Thursday, February 22, 2024

How Olympic hockey rules and the sport is explained to the uninitiated

Every four years, it takes a Summer Games for explainer stories and ‘how is field hockey played?’ to resurface for the uninitiated.

Perhaps the most viewer friendly video we’ve come across is the one above from SBS Nation, which navigates pitch length, what is the D and general stick rules in a slick explainer.

Meanwhile, US-based Paste Magazine wrote about hockey at the 2016 Rio Games:

‘Field hockey feels like several sports at once.

‘It’s a bit like ice hockey, and a bit like lacrosse, and a bit like soccer, but skewed in a weird way that makes it fascinating. However, hockey on a field is not a bad way to think of it. Teams are made up of 11 players, including goalies. Their sticks look kind of like upside down canes.

‘They aren’t made for stickhandling like a hockey stick. They are more for knocking balls around. Oh, also they use a ball. The sport, at its core, is about trying to score goals by putting the ball into the net. The net is bigger than a hockey net, but smaller than a soccer net. The goalies wear pads similar to a goalie. One of the goalies in the USA-Great Britain women’s match had pink pads. They were very cool.’

Now, the New York Times is more prone to covering NBA, MLB and NFL than field hockey, but since time eternal – okay, since Los Angeles 1984 – they have been explaining the sport to the masses.

Here’s how The Times previewed the sport as the USA staged the LA Games.

‘This sport’s mavens insist on calling it hockey, not field hockey, because they consider their game to be the original, not that slippery version played on ice. Archaeology appears to bear them out. A tomb drawing from Egypt’s Nile Valley that dates to approximately 2000 B.C. shows two men holding curved sticks with a round object between them. In America, field hockey became popular with women in the Northeast but has never become popular with American men. In Pakistan and India, however, the men’s game means as much as Tom Osborne’s running game does in Nebraska.’

And then four years on at the 2000 Sydney Games:

‘As in ice hockey — let us give the aficionados what they want — players can be forced to leave the game for short periods to serve penalties for fouls.’

The UK’s Daily Telegraph, although succinct in explaining the rules for its explainer to the hockey at the Rio 2016 Olympics, did have this to say:

What to say: “Having rolling substitutes really keeps the tempo of the game up.”

What not to say: “Which one’s Sean Kerly again?”

If it were a TV programme, it would be … Open All Hours. Most of the action takes place around corners.

Five years on, and The Telegraph ranks hockey as the 13th best sport at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Gloriously vivid royal blue pitch can give you the impression that you are watching Premier League Years during an acid flashback,” the paper writes. “Great Britain seem good at it, it’s enough like football that you can pick up the ebb and flow. Epic face masks. Rating: where were the Germans, but frankly who cares?”

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