Ice Hockey is one of the most popular winter sports in Canada! And you don't have to skate like the wind or stickhandle like Wayne Gretzky to have fun playing hockey. It can be played at many different skill levels – from the beginner to the professional and in competitive and non-competitive environments.

Hockey is played on an ice rink with markings that define different zones such as centre ice, face-off zones, etc. The object of the game is to score a goal using a hockey stick to shoot a rubber puck into the opponent's net. A game consists of three periods (10, 15 or 20 minutes depending on the age category/level of play), and the team with the highest number of goals at the end of the game wins. Various ways are used to determine the winner in the case of a tie.

A hockey team can be made up of up to 22 players, but only six players from each team can be on the ice at the same time. The six players consist of three forwards, two defencemen and one goaltender. Because hockey is a fast-paced game requiring lots of endurance, each team has what's referred to as a line or unit of players that continually changes every few minutes.

The Goaltender. The goalie has one of the most important jobs on the team – to prevent the puck from going into the net. Goalies can use their sticks, skates, gloves or any part of their bodies to stop a puck.

“Fun Fact: Did you know that a puck can reach speeds of 90-100 mph (144-160 km/h) when shot from a player's stick? In professional hockey, game pucks are frozen for a few hours prior to the game to prevent the puck from bouncing!”

Most skills are acquired through repetitive practice and drills – the more you practice, the better your skills will become. Lots of players also hone their skills off the ice as well with hockey-specific fitness training.

Skating is the most basic skill of hockey. Stick handling and shooting and all the other skills of hockey are based on the ability to skate skilfully both forward and backward.

Stick Handling means learning how to control, move, and manoeuvre the puck with a hockey stick. If you can't stick handle, you won't be able to pass or score a goal.

“Fun Fact: Did you know that a hockey stick weighs 17 to 25 ounces and can be made from wood, aluminum, graphite, fibreglas, plastic, or a combination of all five!” Shooting the puck takes practice. The secret to shooting quickly and accurately is learning different kinds of shots such as slapshot, wrist shot and backhand shot.

“Fun Fact: Did you know that according to statistics, a wrist shot is 40 per cent more accurate than a slapshot?” Passing the puck requires gripping your stick properly to receive a pass. It's a skill that can put your team in a good scoring position or keep the puck away from the other team.

Positioning is knowing your specific job on the ice – whether you're a forward, defenceman or a goalie – and it's vital in a team sport. Over time and with lots of practice, you'll learn what to do in different situations.

Hockey also requires special equipment to provide protection and play the game safely and effectively.