Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nok Hockey (game)

(1942 – )

Before computers, there were many attempts to turn sports into games.  Some were ridiculous (e.g., Electric Football), some were successful (Strat-O-Matic Baseball), and some became standards in game playing in the schools – Nok Hockey.

Nok Hockey was introduced by Carrom, which was a maker of games played on wood boards.  They started out in 1889 and by 1942,  when Nok Hockey was introduced.  Carrom is still around today, but doesn’t seem to mention the game on its pages, even though it’s still available (with plastic hockey sticks instead of wooden ones).

The game was successful because it simplified the sport.  Whereas the usual table hockey sets had a full team of six players per side, all run by rods controlled by each participant, Nok Hockey didn’t bother with players and realism.  It was just a puck, two game-sized hockey sticks, and a goal.  It was played on a wooden playing surface divided into thirds.  The sides had wooden walls to keep the puck from flying out of the playing area.

Nok Hockey

There was a face-off at the beginning, then the players would shoot the puck.  You could not shoot a puck that was in the other team’s defensive area. The official rules let you fight for the puck in the “center ice” section of the board, but this rarely happened after you played for a while. Players quickly learned how to shoot so that the puck would be in their opponent’s zone, so it became a case of the two of you taking turns.*

There was a small cut-out about twice the size of the puck that was the goal.  And there was one more thing to make it difficult:  a square wooden block that acted as “goaltender,” making it very difficult to score a goal without banking it off one of the walls.

But there was also a trick – a shot that looked amazing to beginners, but was surprisingly easy to make.  You see, in the four corners of the board, there was a piece of wood at 45-degree angle. And the “goalie” also was tilted at a 45-degree angle.  Players quickly learned that if the puck was touching one of the walls, you could slap it down the side to the corner, where it would bounce, hit the “goalie” and slip into the goal.

Despite how impressive that shot looked, to win the game you had to master all angles to find the spot on the side that allowed the puck to slip into the goal.  Indeed, a game between two good players would have each of them shooting with the puck in their goal area much of the time. The ability to shoot the puck even when it was guarded by the “goalie” block was essential to be successful.

I first encountered in at summer camp in the early 60s.  It was a perfect game for rainy days:  action, competition, easy to learn.  I would guess that most sets were purchased by schools, camps, and other institutions where they had to give kids something to do.

It looks like the game is still being made, though Carrom makes very little mention of it on their web page. It may have trouble competing with the flash of modern video games, but it’s nice to know that someone somewhere is hitting the double bank shot and making a goal.

*I’m describing how I learned it.  People had many variations of the rules, though the general game was the same.


Anonymous said...

Nok Hockey has been around for 75 years -- It is still very popular, check it out here: with other great classic games! :)

Anonymous said...

My mom found our old Nok Hockey board in the basement. The sticks and puck were missing, but we ordered a new set online. The surface of the board is a little dirty. Does anyone have a suggestion of what type of cleaner to use for the surface?