When a period starts in hockey, the clock starts at 20:00 and counts down, as do most other clocked sports. However, the time that a goal or penalty occurs is always given as the time elapsed from the beginning of the period, not the time left showing on the clock. This seems to be the opposite of the way that, say, football or basketball works. Why doesn’t hockey either cite the time left on the clock, or start the clock at 0:00 and count up?
Games played in europe and at the Olympics have timers that start at 0:00 and count up to 20:00.
Why do they give goals and penalties in elapsed time? I really think that the answer is ‘because that is how it has always been done’.
The time of goals and penalties is set that way because those records are primarily a function of the game log. The game clock’s purpose is to show how much time is left in the period, so it makes sense for it to count down. The game log is supposed to give an account of what happened, so it makes sense for that to count up. It’s logical, if different.
I should add that tradition is strong in hockey, and that is why it does things differently, for example 3 periods instead of 2 halves.
Also, other sports don’t really have to record the time of events like hockey does.
So why is it that hockey requires the logging of event times?
Well, for one thing, if they didn’t record when a penalty scored, then we’d never know if a subequent goal was scored on a power play, or shorthanded, or at even strength.
These are just guesses, but I’ll throw them out there:
I believe the scoreboard clock in the old Chicago Stadium counted up from 0:00 to 20:00. I imagine other older stadiums did this too. Maybe the scorer would just look up and see how far they were into the period, and write it down.
The reason it is important to know when things happen in a hockey game is because of the way penalties work. In football, it’s 5 or 10 yards, it basketball it’s free shots. In hockey penalties are 2:00 or 5:00 (Misconducts are 10). You can look at a box score and see that Joe Toothless got 2 minutes for roughing at 0:01 into the first. Then you can see that the next thing to happen was Jacques LeScorer put in a goal at 2:03. You know that Jacques put in the goal just as Joe was coming out of the box. You can tell that if Jacques had put it in 3 seconds sooner it would have been a power play.
See, it’s perfect.