The hockey puck takes the place of a ball as the object of play in ice hockey. The standard hockey puck is frozen black vulcanized rubber, three inches in diameter by one inch thick.
The puck's origins go back to early displays of ice hockey, when the top and bottom of a lacrosse ball were cut off to reduce bouncing and protect spectators, who at the time stood right at the edge of the rink without protective boards. At other points, small wooden blocks of similar dimensions were used, though the disc of vulcanized rubber quickly became standard. The exact specifications of the hockey puck were standardized by Art Ross, a former scoring champion and longtime Boston Bruins executive, in 1940 (see right), and are used in manufacture around the world. Currently, all official NHL game pucks are produced by In Glas Co of Sherbrooke, Quebec.
The puck has undergone little revision over the years, but it has seen a couple of high-profile modifications. The World Hockey Association, when it was founded in 1972, briefly experimented with blue pucks, as a publicity stunt akin to the ABA's red, white, and blue basketball (the WHA and ABA were formed by some of the same men). However, the blue puck quickly fell out of favour when it was found to be too malleable: high-powered slapshots against boards or goalposts resulted in indentations and deformations of the puck, which made it increasingly unwieldy and dangerous, in an era before helmets, goal masks, high glass, and protective netting were common.
In 1996, the American TV network Fox introduced the FoxTrax puck, which included embedded circuitry within a hollowed-out puck that allowed Fox technicians to track the puck's movement and add a halo around it, which turned to a comet streak when the puck was passed or shot with sufficient velocity. The system was widely criticized by traditionalists, who felt it was a distraction that made a mockery of both the game and the viewer, and reasoned that if you're looking for the puck, you're missing the actual game. Its infamy was such that it inspired the title, Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History
by Greg Wyshynski. When the NHL moved its broadcast rights over to ABC in 1999, the "glow puck" was removed, and has not been seen since.
In Video Games
The puck's history in video games is, of course, tied to the history of ice hockey in video games. While it has appeared in nearly every hockey video game to date, it has only recently become more than a simple black disc on the screen. Recent games, with better 3D technology, allow you to zoom in on the puck in replays, to the point where you can see the NHL Official Game Puck image, with Commissioner Gary Bettman's signature on it (see left), and the "In Glas Co" lettering around the edge.
As of 2008, no one has marketed a hockey game to include any physics related specifically to the puck's properties, beyond simply being a hard object, nor does it interact with the scratches and ruts in the ice surface. This will likely not change in the near future, with most attention generally being paid to the core ice hockey gameplay.