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Deflections: How Minor Hockey Rink Circles Came Into Being

Hockey historians have unearthed a crackly early 20th century audio recording that offers proof of how the rink’s five circles came into being. Here’s a partial transcript:

“The rink’s too (redacted) bland.” 

“We can paint it.” (sound of swishing in the background)

“Okay. Paint what?” 

“Lines and stuff.” (gurgling)

“What stuff?” 

“How about circles? Curling circles” 

“You may have something there. Circles all over the rink…” 

“With some lines in them…” 

“Sure. Tell me again why we’d paint circles?” (two burps follow)

“Looks pretty. Keeps the players from killing each during face offs.” 

“During what?” 

“To start the play. Besides, what else could you use them for (unintelligible)?”

“To go around. You make players go around ’em.” 

“In a game? Like a new rule?”

“Nah, you (redacted)! For training. Y’know, practice. Go around ’em. Put two at each end of the rink and a fifth in the middle.” 

“Why another one in the middle?” 

“To have something else to go around!” 

“I dunno. Seems kinda, well, repetitious. To have guys go around circles in practice over and over again. Can’t see the point.”

“Pretty (unintelligible) to me! The more you go around ’em, the better you get.”

“At what? Going around circles?” (sound of clinking glass)

At this point, the recording loses clarity. However, you can hear voices raised as an argument seems to ensue about the efficacy of fighting players who are sitting on the bench.

Fast forward to the present. The circles remain and have become the staple warm-up/cool down/conditioning drill/technique trainer for every age group and level in the game. Skate around the five circles. Repeat till dizzy and bored.

Of course no one could have predicted over 100 years ago that the same drill would still be used today. One would have thought we’d have developed a modicum of creativity in teaching turns or warm-up activities. Evidently not.

There are a few problems with the five-circle drill. It’s boring, and not just because it’s done everywhere and by everyone. Once you’ve gone around three, it’s hard to be motivated to do more. Consequently, technique (if that’s what the point was) suffers. Besides, kids have trouble focusing at the best of times. Having them do the same route over and over again, often for 10 minutes of a practice, is enough to drive someone batty.

Yes, yes, we know: figure skating teachers have been drilling their charges for eons on similar repetitions, called compulsories. But these are quite different sports whose training techniques have little in common.

The turns in hockey require a vast array of quick changes in radius and speed both with and without the puck. Circling circles deals with only one type.

Can you imagine what might have happened if our game’s creators had chosen instead to paint the rink with sets of overlapping, concentric circles, sort of like the five Olympic rings run amok?

We can do better.


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