To celebrate the end of the NHL’s latest lockout, here are some nifty scraps of trivia from the weird and wonderful history of the beloved hockey puck that are guaranteed to impress your friends as you watch your favorite team finally take the ice. (Of course, we all know my beloved Philadelphia Flyers are gonna win it all this year—but I digress).
1. The Earliest Hockey Games Were Played With Chunks of Frozen Cow Dung.
This dates back to the game’s outdoor roots. For understandable reasons, modern athletes prefer the vulcanized rubber disc we all know today … although the game might be a bit more interesting if they brought back the old method.
2. NASA Uses “Two-Ton Hockey Pucks” to Train Astronauts.
In space travel, the threat of free-floating equipment drifting off is a very serious one. Houston’s Johnson Space Center prepares astronauts for this problem at the Precision Air Bearing Facility (PABF), which works like a gigantic air-hockey table and includes what the Center officially describes as a set of “two-ton hockey pucks” hovering over the floor. These are pushed around by aspiring astronauts. You can read NASA’s official report on these here.
3. The First Rubber Hockey Pucks Were Made From Sliced-Up Lacrosse Balls.
When the sport moved indoors, whole balls were originally used, but rink owners soon found it preferable to cut them into thirds and keep the middle section. This basic design was the standard by 1885.
4. You Can Celebrate the Hockey Puck’s “Birthday” on February 7th.
The word “puck” was first recorded in the February 7th, 1876 edition of the Montreal Gazette, so the NHL regards this date as the hockey puck’s birthday—even though they’d already been used for decades by then.
5. A Swedish Player Once Scored By Dropping the Puck Out of His Pants.
When the puck got inadvertently lodged in Alexander Wennberg’s trousers, he skated behind the goalie and squatted until it plopped out. Amazingly, the goal actually counted, as seen in the video above at the 18-second mark.
6. Angry Voters Once Took to Mailing Hockey Pucks.
In 2000, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation urged the country’s citizens to protest their government’s $12 million bailout of domestic NHL franchises. How? By mailing oodles of hockey pucks to then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien. According to group president Walter Robinson, “When the rubber hits the Prime Minister’s office in a shower of hockey pucks, Mr. Chretien might have some sense knocked into him and respond.” The Prime Minister never revealed how many pucks he’d actually received.
7. The Fastest Puck Shot on Record Reached 114 Miles Per Hour.
The fastest slap shot was launched by KHL player Alexander Ryazantsev. The second-fastest shot was launched by fellow KHL-er Denis Kulyash and was recorded at 110.43 Mph. Zdeno Chara holds the record for fastest slapshot in an NHL game, when he fired one off at 105.9 Mph.
8. Fox Television Once Used a “High-Tech” Hockey Puck.
“Smart pucks” were released by Fox television in 1996. Also known as the “FoxTrax,” these high-tech gizmos sported a hidden microchip that transmitted an infrared signal to a series of computers which superimposed blue and red halos around the puck on television screens during play, making them easier to see. To see one in action, check out this clip from the 1996 All-Star Game.
Fans were outraged and players argued that the FoxTrax weren’t moving properly. Furthermore, each one cost $50,000—a hefty price for something built to get slapped around by a team of hockey players. Ultimately, the network retired these ill-fated contraptions for good the following year.
9. Pucks Can Actually Be Split During Games.
It’s certainly a rare occurrence, but forwards Shane Doan and Andrew Procho have each managed to break a puck in half against a goal post during the past 5 years in their respective leagues (as has center Patrick Kane). Check out Procho’s shot for yourself in the video above (jump to 0:22 for the clip in question).
10. “Ya Hockey Puck!” was Don Rickles’ Favorite Insult.
Though he claims he can’t remember where exactly it came from, “Don’t be a hockey puck!” has long been legendary insult comic Don Rickles’ catchphrase. This was cleverly referenced during the original Toy Story (1995) in which Mister Potato Head (voiced by Rickles) yells at an actual hockey puck.
11. The Average NHL Game Uses a Dozen Pucks.
Players are required to use frozen pucks which are easier to control than unaltered pucks, but these tend to thaw quickly. Thus, they’re constantly replaced by officials and an average of 12 come into play per game, though as many as 22 have been recorded. (The last NHL game to use only a single puck—which is currently on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame—was in 1979.)
BONUS! Has anyone ever eaten a hockey puck?
Last year, an Arizona restaurant held a “Hockey Puck Eating Contest” in which contestants chowed down on frozen Ding-Dongs for a pair of playoff tickets. But has anybody ever ingested a real one? Though it’s never been confirmed, at least one goalie allegedly munched on an actual puck. Just when you thought Reddit couldn’t get any weirder, a goaltender using the site recently claimed to be devouring a puck in “small sliver[s]." Included was arguably the most unforgettable line in the history of sports writing: “I have found a high correlation between puck consumption and terrible, terrible diarrhea and stomach pains.”