Magoosh English Class: Ice Hockey in America

In lesson five of our six-part Sports in America free English class series, we will look at one of the only major sports played on ice: Ice Hockey!


  • Learn about basic rules and concepts in ice hockey
  • Learn new general and ice hockey-related vocabulary
  • Learn how to use an “em dash”
  • Learn about ice hockey at the national and international levels

Difficulty Level:



Approximately 15 minutes

Ice Hockey — Americans Play It Too!

Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.

Most people associate ice hockey (often referred to as “hockey” for short) with colder countries like Canada or Russia. Despite this stereotype, ice hockey is extremely popular in the United States, too!

That said, some of the most famous and popular American ice hockey teams are located in the northeastern United States, where cold winters produce a natural environment for people to practice the sport.

The Basics of Ice Hockey

At its core, ice hockey is similar to other two-team sports like soccer. Each team competes to score points in the opposing team’s goal. However, the equipment and form of play is quite different in ice hockey.

First and foremost, ice hockey is played on an ice rink. Players wear ice skates to move quickly across the ice. They also wear helmets and pads to avoid serious injuries.

Rather than using a ball to score points, hockey players must hit a puck, or small disc, into the opposing goal using a hockey stick. Each team can have a total of 6 players on the ice at a time, with one goaltender, or goalie, who attempts to stop the other team from scoring. The goalie wears thick, protective gear so that they can block or even catch incoming shots.

During a match, players pass the puck to one another as they skate around the ice rink. Players on defense can attempt to steal or intercept the puck, which makes the defense immediately turn to offense. As you can imagine, the games are very fast-paced, taking place over three 20-minute periods.

Ice hockey is also famous for the fights that frequently occur between players. Even though ice hockey games tend to be low-scoring, they are very exciting to watch!

Ice Hockey in the United States

In the United States, hockey is played at the recreational, collegiate, and professional levels. Professional teams are part of the NHL or National Hockey League, which represents all of North America. There are a total of 31 teams — 24 from the United States and 7 from Canada. All of these teams compete to win the Stanley Cup, dubbed one of the most prized possessions in all of sports.

Ice Hockey Around the World

At the international level, national teams compete to become gold medalists in the Ice Hockey World Championship, a tournament organized by the IIHF or International Ice Hockey Federation. Historically, the United States has had one of the best national teams, winning 2 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals as of 2020.

However, Russia, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Sweden have collectively won 190 medals since the tournament started one hundred years ago. The United States has some catching up to do!

This video clip talks all about the history of the coveted Stanley Cup:

Word Focus

Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage:

  • Stereotype – (verb/noun) – To have an oversimplified view of a person, group, or thing; A widely-believed, but oversimplified viewpoint.
    • It is a common stereotype that ice hockey is a violent sport.
  • Core – (noun/adjective) – The defining characteristic of a thing; fundamental.
    • Ice hockey is at the core of Canadian sports culture.
  • Ice rink – (noun) – An enclosed area composed of ice for recreational skating or sporting events.
    • One of the most famous ice rinks in the world is the Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
  • Puck – (noun) – A round, rubber disc used to score in ice hockey.
    • The goalie was able to catch the puck in midair.
  • Hockey stick – (noun) – A stick with a curved end used to pass and shoot the puck in hockey.
    • In ice hockey, players are not allowed to raise their hockey sticks above the shoulder level.
  • Goalie – (noun) – Short for “goaltender;” the position in hockey or soccer responsible for defending the goal.
    • The goalie was taken out of the game after he failed to block three shots in a row.
  • Intercept – (verb) – To stop something from reaching its destination; in sports, to receive a ball or puck passed by the opposing team.
    • By the end of the game, the star player had intercepted the puck 6 times.
  • Fast-paced – (adjective) – Moving quickly.
    • The coach implemented a fast-paced, aggressive strategy.
  • Collegiate – (adjective) – Related to colleges or universities.
    • Collegiate ice hockey helps prepare players for the NHL.
  • Dub – (verb) – To give a nickname or title to someone or something.
    • Wayne Gretzky, one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time, was dubbed “The Great One.”
  • Medalist – (noun) – A team or athlete that earns a medal (usually bronze, silver, or gold).
    • Canada has been an Ice Hockey World Championship medalist more often than any other country.

Grammar Center: Em Dash

Let’s look at the following sentence from the passage:

There are a total of 31 teams — 24 from the United States and 7 from Canada.

Notice anything strange about this sentence? It uses what’s known as an “em dash.” An em dash is longer than a hyphen or regular dash. It also serves a different purpose.

In English writing, the em dash is slightly more casual than other forms of punctuation. It is primarily used to emphasize a clause or part of a sentence. An em dash can be implemented in several different ways:

Replacing commas

If you want to put further emphasis on additional information in a sentence, you can replace commas with em dashes (note: a sentence should not contain more than two em dashes). Here’s an example without em dashes:

Wayne Gretzky, who scored more than any other player in the NHL, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.

Now here is the same sentence with em dashes:

Wayne Gretzky — who scored more than any other player in the NHL — was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.

It’s important to note that em dashes cannot replace all commas; they can only replace commas that separate additional information or dependent clauses.

Replacing parentheses

Parentheses allow you to add relevant information or clarify part of a statement. Em dashes can replace parentheses. Here are two examples without the em dash:

The coach (and his assistants) struggled to inspire the players.

The team ended the year with a losing record (again).

Now here are the same sentences with em dashes:

The coach — and his assistants — struggled to inspire his players.

The team ended the year with a losing record — again.

Note that parentheses at the end of a sentence only require one em dash.

Replacing colons

Finally, the em dash can replace colons to emphasize the conclusion of a sentence. Here is an example without the em dash:

The Boston Bruins now have to face their biggest rival: the Montreal Canadiens.

Now here is the same sentence with the em dash:

The Boston Bruins now have to face their biggest rival — the Montreal Canadiens.

There you have it! Now you can add an extra sense of flair to your English writing with the em dash!


  1. Which of the following statements most accurately captures the central idea of the passage?a. The Boston Bruins are the greatest NHL team of all time.b. Ice hockey is a fast-paced sport in which two teams attempt to score points by hitting a circular puck into goals using hockey sticks.c. The NHL is comprised of 31 teams throughout North America.

    d. Ice hockey is played all over the world, but countries like the United States, Canada, and Russia dominate the sport.

  2. How long is a standard ice hockey match?a. 20 minutesb. 40 minutesc. 60 minutes

    d. 120 minutes

  3. Which of the following CANNOT be intercepted?a. Puckb. Ballc. Message

    d. Ice rink

  4. What is a hockey puck typically made of?RubberWoodMetal


  5. What is the main purpose of the em dash?a. To make a sentence longerb. To make a sentence easier to readc. To emphasize part of a sentence

    d. To separate clauses

  6. In which of the following sentences could you use an em dash?a. Players need to be fast, smart, and agile.b. The coach knew what he had to do; the hard part would be facing the fans.c. Meanwhile, the United States team continued to improve their roster.

    d. Ice hockey, unlike most sports, must be played on an ice rink.

Show Correct Answers:
  1. B
  2. C
  3. D
  4. A
  5. C
  6. D
Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his first written work. After serving as a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began teaching English abroad. In 2017, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across various industries. During this time, Matthew also built an online following through his film blog. If you’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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