Saturday, February 1, 2014
International ice (Sunday brunch: February 2, 2014)
Olympic hockey tournament coming up, let’s use this brunch to look at the differences between international hockey and the NHL game most people are used to seeing on TV.
The most visible difference is the size of the rink. The NHL plays on a surface that’s 200 feet long and 85 feet wide, while international rules call for a rink that’s 200 by 100 (even a little bigger than that if built to a metric standard). Many fans know that the bigger rink puts a premium on agility in skating, but there’s another key difference of Olympic ice, and that’s the placement of the blue lines. The lines are closer to the goals, making the neutral zone even bigger. That helps the passing game a lot.
So it used to be that international hockey was a fast and free-flowing game while North Americans played a tougher, more defensive style. But after the lockout, the top brass of the NHL took steps to make their game more like the international one. While they didn’t change the rink and the main rule change they made to open up the game was to legalize the two-line pass, they issued new standards and interpretations for the existing rules on obstruction-type fouls and gave instructions to the officials to enforce them vigorously. So with respect to those rules, we officials in amateur hockey let a lot more go than our pro counterparts do.
The international rules that will apply at the Olympics are closer to USA Hockey rules than to NHL rules in most other aspects. Most of the differences are to protect player safety. “No-touch” icing is called, instead of the exciting but dangerous race to the puck in the NHL. And there are extra penalties for hits from behind or contact with the head. The NHL is trying to crack down on those injury-potential infractions, but mainly with fines and suspensions rather than increasing the penalties.
A few other differences: attacking players have to stay out of the goal crease, and goalies have more freedom in playing the puck behind the goal. Overtime is 10 minutes rather than 5. Don’t expect much fighting: the international rules are more strict, and with roster spots at a premium, Olympic teams aren’t going to save room for an enforcer. Look here for the full International Ice Hockey Federation rulebook.
For your between-periods entertainment, here are this week’s new puzzles.
Nathan corrects our last week’s post to tell us there was indeed a cryptic in the MIT Mystery Hunt. It’s a beaut. No instructions, no enumerations, and the down clues aren’t numbered. But it’s not impossible! You just have to dive in, trust your solving instincts, and figure out how the across clues and/or answers all have to be altered. There’s no credit for it, but it reminded me of a Kevin Wald creation with its alterations and final puzzle to solve. Nathan: was this yours?
Variety cryptic fans also have a new Harper's puzzle to contend with, called “Tongue Twisters.” Erica’s always-entertaining analysis of the January puzzle is now posted too.
The Wall Street Journal features a Marching Bands by Mike Shenk. A hint grid and the solution are posted elsewhere on the blog. This is a nice constructing job by Mike, who managed to get the completely-checked grid filled with lots of long words and phrases and little resort to dinky words. Patrick Berry would be pleased. The cluing has some fun twists too.
Our regular pair of unthemed Canadian cryptics are found in the National Post (Hex, blogged by Falcon) and the Globe and Mail (Fraser Simpson, not blogged yet, Java version here). I thought the Hex puzzle was a little harder than usual: several 13s and 15s in it to challenge you.
In the New York Times (behind the paywall), there’s an anagram-filled puzzle by Patrick Blindauer. Deb Amlen says she got clobbered by it, so stop over to Wordplay and help her out. I’ll try and have the solution up for you Sunday afternoon. UPDATE: solution is posted. That puzzle was more word work than wordplay.