A puck is a disk made of vulcanized rubber used in various games serving the same functions as a ball does in ball games. The best-known use of pucks is in ice hockey, a major international sport.
The origin of the word puck is obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests the name is related to the verb to puck (a cognate of poke) used in the game of hurling for striking or pushing the ball, from the Scottish Gaelic puc or the Irish poc, meaning "to poke, punch or deliver a blow":
It is possible that Halifax natives, many of whom were Irish and played hurling, may have introduced the word to Canada. The first known printed reference was in Montreal, in 1867, just a year after the first indoor game was played there.
A hockey puck is also referred to colloquially as a biscuit. To put the "biscuit" in the "basket" (colloquial for the goal/net) is to score a goal.
In ice hockey
Ice hockey requires a hard disk of vulcanized rubber. A standard ice hockey puck is black, 1 inch (25 mm) thick, 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter, and weighs between 5.5 and 6 ounces (160 and 170 g); some pucks are heavier or lighter than standard (see below). Pucks are often marked with silkscreened team or league logos on one or both faces. Pucks are frozen before the game to reduce bouncing during play.
Ice hockey and its various precursor games utilized balls until the late 1800s. By the 1870s, 'flat' pucks were made of wood as well as rubber. At first, pucks were square. The first recorded organized game of ice hockey used a wooden puck to prevent it from leaving the rink of play. The rubber pucks were first made by slicing a rubber ball, then trimming the disc square. The Victoria Hockey Club of Montreal is credited with making and using the first round pucks in the 1880s.
There are several variations on the standard black, 6 ounces (170 g) hockey puck. One of the most common is a blue, 4 ounces (110 g) puck that is used for training younger players who are not yet able to use a standard puck. Heavier 10 ounces (280 g) training pucks, typically reddish pink or reddish orange in colour, are also available for players looking to develop the strength of their shots or improve their stick handling skills. Players looking to increase wrist strength often practice with steel pucks that weigh 2 pounds (910 g); these pucks are not used for shooting, as they could seriously harm other players. A hollow, light-weight fluorescent orange puck is available for road or floor hockey. Other variants, some with plastic ball bearings or glides, are available for use for road or roller hockey.
The FoxTrax "smart puck" was developed by the Fox television network when it held NHL broadcasting rights for the U.S. The puck had integrated electronics to track its position on screen; a blue streak traced the path of the puck across the ice. The streak would turn red if the puck was shot especially hard. This was an experiment in broadcasting intended to help viewers unfamiliar with hockey to better follow the game by making the puck more visible. It was ill-received by many traditional hockey fans, but appreciated by many of the more casual viewers. The system debuted with much publicity in the All Star game at the Boston Fleet Center on January 20, 1996, but the system was shelved when Fox Sports lost the NHL broadcast rights three years later.
The use of the Glowpuck in the early 1990s was the first attempt to improve the visibility of hockey pucks as seen on television. This invention incorporated coloured retro reflective materials of either embedded lens elements or prismatic reflectors laminated into recesses on the flat surfaces and the vertical edge of a standard hockey puck. Yellow was the preferred reflected colour. A spotlight was required to be positioned on the TV camera and focused at the centre of the viewing area.
A short demonstration tape of the Minnesota North Stars skating with the Firepuck was shown during the period break at the 1993 National Hockey League All Star game in Montreal, Canada. The International Hockey League (IHL) pursued testing the Firepuck with its inventor, Donald Klassen. The next television viewing was the IHL All star game in Fort Wayne IN, January 1994, where the Firepuck was used the entire game. The IHL tested the Firepuck in two more games, and finally the East Coast Hockey League used it January 17, 1997 for their All Star game.
The use of the Firepuck was discontinued because of these reasons:
- The slight structural change increased the tendency for the puck to bounce on the ice. This made it more difficult for the goaltender and resulted in increased scoring.
- The skaters objected to the use of camera spotlights which reflected off the ice.
- The television viewing contrast of the Firepuck was not noticeably enhanced when the camera view was of the entire rink, this being the most common camera shot.
The Firepuck name was branded during the 90s but has since been discontinued.
In game play
During a game, pucks can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) or more when struck. The current NHL record belongs to Zdeno Chára, whose slapshot clocked 108.8 miles per hour in the 2012 NHL All Star Game SuperSkills competition, breaking his own earlier record. The current world record is held by Denis Kulyash of KHL's Avangard Omsk, who slapped a puck at the 2011 KHL All Star Game skills competition in Russia with a speed of 177.58 km/h (110.3 MPH).
Fast-flying pucks are potentially dangerous to players and spectators. Puck-related injuries at hockey games are not uncommon. This led to the evolution of various types of protective gear for players, most notably the goaltender mask. The most serious incident involving a spectator took place on March 18, 2002, when a thirteen-year-old girl, Brittanie Cecil, died two days after being struck on the head by a hockey puck deflected into the crowd at a National Hockey League game between the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus. This is the only known incident of this type to have occurred in the history of the league. Partly as a result of this event, the glass or plexiglass panels that sit atop the boards of hockey rinks to protect spectators have been supplemented with mesh nets that extend above the upper edge of the glass.
"Icing the puck" is shooting the puck from the defending players' half of the playing surface (their side of the centre red line) across the opposing team's goal line on either side of the goal, as a delaying tactic or a (sometimes desperate) defensive play intended to shift the momentum of play away from the offensive team. Except when the defending team is short-handed because of a penalty, it is a rule infraction that generally results in a stoppage of play to return the puck to the offending team's end of the ice for a faceoff. Since the resumption of play in the National Hockey League after the 2004–05 lockout, a team that has a player ice the puck also must keep the same players on the ice, for the ensuing faceoff, as were on the ice when the icing infraction happened.
During the 2005–06 season, a rule was implemented which penalizes any player intentionally or accidentally shooting the puck out of the rink from their team's defensive zone. The rule was intended to eliminate the contradictory nature of the previous version of the rule, which only applied to goaltenders.
NHL regulation pucks were not required for professional play until the 1990–91 season, but were standardized for consistent play and ease of manufacture half a century earlier, by Art Ross, in 1940. Major manufacturers of pucks exist only in Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic, the People's Republic of China, and Slovakia 
The black rubber of the puck is made up of a mix of natural rubber, antioxidants, bonding materials and other chemicals to achieve a balance of hardness and resilience. This mixture is then turned in a machine with metal rollers, where workers add extra natural rubber, and ensure that the mixing is even. Samples are then put into a machine that analyzes if the rubber will harden at the right temperature. An automated apparatus, called a pultrusion machine, extrudes the rubber into long circular logs that are 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter and then cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick pieces while still soft. These pre-forms are then manually put into moulds that are the exact size of a finished puck. There are up to 200 mould cavities per moulding palette, capable of producing up to 5,000 pucks per week. The moulds are then compressed. This compression may be done cold or with the moulds heated to 300 °F (149 °C) for 18 minutes, depending on the proprietary methods of the manufacturer. They come out hard and then are allowed to sit for 24 hours. Each puck is manually cleaned with a trimmer machine to remove excess rubber. The molding process adds a diamond cross-hatch texture around the edge of the puck for more friction between the stick and puck for better control and puck handling.
The practice pucks are made by a similar but faster process that uses larger pre-forms, 4–5 in (10–13 cm) thick, puts them into molds automatically, and applies more pressure and heat over a shorter period of time to compress the puck into the standard size. This allows approximately twice as many pucks to be manufactured in the same time period as the more exacting production of NHL regulation pucks.
In roller hockey
Roller hockey pucks are similar to ice hockey pucks, but made from plastic and thus lighter. They have small ribs protruding from their tops and bottoms which limit contact with the surface, allowing better sliding motion and less friction.
Most commonly red, roller hockey pucks can be found in almost any colour, although light, visible colours such as red, orange, yellow, pink, and green are typical.
In underwater hockey
An underwater hockey puck (originally but now rarely referred to as a "squid" in the United Kingdom), while similar in appearance to an ice hockey puck, differs in that it has a lead core weighing approximately 3 pounds (1.4 kg) within a teflon, plastic or rubber coating. This makes the puck dense enough to sink in a swimming pool, though it can be lofted during passes, while affording some protection to the pool tiles.
While there are numerous regional variations in colour, construction and materials all must conform to international regulations stipulating overall dimensions and weight. The regulations state that pucks should be a bright distinctive colour, for example high-visibility pink or orange, and that for World Championships these are the only acceptable colours. The relevant regulations can be found within the Official Rules at www.thewaa.org
In other sports and games
In popular culture
- Ice hockey sticks and pucks have been used as a symbol and main motif in different commemorative coins. A recent sample was the Finnish Ice Hockey World Championships 2003 commemorative coin, minted in 2003, celebrating the event. On the reverse, three ice hockey sticks with a puck can be seen.
- The round disk used to indicate the point number at a craps table if often called the puck.
- "What are you lookin' at, ya hockey puck?!", became one of the most famous stock insult phrases of comedian Don "Mr. Warmth" Rickles. Rickles voiced Mr. Potato Head in the movie Toy Story, and when Mr. Potato Head shouts at Hamm for being uncultured he uses the phrase when speaking to a hockey puck character.
- The mouse-like pointing device used with some graphics tablets and with digitizer hardware for CAD or desktop publishing software is also called a puck, and "hockey puck" is a nickname for the small, round mouse included with the original Apple iMac.
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