Strange But True: Hockey Puck Legends

Next in the Strange But True Sports Stories book by Howard Liss comes a few stories (maybe, or maybe not actually true) about hockey pucks.

Books on the history of hockey often try to explain how the game and its equipment were invented. The stories are hard to prove, and even if they are not true, they seem believable. For instance, how was the hockey puck invented?

In the early days of hockey, a lacrosse ball was used. It was almost impossible to control the ball, to pass or shoot it. A hard whack could send it almost anywhere. When the game was played outdoors, players often got a rest while someone chased down the ball.

Then the game moved indoors. One day in an indoor rink players were swinging at the ball with wild abandon. When it flew out of bounds and into the gallery it began smashing windows. Finally, after about $300 worth of windows had been broken, the rink owner had had enough. He seized the ball, took out his penknife and sliced away its top and bottom. All that was left was the round, flat rubber middle of the ball.

“From now on use only this piece!” he roared. The players liked the way they could control it. And that, says the story, is how the hockey puck was invented.

The ice rinks where early hockey was played were always colorful places. They were intended for recreational skating, so there was often music playing, and the rafters of the rink were decorated with bunting and flags.

During one game a player drove in on a goal and took a hard swipe at the puck. But he misjudged his swing. Instead of hitting a whizzing line drive, the player golfed the puck high into the rafters. It disappeared into the bunting. The puzzled goalie looked all around but couldn’t find it anywhere.

Then, suddenly, the puck worked itself loose. It dropped down, hit the goalie on the back and rolled into the goal for a score.

In another game a situation arose that could conceivably happen even today.

A terrific shot hit the metal side bar and the puck split in half. One section rolled into the goal while the other slithered away somewhere else.

Was it a goal? Half the puck was inside the goal marker. Was it not a goal? The other half was outside. An argument ensued. How would you decide?

The referee judged it a goal scored, and the game continued with a new puck.

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. The best hockey story I have comes from the low minors. After the second period of a game, there was a promotion in which $100 was placed on the blue line, and specially selected fans could run onto the ice and gather as much money as they could.

    Unfortunately, the $100 was in silver dollars, which had spent most of the day in a bag next to a heated radiator. So the money was poured onto the ice … where it melted into the ice. And the fans couldn’t pull the coins out of the ice. And they couldn’t drive the Zamboni over the ice to pick up the coins, because the coins would destroy the Zamboni’s blades.

    Yep, the maintenance crew had to go onto the ice, and they used shovels and spikes to pick out as many silver dollars as they could, lest some skater’s blade clip into an ice-freezed coin and trip. After the game was over, the team completely melted the ice, and pulled out at least $15 that wasn’t pulled up from the ice previously.

  2. I love these tall tales about things – like I remember hearing when I was a kid that the ice cream cone was invented by accident when the person selling ice cream ran out of bowls but had some sort of pastry around. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not, but I don’t care to find out.

  3. When I was a kid, the sportsball urban legends were mostly about golf balls. One of them was that they had a liquid center filled with a deadly poisonous substance, and they used it because regular water or oil or whatever didn’t make the balls fly nearly as well.

    Another was if you could got the cover off, the rubber band inside was wound so tight that it would spring out fast enough to blind you. Or KILL you!

    Also, if you got the cover off and it didn’t kill you, there was a whole mile of rubber bands inside.

    Since my dad didn’t golf and nobody else I knew golfed, I never got my hands on any golf balls to find out.

    • I can confirm the mile of rubber bands. When I was a kid we had a dog that somehow got hold of a golf ball (I have no idea how because nobody in our family golfs). It was chewing on it one Saturday afternoon when all of a sudden a terrific whizzing sound came from the ball and the dog jumped back and started barking like crazy. He had torn off enough of the outer hull of the golf ball that the rubber bands inside started spitting out and sending the ball all over the place–like a balloon that you let go of before tying it off.

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