; a four-layer, silver-dollar sized circuit board; surface mount parts; and a flexible epoxy to pot the board.
The design of NHL regulation pucks was regularized in 1940 by Art Ross. Though pucks remained basically the same, Ross's innovation was a puck that was easy to manufacture and acted with some consistency when used in play.
Logos that are silk-screened on the puck are designed by the various professional hockey leagues (including the NHL) and individual teams.
Currently, hockey pucks are only made in four countries: Canada, Russia, China, and the Czech Republic. There are two kinds of manufacturing processes for pucks. One is for practice and souvenir pucks. The other is for regulation NHL and other professional league pucks that are used in games.
Pucks are checked for the regulation size and weight. If regulation pucks do not meet prescribed standards, they are recycled and the rubber is reused to make pucks. After regulation pucks are made, certain specimens are frozen for 10 days, then bounced. The tester ensures that the pucks bounce the same ways as those in previous batches. A consistent product is important in the production of pucks. Every puck must act the same way on the ice.
During the silk-screen process, the ink can be affected by the moisture in the air, dust particles, and hair. The pucks are checked for the effect of any of these qualities. Any effected pucks are washed with paint thinner and go through the silk-screening process again.
In the past, Russian-made pucks sometimes had metal fragments in them. These pucks were rejected for use by North American markets. Pucks with air bubbles or softer rubber in the middle were rejected for similar reasons.
Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario. Able to skate at two, he signed with World Hockey Association's Indianapolis Racers at 17. After eight games, Gretzky was sold to the Edmonton Oilers, who were admitted to the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979. In his nine seasons with the Oilers, from 1980 to 1988, Gretzky scored 583 goals and handed out 1,086 assists. For six of those years he averaged 73 goals and 130 assists a season and led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships. Gretzky led Team Canada to win Canada's Cup in 1987. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in August of 1988 and in his first year scored 54 goals and passed for 114 assists. The next season, Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's all-time scoring record of 1,850 points. In February 1996, he was traded to the St. Louis Blues, and the next season signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent.
Gretzky retired on April 16, 1999, having established records of 2,857 points; 1,963 assists; 894 goals; and played in 1,486 games all over his 20 seasons in the NHL. Gretzky was awarded nine league MVPs (Most Valuable Player), three All-Star Game MVPs, and 10 Ross awards. The three-year waiting period was waved, and Gretzky was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999.
Any excess rubber from the manufacturing process is collected, re-shred, and used again to make pucks.
The future does not involve much change to the actual puck, its composition, or manufacture. While a blue-colored puck is currently made for junior hockey, pucks of different colors serve no purpose in the game and are not likely to be manufactured on a large scale. Any improvements to the silk-screen process would result in changes in the decoration of pucks. Plated souvenir pucks might be available in the future.
Duplacey, James. Puck. In The Annotated Rules of Hockey. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1996, pp. 52-54.
Modoono, Bill. "Puck's History is Hardly the Stuff of Legends or Lore." Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Minneapolis-St. Paul (December 13, 1992): 3C.
Vizard. "Hockey's Chip Shot." Popular Mechanics (May 1996): 40.
— Annette Petruso