In lesson five of our six-part Sports in America free English class series, we will look at one of the only major sports played on ice: Ice Hockey!
Approximately 15 minutes
Ice Hockey — Americans Play It Too!
Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.
Most people associate ice hockey (often referred to as “hockey” for short) with colder countries like Canada or Russia. Despite this stereotype, ice hockey is extremely popular in the United States, too!
That said, some of the most famous and popular American ice hockey teams are located in the northeastern United States, where cold winters produce a natural environment for people to practice the sport.
The Basics of Ice Hockey
At its core, ice hockey is similar to other two-team sports like soccer. Each team competes to score points in the opposing team’s goal. However, the equipment and form of play is quite different in ice hockey.
First and foremost, ice hockey is played on an ice rink. Players wear ice skates to move quickly across the ice. They also wear helmets and pads to avoid serious injuries.
Rather than using a ball to score points, hockey players must hit a puck, or small disc, into the opposing goal using a hockey stick. Each team can have a total of 6 players on the ice at a time, with one goaltender, or goalie, who attempts to stop the other team from scoring. The goalie wears thick, protective gear so that they can block or even catch incoming shots.
During a match, players pass the puck to one another as they skate around the ice rink. Players on defense can attempt to steal or intercept the puck, which makes the defense immediately turn to offense. As you can imagine, the games are very fast-paced, taking place over three 20-minute periods.
Ice hockey is also famous for the fights that frequently occur between players. Even though ice hockey games tend to be low-scoring, they are very exciting to watch!
Ice Hockey in the United States
In the United States, hockey is played at the recreational, collegiate, and professional levels. Professional teams are part of the NHL or National Hockey League, which represents all of North America. There are a total of 31 teams — 24 from the United States and 7 from Canada. All of these teams compete to win the Stanley Cup, dubbed one of the most prized possessions in all of sports.
Ice Hockey Around the World
At the international level, national teams compete to become gold medalists in the Ice Hockey World Championship, a tournament organized by the IIHF or International Ice Hockey Federation. Historically, the United States has had one of the best national teams, winning 2 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals as of 2020.
However, Russia, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Sweden have collectively won 190 medals since the tournament started one hundred years ago. The United States has some catching up to do!
This video clip talks all about the history of the coveted Stanley Cup:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage:
Grammar Center: Em Dash
Let’s look at the following sentence from the passage:
There are a total of 31 teams — 24 from the United States and 7 from Canada.
Notice anything strange about this sentence? It uses what’s known as an “em dash.” An em dash is longer than a hyphen or regular dash. It also serves a different purpose.
In English writing, the em dash is slightly more casual than other forms of punctuation. It is primarily used to emphasize a clause or part of a sentence. An em dash can be implemented in several different ways:
If you want to put further emphasis on additional information in a sentence, you can replace commas with em dashes (note: a sentence should not contain more than two em dashes). Here’s an example without em dashes:
Wayne Gretzky, who scored more than any other player in the NHL, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
Now here is the same sentence with em dashes:
Wayne Gretzky — who scored more than any other player in the NHL — was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
It’s important to note that em dashes cannot replace all commas; they can only replace commas that separate additional information or dependent clauses.
Parentheses allow you to add relevant information or clarify part of a statement. Em dashes can replace parentheses. Here are two examples without the em dash:
The coach (and his assistants) struggled to inspire the players.
The team ended the year with a losing record (again).
Now here are the same sentences with em dashes:
The coach — and his assistants — struggled to inspire his players.
The team ended the year with a losing record — again.
Note that parentheses at the end of a sentence only require one em dash.
Finally, the em dash can replace colons to emphasize the conclusion of a sentence. Here is an example without the em dash:
The Boston Bruins now have to face their biggest rival: the Montreal Canadiens.
Now here is the same sentence with the em dash:
The Boston Bruins now have to face their biggest rival — the Montreal Canadiens.
There you have it! Now you can add an extra sense of flair to your English writing with the em dash!
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