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Sports 101

The ice men are coming. In other words, the battle for the Stanley Cup is under way. The Detroit Red Wings, the two-time Stanley Cup champions, will defend their title in one of four series that began Wednesday. Other matchups include Buffalo vs. Ottawa, Edmonton vs. Dallas, and San Jose against Colorado. ESPN will air most of the games.

Q: How are the NHL standings determined?

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A: There are two points at stake in every game. The winning team gets two points, while the losing team earns none. If teams finish the game in a tie, they each earn one point in the standings.

Q: How does a hockey game begin?

A: Unlike football (a coin toss) and baseball (the visiting team bats first), a hockey game starts with a face-off. One player from each team lines up facing the other at the center of the ice. The referee drops the puck to start play as the players battle for possession.

Q: How is an ice rink made?

A: Water is sprayed over a concrete floor that contains freezing pipes. When the ice is built to a 1/2-inch thickness, lines and logos are painted on. Additional water is sprayed on to coat the markings and build the ice to approximately 3/4 of an inch.

Q: How fast did the puck travel?

A: Slapshots can travel at speeds of up to 100 m.p.h.

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The puck frequently curves in flight, making its path difficult to predict (and tricky for goalies).

Q: What's unusual about the Stanley Cup trophy?

A: It's the only trophy in professional sports that has its own bodyguards. A team of five men who work for the Hockey Hall of Fame follow it wherever

it goes. If a player wants to take the Cup home for a day, one of the guards goes along. They also answer questions that people may have about the cup and its history.

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