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The Mathematics of Hockey

November 8, 2009

Hockey really is the most unusual sport on the planet. I have played it and followed it all my life, and after years of research I have determined that there is far more going on down at the rink than just a game. Consider the facts revealed by deciphering the secret language of mathematics:

  1. A regulation NHL ice surface is 85 feet by 200 feet. This means it has an ice surface of 17,000 square feet.
  2. Factor in the chilly air above the ice surface and the invention of the wrist shot by Bobby Hull and you’ve got roughly 15,000 cubic feet of available space within the arena.
  3. A hockey puck is an inch thick and three inches in diameter. This means a standard NHL arena can hold eleventy-seven million hockey pucks, give or take.
  4. The average lineup for the ladies’ room at an NHL facility is 12 people long.
  5. The average lineup for the men’s room at an NHL facility is 44 people long. This reversal of the norm has been noted in the Harvard Journal of Lavatorology. While not germaine to this study, it should be noted as an indicator of smartness.
  6. Each NHL team has 23 players. Twenty play in each game, while three sit out, except for the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which case those numbers are reversed.
  7. These players are in a fairly constant state of motion throughout each game.
  8. Each of those players has a head about the size of one of those balloons you tie to a rubber band and punch over and over again, or maybe a small pumpkin. There are exceptions.
  9. Relatively few NHL players wear facial protection. Face guards aren’t mandatory in the league.
  10. On each player’s head is a roughly 1 inch by three inch mouth. There are exceptions.

Statistically speaking, it would seem highly unlikely that a 1×3-inch rubber puck could hit a moving target that’s roughly its size in such a vast space. And yet the proof is clear in every picture you see of an NHL player without his dentures: they’ve all lost their front teeth. Of all the things in all that 15,000 cubic feet of empty space for pucks to hit, they tend to hit teeth, over and over again. This defies the laws of physics.

You might call it divine intervention, or maybe blame it on aliens or the ghost of Harold Ballard. As a scientist and journalist, I form no conclusions. I simply present the facts and let you decide.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve recently got quite into UK (Elite/Premiership) ice hockey, and this maths doesn’t seem to be the case here, as I have yet to meet or see any players with any teeth problems, so it’s either all of our players have had amazing dentist work, or it is divine interventing and he just doesn’t like NHL. Come to think about it, it may be that our players are smart enough to where eye and gun shields, to the point I’ve yet to see a player without them.


  2. Fists and sticks have also been known to smackaroo some dude in the face. I saw a ref bleed profusely all over the ice last high school hockey season after getting the blade of a stick in the mouth. A couple of years ago though, yeah, I saw our JV coach get a puck in the upper lip, he was on the bench during play, of course….dude bled everywhere as well, and he’s got a nice little nasty scar now…I think of that moment everytime I see him now!



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