If you’re new to the game of hockey, it can sometimes feel like the puck is moving so fast, you can hardly keep up.
This is one of the biggest points of frustration for new hockey fans who are eager to dive into the sport.
It doesn’t help that the puck is a 3 inch black disk flying by at 100 miles an hour.
But, if you can’t track the puck, you can’t track the game.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to track the puck better. In this article, we’ll show you 9 tips to help you follow the puck even if you’re new to the game. Plus, we’ll go through a few examples from an NHL game to show you exactly what to look for when tracking the puck.
Here’s How to Follow the Puck in Hockey
In hockey, the secret to following the puck is to follow the players. Watch their body language. Look where they’re looking. They will angle their bodies and eyes towards the puck at all times. By watching the players, you will be able to follow the puck.
1. Watch the Players
The best way to learn how to track the puck better is by watching the players.
It may seem counterintuitive, as you’re likely having difficulty tracking that tiny puck on your TV screen. However, this is the best way to follow the game better.
Look closely where the players are turning their head to. Hockey players are taught to always follow the play, which means they will be your best guide to tracking with the puck.
They will also turn their bodies and shift their hips towards the puck. They also tend to center themselves around the puck. The behavior of the players will help you understand where the puck is, and where it’s going.
2. Look For the Player Who Looks Like He Has the Puck
There are a few telltale signs of who the puck carrier is.
For one, you should look for the player who’s moving their stick the most. The reason being is they’re likely trying to deke around the opposing team which often requires some stickhandling.
Another sign is to look for the player who’s skating the fastest. The fastest player isn’t always necessarily the one with the puck, as wingers sometimes like to pick up speed before receiving a pass.
However, with other players who like to take the puck end to end, it’s more obvious they have the puck. Some examples include Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mathew Barzal.
Here’s a clip of Mathew Barzal skating from his own goal line to the other end to score a beautiful goal.
3. Watch More Hockey
The truth is, when any new fan starts watching hockey, there’s a bit of a learning curve. This is true with any sport. But, when the main object you’re watching is a tiny black disk, it’s a bit trickier.
One of the best ways to follow the puck is simply to watch the game more. As you watch more hockey on TV, the plays will start to make more sense to you and you’ll be able to follow the action better.
4. Watch a Hockey Game Live
If you live near an NHL arena, then you need to get to a game.
It’s much easier to follow along with the puck when you’re physically at the game. If it’s too tough trying to get tickets to an NHL game, you have a few other options:
- AHL Game
- ECHL (East Coast Hockey League)
- NCAA (College Hockey)
- Major Junior (WHL in the Washington and Oregon, OHL in Pennsylvania and Michigan)
You could even check out some high school hockey games nearby. And, if that’s not an option, you could have some fun and watch an adult beer league hockey game.
Watching a game live gives you a wider view of the ice, allowing you to get a feel for how plays develop and even how the puck bounces off the boards.
5. Play More Hockey
This is probably the most effective way to learn to follow the puck better.
Obviously, not everyone can play hockey due to physical restraints. However, if you’re in shape then it’s time to hit the ice!
When you have firsthand experience playing hockey on the rink or the street, you begin to see the game in a whole new light.
You understand hockey strategy and the flow of the game more. This helps you anticipate where the game is going—giving you insight into where the puck is.
6. Give Yourself Time to Learn the Game
If you’re just learning the game, you have to be patient with yourself. It can be easy to just throw in the towel and turn off the TV.
But, you have to give yourself a break. Even NHL players lose sight of the puck sometimes—as was the case in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Kevin Bieksa scored in overtime.
Eventually, you’ll learn to stop watching the puck, and you’ll eventually just watch the game as a whole.
Watching a play develop rather than focusing on who’s swatting at the puck in that moment makes the game a lot more fun to watch overall.
7. Watch Goal Highlights
If you want to learn how to track the puck quickly, start watching goal highlights on the highlight reel
Here’s a test you can do: Watch a “Top 10” goal highlight on YouTube. Try to figure out who is going to score before the goal happens.
Not only will this help you track the puck better, but it will help you “read the play” better so you can anticipate where the puck is going to be next.
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky
8. Get Closer to the TV
It may seem silly, but you’d be amazed at how simple, yet effective this tip is.
If you’re watching hockey on a small TV, or you’re sitting too far away, it’s much harder to track the puck.
Sit a bit closer. It’s always more exciting getting up close. As you learn the game more, you won’t need to sit “up close” as much. Soon enough, you’ll gain more hockey sense—being able to read the game as a whole rather than focus intently on the puck.
9. Watch on a Higher Definition TV
If you’re still having trouble tracking the puck watching from home, and you’ve tried all the other methods, it might be time to upgrade the TV.
It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make to watch a game on a TV that’s higher definition. If you can upgrade to a TV that’s HD, 4K, or just has better clarity than your current set up, you’ll be able to watch the game easier.
If you’re looking for a high-quality HD TV to watch the game on, check out our top 3 recommendations in our blog post here.
Is Hockey Easy to Follow?
Overall, hockey is an easy sport to follow. It takes a bit of time to track the puck. But, once you understand the basics of the gameplay, it’s quite simple.
Similar to soccer, two opposing teams try to put the object in the other player’s net, past the goalie.
How Do Cameras Follow Hockey Pucks?
Many people believe NHL cameras are operated by an automated machine. However, this isn’t the case. Hockey cameras are controlled by real cameramen, as is the case with most sports.
While some cameras are operated by a remote control, most cameramen are hands-on, operating each camera with their hands.
Many cameramen for major sports networks are veterans who have been in the hockey business for decades.
Hockey cameramen also don’t strictly follow the puck. They follow the entire play—and in doing so, they follow the puck.
While it’s rare, even hockey cameramen lose sight of the puck every now and then.
What Are NHL Tracking Pucks?
At the beginning of the 2021-2022 season, the National Hockey League rolled out a brand new technology to track pucks and players.
NHL Tracking pucks have six circles on both sides where six tubes are built into the puck. These tubes allow infrared cameras to constantly connect the puck and players to a tracking system.
These new tracking pucks will create a whole new generation of hockey data to develop players and scout opponents. Stats like Puck possession, passing, giveaways, and takeaways will be much more accurately recorded automatically.
What is FoxTrax Hockey Puck?
Between 1996 and 1998, Fox Sports introduced a technology called FoxTrax that illuminated the hockey puck when watching NHL games on TV.
This “glowing puck” made it easier to track exactly where the puck was at all times.
However, the technology wasn’t a big hit. While newer fans seemed to like it, there was immediate backlash from life-long hockey fans who saw it as silly and gimmicky so it was pulled from Fox Sports after 2 years.
Will the NHL Create an Easy-to-Follow Hockey Puck?
The NHL and sports broadcasting networks probably won’t reintroduce or reinvent another ‘FoxTrax’ trackable puck, as Fox Sports did in the 1990s.
While the original “glowing puck” made the puck easier to follow for new fans of the sport, the majority of fans were annoyed with the feature.
If the NHL, or anyone other organization, is ever to re-create a puck tracker for NHL games, it will likely be a feature that can be turned on or off by the viewer.
How to Track a Hockey Puck (3 Real Game Examples)
When you first begin watching hockey, you tend to focus on the puck. But, you lose track of it quite a bit.
This is especially challenging when the puck goes behind or between objects such as:
- Near the boards closest to your view
- Inside a scrum of players
- Behind the net
This can be confusing and sometimes frustrating for new fans. However, when you understand the game a bit better, rather than constantly looking for the puck, you’ll start watching the players.
Players are continuously pivoting their bodies towards the puck.
Here’s an example for you.
Can you spot the puck?
The puck isn’t visible in the frame. Look where the players are facing.
It’s pretty clear the Blues player has the puck.
You’ll notice he’s in stride with his stick to the ice. You’ll also notice the Devils player in white skating backwards looking to his left.
This next example’s a bit trickier:
Did you guess it?
It’s the Hurricanes player in the corner.
Not every player’s body is facing towards the guy with the puck which makes it a bit harder. But, the two players in front of the net are turning their heads towards him.
Here’s one more example:
Which player has the puck?
To be honest, I have no idea.
But, it isn’t doesn’t matter. I know the puck is somewhere in the middle of that scrum along the boards.
The thing is, you don’t always have to know the exact location of the puck to the inch.
You just have to know how to read the play. Once you understand the flow of the game better, you’ll be able to feel where the puck is—making it much easier to follow.
A recent German study showed when people simply observe a puck in motion, the participants’ eyes had a 150 millisecond delay when following the movements of a puck.
But, when watching a real hockey game, there was no delay. This study shows that watching the game as a whole, rather than just focusing on the puck will help you follow the game better.
If you’re serious about learning more about hockey, how the game works, and how to track the game better, then a great book is “Take Your Eye Off the Puck” by Greg Wyshynski (Foreword by Jeremy Roenick).