14 February 2022
14 February 2022
Ice hockey, a very old, popular sport in Nordic countries, is now also showing up in Italian rinks. This is a brief guide on the rules of an Olympic discipline that is gaining more and more followers.
This winter sport is played with a helmet, skates, and protection in ice rinks, where you compete to get a puck into the opposing goal. Rigour and passion are not enough: this game requires technique, stability, and speed. These are the essential elements of ice hockey, a very common Olympic sport, especially in the Nordic countries of Europe, Russia, the United States, and Canada, where it is a national sport. However, not everyone knows that it has also gained a following in Italy over the last few years: while we await the Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo winter games in 2026, we're presenting you with a short guide to learn the basic rules together and discover more about the Italian ice hockey championship.
The first records date back to 1600, from one of the pictorial works by Flemish artist Hendrik van Avercamp. It shows some people playing with a ball and long wooden sticks on a winter day in the canals of Amsterdam. The sport they're playing is a kind of primitive ice hockey.
Others say the origins go back to Persia and Greece, where field hockey was already being played around the 5th century BC. The Greeks played it on the banks of the Nile, but little by little, as it spread in the coldest countries, it would evolve towards the version on ice. In the 18th century, bandy emerged in England; this sport is similar to football and is played between two teams on an ice rink.
Some Canadian texts say that the first game was in 1855 with the arrival of British soldiers in North America. In Halifax, they played a match on the icy surface behind the Tête-du-Pont barracks, laying the foundation for the sport as we know it today. The first real ice hockey game was played with the modern version's rules in Montreal in 1875.
So how do you play ice hockey? What do you need? What's the field like? Let's learn the basic rules.
The object of the game is to get the puck into the opponent's goal, just like in football.
An ice hockey game lasts 60 minutes, divided into 3 thirds that are 20 minutes each, with 15-minute breaks. Like in football, the clock stops for each break in play, and that is when any substitutions are made.
It is played on an ice rink divided into three areas:
On each court, there are 5 face-off circles, areas where the game starts or resumes after it has stopped.
The Italian ice hockey championship dates back to the 1920s, and the first known match was played on January 19, 1908, in Turin, where the city's two teams competed. However, the movement officially emerged many years later in Milan, with the 1924 inauguration of an ad hoc structure: the Ice Palace, built for the Chamonix Olympic Games. It expanded and became more established throughout the 1920s, especially through the dominance of the only perfectly organised team: the Hockey Club Milano. The supremacy of the Lombard club was short-lived, though, since the post-war period of World War II saw it surpassed by Cortina.
Having changed formation several times, the championship currently consists of three main divisions:
It is especially popular in the northern regions of Italy between Piedmont and South Tyrol; these territories have facilities where it is possible to play ice hockey. However, interest in the sport is growing across Italy, and the number of fields available is also increasing. The upcoming Winter Olympics are bringing a strong boost, thanks to the construction of the PalaItalia that's started in Milan, an ice hockey stadium that will host the games.