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Basics About Hockey Pucks

What are hockey pucks?  Easy question to answer, yet there are so many different kinds of hockey pucks that giving a straight answer gets a little elaborate.  Basically hockey pucks are any and all objects used to play hockey or games related to hockey.  They could be improvised such as a block of ice, wood, crumpled up milk cartons, manure or even a ball of vulcanized rubber.  But the standard word “puck” in today’s world makes it clear that the thing being batted around is a flat and round disc of roughly 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick (no longer a ball).  All other specifications as to the proper dimensions and weight for hockey pucks are totally dependant upon who is playing and exactly what kind of hockey is being played. 

It is a very controversial thing to talk about the origin of hockey pucks or the game hockey itself, but the basic need for human beings to hit a ball around with a stick in groups against each other goes back as far as sports themselves do, and can be found in many different isolated cultures as well as having a very long western tradition (note Egypt, Greece, Rome, Europe, Canada, US, the world!).  The word “puck” itself is rather a mystery however.  Some say that the pucks get their names from Shakespear’s character in the mid summer nights dream (which makes sense, as the word does mean spirit who “pokes” or jests…), but other people totally disagree and say the two meanings of puck are etymologically distinct, and puck comes only from to poke, not the evil or trickster forest spirit from the 13th century England folklore.  Either way, neither of these pertinent translations or origins of pucks has anything to do with the popular comedian Don Rickles’ use of being as dumb as a hockey puck saying “You Hockey Puck.” 

There are air hockey pucks, NHL ice hockey pucks, custom hockey pucks, roller hockey pucks, floor hockey pucks, foam hockey pucks, chocolate hockey pucks, plastic hockey pucks and even super hockey pucks.  Where did they all come from?  Well, basically the story of hockey pucks as we know them today started as soon as the game of hockey came into play on the ice.  A ball of rubber was being used at the time such as those used in field hockey, perhaps in fact, the Hurley ball is the origin of ice hockey pucks.  The Hurley ball would have had the top and bottom ends of the sphere removed to allow for a better slide that is more bounce resistant, hence the shape of hockey pucks. 

Hockey pucks a hundred and fifty years ago were very different from today of course, but the standard 3 inch diameter, 1 inch thickness and 66 ounce weight was a standard developed through trial and error through game play.  NHL uses vulcanized rubber hockey pucks made by InGlassCo.  Their injection process is suppose to be the most reliable for formula’s.  Viceroy and Converse were the main companies to make and sell ice hockey pucks.  Not all hockey pucks are made in the US and Canada.  Many hockey pucks are made in China or in Eastern European countries, however their quality is something that has often been taken into consideration.  Hockey pucks made here in the US and Canada tend to use the same process as in other countries, but the main problem is perhaps that those countries have difficulties with the quality and acquisition of raw materials which can play havoc with their formulas. 

Ice hockey pucks were originally and to this day black due to the materials used in making them.  Synthetic and natural rubber with a filler (coal dust or carbon) usually make up some 90% of the pucks chemical structure.  Sulfur and anti-oxidants are the last 10%, which help in the curing process and giving the final product its hardness.  The rubber is poured into a cylinder shape and then sliced into almost the official size and shape (still easily torn and very soft), then heated at a temperature of 150 degrees C for around 22 minutes.  Trimming is done and labels applied (such as silk screening).

Labels and logos are what make the sport so profitable for team owners and marketing experts.  Custom and roller hockey pucks are excellent examples of how ice hockey pucks influenced so many variations in style and play throughout the years.  Chocolate pucks and childrens foam and super pucks show how sports like hockey appeal to our human nature to run with speed and agility, against a common objective.  Hockey pucks are produced differently in many parts of the world due to lack or shortage of raw material, but the sport in and of itself continues to attract new enthusiasts from around the world every year.  The process of making hockey pucks in the US and Canada is simple as long as the formulas don’t change, and any time they do change, they must be well tested before major production can continue.


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