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How well do we know the rules of hockey?

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We laid down a challenge to all hockey fans: test your knowledge of the rules of the game. You responded in remarkable fashion.

Last week, the Free Press posted the Great Canadian Hockey Quiz to test the average fan's knowledge of the rules of hockey. There were 14 questions on everything from offsides and icings to more complex queries on specific infractions. Hockey Canada, the guardians of the rules of the game, get a big assist for helping us compose the questions and answers.

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So, how did you fare? More than 3,000 readers have taken the quiz so far. The average score was slighly more than eight right answers out of 14, or about 60 per cent. That's a solid 'C' grade. Only 120 people got a perfect score; that was about four per cent of the total number who took the quiz.

For those who self-identified as referees, the results were, perhaps not surprisingly, better.  Referees scored 83 per cent on the quiz, a solid 'A.' That's important to remember next time you're hounding a zebra at the rink.

The results are hardly scientific. There was nothing preventing someone from taking the quiz more than once. And it was possible to cheat by looking at the rule book while taking the quiz. After looking at the results so far, however, it's difficult to believe many people took the time to cheat.

The results do beg a question: if our knowledge of the rules is passable at best, shouldn't we be a bit more respectful when a referee makes a call during a hockey game? Makes you think.

The quiz was not a random make work project. The question of how much we actually know about the rules of hockey was front and centre following a well-publicized incident two weeks ago - captured on video for the world to see -  involving the father of a 15-year-old hockey player.

The man erupted at a hockey game after his son had been penalized for making contact to the head of an opposing player while delivering a body check. The hitter was much larger than the hittee, and the father would not believe that you could earn a penalty just because the victim of the check was, in his own words, "a midget." He was, of course, very wrong about his interpretation of the head-shot rule in minor hockey.

The theory put forward in my column was that a more informed hockey fan would be less likely to make a fool of him or herself at a minor hockey game. Some readers agreed with this position, while others felt strongly that no measure of education would prevent an arse from being an arse. There were good points made on both sides.

The Free Press is not alone in promoting the idea of a better-educated fan. The National Hockey League is involved in its own education campaign to inform fans on the league's interpretation of specific infractions. The NHL Video Rulebook shows actual game footage to explain when and why referees call penalties. In addition, the league just launched Evolution of a Suspension, a video series explaining when and why players are suspended for certain infractions.

It's important to note, however, that the NHL rules are NOT the same rules used for minor hockey. Certain key rules are much different in the professional game, and it's not appropriate to apply those standards to minor hockey.

Let's face it: the pro game is much faster and more violent; minor hockey is meant to be played in a more civil, less violent context. Still, the videos are a valuable resource for any fan of the game.

If you haven't already, take the quiz. It does a hockey fan good.

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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