The Checkers and Knitting – A special Charlotte Knitting Guild Edition

To my regular readers…. you may want to skip this one!  It’s hardly at all related to the Checkers!  The Charlotte Knitting Guild has invited me to speak with them tonight before they attend the game against the Stars, and instead of photocopying notes and killing trees, I’m going to direct them here!  I had fun putting together some interesting facts about hockey, knitting, and the history of my favorite team!

Hockey Lingo 101 – Charlotte Checkers Knitting edition

The Charlotte Checkers – a brief history.  The Checkers first came to Charlotte in 1956, when the Baltimore Clippers arena burned down and the team needed a place to play the last games of the season. The Baltimore team officially relocated to Charlotte the following year, and in 1960, changed their name to the Checkers, in reference to both NASCAR racing Checkers and the fact that “Checking” is an important part of hockey.  The Checkers were the first professional sports team in Charlotte, predating the NBA and NFL by over 30 years.

The hockey leagues have changed over the years, and from 1975-1993 there wasn’t professional hockey in Charlotte.  When hockey returned, the Checkers were a part of the East Coast Hockey League, a AA level league two steps down from the NHL.  In 2010, the current incarnation of the Checkers began, as a member of the American Hockey League.  They are a AAA team, just one step below the pros in the NHL.  They are affiliated with the Hurricanes in Raleigh, and share the same colors, jersey style and serve as a development team for the Hurricanes.   Early Charlotte Checkers jerseys were blue and white stripes, but evolved into solid blue, then in the 1990s, a light blue and orange, and then in the 2010, switched to the black and red of their parent team.

The Hockey Sweater – The NHL was officially created almost 100 years ago, but in Canada particularly, hockey had been popular for much longer.  Most early games were played outdoors, so players needed recognizable uniforms that would keep themselves warm. A team would buy a number of usually patterned/striped sweaters, sew numbers on the back and possibly a logo on the front, and there was the jersey.  In the 1930’s, teams began wearing solid colored jerseys, and as the league expanded, a team’s logo became more important and more intricate to set the different teams apart.

Hockey Socks – Are you a knitter that hates knitting socks because turning the heel is too much of a hassle, or you can’t be bothered with remembering how to do the Kitchener stitch to graft the toe? Well, I have a great project for you, and that’s knitting hockey socks! You see, hockey socks don’t have feet.  Their main purpose is to serve as one more protective layer for the skaters, and to hold their pads in place.  Most skaters wear a Kevlar sock at least up to their knee (this protects them from gruesome slices with other skate blades), a series of pads, and then a pair of hockey socks that go from the ankle all the way up to their thighs, where they are often held up with garters and tape.

Jacques Plante – He was a goaltender who played professionally from 1947-1975, and won the Stanley Cup six times.  As a child, his mother taught him how to knit, and he would knit his own toques to wear in the bitter Canadian cold while playing hockey outside.  He continued to knit his own toques throughout his   playing career.  Despite being one of the best known (or possibly only?) hockey playing knitters, he is most well known for being the first hockey goalie to wear a mask when he played.  With pucks flying over 100mph these days, there is no goalie alive who would dream of standing in front of a net without a helmet and full face mask.  If you want to read more about him, here’s a piece I wrote last month!


 Hockey Lingo & Penalties:

The Hockey Team – Under normal circumstances, there are six players for each team on the ice.  One goaltender, who rarely leaves the area directly around the net, two defensemen who, like the goaltender, serve as the skaters who keep pucks out of their team’s goal, and three forwards, who’s major role is offense and goal scoring.  The forwards come in three varieties, a center, right wing and left wing, which is basically descriptive of where they play on the ice, however you’ll notice a lot of movement during an offensive or defensive push!  The two defensemen are known as a “pair” and usually skate together and often backwards (there are three pair each night), and the forwards skate with “line”, most often the same three players together throughout the game.  I like to think of the forwards as the knit stitches, and the defensemen as the purls, because without both key stitches, you have a jumbled mess of bumpy stitches in your knitting. I’m not sure what knitting analogy to make for the goaltender!

Checking – Unlike when you are knitting intarsia or other forms of stranded colorwork, checking in hockey is not a pattern in the fabric.  It’s a common practice, and involves one skater essentially forcing another into the boards (solid and plexi glass walls that surround the ice surface).  This is done to keep a skater from playing the puck, or to get a player to give up his possession of the puck.

Drop the gloves – This is nothing at all like dropping a stitch.  When two players fight, they dramatically throw off their gloves, often toss their helmets and the fisticuffs begin.

Hooking – a penalty where the player uses his stick to intentionally hold another skater or goaltender, much like a crochet hook intentionally hooks the piece of yarn you are working with.  In hockey though, this penalty will send the guilty player to the penalty box for two minutes.

Holding the stick – another penalty where a skater is called for intentionally holding the stick of another player to restrict them from playing the puck.  In hockey, this is bad, and results in the guilty player is sent to the penalty box.  In knitting, holding the sticks is encouraged, otherwise beautiful garments would never be completed!

Penalty Box – much like the knitting discard basket where UFO’s go when they have become problematic and fought you, the Penalty box is a plexi glass enclosed bench, also known as the “sin bin” where players are sent for two minutes or more to reflect on the bad things they’ve been charged with.

Kitchener Rangers – Unfortunately, nothing about the Rangers has to do with knitting or grafting the toe of a sock.  This is an Ontario Hockey League team (or “Major Junior”) near Toronto.  In professional hockey, the most common route to the pros is through a major junior team in Canada, though a number of players still take the NCAA route instead.  The OHL is a semi-pro league made up of 16-20 year old players.


Here are a few links about me and by me that you might find entertaining:



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