Hockey is a traditionalist, gritty, non-stop sport that involves physicality and speed. The game is simple, put the puck in the back of the net.
The question we are looking at now, is how the game has changed since its inaugural season.
First we will start off with the obvious, the fact that there were six teams: The Rangers, Red Wings, Canadiens, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, and Bruins. These were the first teams to fight for the cup starting in the 1942 season. They played with six teams up until the 1967 NHL expansion.
Secondly, the gear has totally changed.
Originally not only did the players not wear masks, but goalies did not have helmets. They had hard slap shots going at them with no protection.
The sticks back then were wooden, making slashes hurt ten times more and no curve at the bottom of the stick. Skates were heavy along with shoulder pads, ultimately slowing down skating for the players and making the game move at a much slower pace.
Most of the games were high-scoring with the goalies making a few clutch saves. Up until recently, the NHL was not electric and overall boring to watch.
It wasn’t until a legend saved the game for good.
A man by the name of Wayne Gretzky changed the game because he was faster and more agile than everyone else. Gretzky got over 200 points (goals and assists combined) in four seasons.
He showed that the game was meant for speed, not aggression.
Defense in today’s game is tougher as they are quick, fast, and strong. The sticks are made out of plastics just like the rest of the gear. This makes the players go faster and skate smoother.
It is common in today’s game to see players under 6 feet which was never seen back then. Quickness is the key to today’s game. Connor McDavid and Mathew Barzal highlight how important speed is as they dominate the game.
Zdeno Chara is 6’9″, and he used to dominate the game, but is beginning to have trouble keeping up with the new, fast players.
Going to a game makes your head spin because of how fast the puck moves from tape to tape to the back of the net. Overtime, technology and new opportunities opened up the door for the NHL to become a game of speed, not size and toughness.
Photo: The Business Journals