Hello. I just went and saw my first hockey game. In Houston, Texas no less. My question is why do the players on the bench shift and/or rotate their positions when sitting down.
Hockey players play short shifts and rotate between the ice and the bench. Forwards play in “lines”, the same center and two wingers are on the ice together as a unit. There are usually 3 or 4 such lines. When a line leaves the ice, they skate over and walk through a gate in the boards to sit down. Meanwhile, their replacements are hopping over the boards on the other end of the bench. When the next line goes out, everyone shifts over to the side, leaving room for the guys coming off the ice. The pattern repeats:
Boards: _ *_______________ *
Ice: * *
(Asterisks are players, Dallas Stars, I suppose)
The players coming off the ice have to use the little gate. If the bench right there is occupied, they have no place to sit down. Players going on to the ice can just hop over the boards, so they don’t need to be near the gate.
The thing to remember is that unlike virtually ever other sport, hockey allows player changes while the game is ongoing. As a result, players get a few minutes to rest up, and barrel out on the ice at full strength. Naturally, during the moments the change is happening (a new player can hop onto the ice only when a returning player is ten - or twenty, I forget - feet from the bench), a team is vulnerable and it’s in their interest to get the guys out as fast as possible. They develop little tricks, like the three members of an offensive line sitting a few positions apart so they can all hop over the boards at the same time without bashing each other with their skates.
Personally, I find hockey to be by far the most interesting sport of the big four in North America. The pace is quick and the plays are long, with as little wasted down time as possible.