4 facts about hockey for students beginning an ESL program in Canada

English as a second language

Ice hockey is Canada’s national winter sport. Many Canadians love playing hockey and many also have a favourite hockey team. If you want to improve your English skills while you are in Canada, having some knowledge about hockey is a great way to start a conversation.

Let’s take a look at four unusual facts about hockey. These facts will help you better understand Canada and its favourite sport.

The biggest prize in professional hockey in North America is the Stanley Cup

There are 31 Canadian and U.S. teams that make up the National Hockey League (NHL). Each year, the top 16 teams compete for the Stanley Cup during what is called the playoffs. The Stanley Cup is named for Lord Stanley of Preston, who was the former Governor General of Canada. It is the most important trophy in professional hockey in North America. When a team wins the Stanley Cup, each player on the team gets to spend a day with the cup. Some players have done some pretty strange things with it, including eating popcorn or cereal out of the cup!

The part of the year when NHL teams compete for the Stanley Cup is called playoff season. During playoff season, you may notice a lot of people wearing beards. Many players and fans believe it is bad luck to shave their beards while their team is in the playoffs. Only when their team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup can they shave again! When you learn English as a second language, playoff beards are a fun topic of conversation to bring up with Canadian hockey fans.

English for academic purposes courses
During your ESL program in Canada, you’ll probably see a lot of “playoff beards”

Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups, but no Canadian team has won since 1993

The Montreal Canadiens (nicknamed “The Habs”) have won more Stanley Cups than any other NHL team. They have won the Stanley Cup 24 times! That’s a lot more than the second-best team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won the Stanley Cup 13 times. Montreal and Toronto are both in Canada, which shows just how much Canadians love hockey! However, the last time a Canadian team actually won the Stanley Cup was way back in 1993. During your ESL program in Canada, you’ll find that Canadians are very passionate about which Canadian team will finally “bring the Cup home” again.

Many fans have traditions during games to show their support for their teams. Fans of the Winnipeg Jets, for example, dress entirely in white during what is called a “whiteout.” The Columbus Blue Jackets fire a replica of an 1857 cannon whenever they score a goal. However, the strangest tradition belongs to the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit fans actually throw dead octopuses onto the ice! The eight arms of the octopus represent the eight games teams used to need to win in order to win the Stanley Cup. While teams no longer need to win eight games to get the Stanley Cup, the tradition of throwing octopuses remains.

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