If you're a new fan, figuring out how to read the box score of a hockey game can be a bit daunting, since newspapers are tight for space and tend to print a very terse account of the previous nights' games, the type is often very tiny, and you never seem to be provided with any sort of legend.

The following box score is for the 2002 Stanley Cup winning game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Carolina Hurricanes. I typed it in, roughly, as it appeared in the July 2002 issue of The Hockey News. Even though the game was by no means typical, it's a pretty typical box score. Because it appeared in a hockey publication, it contains a bit more information than you might find in those in your local newspaper, but then less information than you’d find on a hockey site on the Internet.

Note that the numbers on the left are not part of the box score. I’ve numbered the different sections of the box score, and follow it with a description for each section.

 1  -                    THURSDAY, JUNE 13 
 2 |    CAROLINA                 0      1      0      -- 1 
   |_   DETROIT                  0      2      1      -- 3 
   |                       First Period 
 3 |    No Scoring 
   |_   Pen- Bench CAR (too many men - Bench) 12:09. 

                           Second Period 
 4  -   1. DET Holmstrom (8) (Larionov (6) Chelios (13)) 4:07 
        2. DET Shanahan (7) (Fedorov (14) Yzerman (16)) (pp) 
    _   3. CAR O'Neill (8) (Hill (4) Wesley (2)) (pp) 18:50 
   |    Pen- Slegr DET (holding) 6:00; Svoboda CAR (roughing) 
 5 |    13:34; Cole CAR (roughing) 16:15; Shanahan DET (hook- 
   |_   ing) 16:53. 

                           Third Period 
        4. DET Shanahan (8) (Yzerman (17)) (en) 19:15 
        Pen- Fedorov DET (cross-checking) 5:23; Vasicek CAR 
        (interference) 8:12. 
   |    Shots on goal by:        1     2     3     O     T 
 6 |    CAROLINA                 5     7     5     -    17 
   |_   DETROIT                 12     8     7     -    27 
   |    Goaltenders:           Time    SA   GA    ENG   Dec 
 7 |    CAR Irbe (10-8-0)      59:25   27    2     1     L 
   |_   DET Hasek (16-7-0)     60:00   17    1     0     W 

 8  -   PP Conversions: CAR: 1/3; DET: 1/4. 
 9 |    Referees: Bill McCreary  Stephen Walkom  Linesmen: 
   |_   Brad Lazarowich  Brian Murphy  Attendance: 20 058 
10 |    Three Stars: 1. Sergei Fedorov, Det; 2. Dominik Hasek, 
   |_   Det; 3. Tomas Holmstrom, Det.

1. Date
This refers to the date the game was played. Usually more than one game will have been played on the same day, so the date may appear as a heading for a whole column of box scores.

2. Goals scored by team and by period, with summary
Here the two teams, in the rows of this little table, are the Carolina Hurricanes and the Detroit Red Wings. Traditionally, the visiting team is listed first. The columns show the number of goals they scored in the three periods of the game, with the total in the last column. Sometimes there's an extra column before the summary indicating any goal scored during the sudden death overtime period (or potentially multiple periods for playoff games, which are nevertheless combined into one column since there can only be one goal) in case the score was tied at the end of the three periods. The team that scores the most goals is the winner of the game. In this case it's Detroit, 3 to 1.

3. Period summary
This is an account of each period, including each overtime period, if there were any, divided into two sections: goals scored and penalties given.

4. Individual goals
Each goal is described here in one line as follows:

  1. The ordinal number of the goal scored during the game.
  2. The team that scored the goal, in this case represented by an abbreviation for its geographical location, in this case “DET” for the Red Wings. Sometimes you have to be careful; both Colorado and Columbus start with the same three letters and the short forms may not be intuitive.
  3. The name of the player who scored the goal.
  4. In parentheses, the number of goals the goal-scorer has scored in this -- for lack of a better word -- competition. In this case, “competition” refers to the Stanley Cup playoffs; it’s Tomas Holmstrom’s eighth goal of the playoffs. A player’s goal totals are tallied separately during the regular season and start again at zero for the playoffs.
  5. In separate parentheses, the name or names of the players who assisted on the goal, with each player’s name followed by the number of assists he has been credited with in nested parentheses. Roughly, a player is credited with an assist if he was one of the last two players on the scoring team to have uninterrupted possession of the puck. Either no, one, or two players may be credited with assists. In this case, Igor Larionov got his sixth assist of the playoffs, and Chris Chelios got his 13th.
  6. Optionally, and also in separate parentheses, an abbreviation if the goal was scored in certain situations:

    • pp - the goal was scored on the power play, that is, with the opposing team at a disadvantage due to one or more of its players serving a penalty
    • sh - the goal was scored shorthanded, meaning the scoring team was at the disadvantage because of one or more penalties
    • en - the goal was scored on an empty net, because the goalie had left in lieu of an extra offensive player (usually this only happens near the end of a game when a team is down by a goal and hopes to tie the game)

    There is probably a designation for a goal scored on a penalty shot, but I don’t remember ever having seen it.

  7. And finally, the time during the period when the goal was scored. Unlike other sports, this refers to the time into the period the goal was scored, and not the time remaining. (Thanks, etouffee!)

5. List of penalties
The penalties that are committed are listed in order as follows:

  1. The name of the player who committed the infraction, or in the case of the Carolina penalty in the first period, “Bench” to indicate that the infraction was for the team, and not a particular player.
  2. An abbreviation to distinguish which team was penalized.
  3. In parentheses, what the penalty was (e.g., roughing, delay of game, high-sticking, etc.). Note that a player can receive more than one penalty at a time.
  4. And finally, the time when the player was given the penalty. In some cases, such as after fights, concurrent penalties may be listed for multiple players, with the common time appearing at the end of the sequence.

6. Shots taken by team, by period, with summary
This is another little table in the same format as the one for goals described in Number 2 above. This one shows the number of shots taken by each team at the opposing goalie.

7. Goaltenders statistics
Ah, a more complicated little table. In rows, the goalies:

  1. An abbreviation for the goalie’s team.
  2. The goalie’s name.
  3. In parentheses, the goalie’s record of wins, losses, and ties, for this competition.

And in columns:

  1. Time - How much of the game the goalie played. Usually this is 60:00 -- sixty minutes -- but can be more if the game went into overtime and lasted longer, or less if the goalie was replaced with another goalie due to injury or poor performance (in which case the second goalie’s stats will appear in this table too) or removed in place of another offensive player.
  2. SA - The number of shots taken by the other team at this goalie. These numbers should match the numbers in the previous table. Roughly, shots refer to actively taken shots that the goalie had to make an effort to stop. A shot by a player that caroms off a goalpost or rings off the crossbar doesn’t count either as a shot on goal for the player or a shot against the goalie.
  3. GA - The number of goals the goalie allows in the game.
  4. ENG - Empty-net goals. In close games the goalie on the team that’s behind will leave his net for the final minute of play, allowing the team to play with an extra attacker. The idea is that the game is already as good as lost, but maybe an extra offending player will generate a defensive miscue on the other team and lead to a goal to tie the game.
  5. Dec - Finally, the decision. The values in this column are W for win, L for loss, and T for tie. There is no analogue of baseball’s Saved game.

8. Power play conversions
This shows each team with the number of goals scored they scored when they were at an advantage because the other team was penalized. In this case, Carolina scored one goal during their three opportunities, and Detroit also scored once in their four chances on the power play. A quick scan of the “(pp)” designations beside the goals listed should validate these numbers.

9. Assorted details about the game
Here the referees, linesmen, and fans are given the credit due to them for their participation in the game. A visit to the arena statistics page of home team’s web site will determine how close to capacity the attendance figure is.

10. The game’s three stars
These represent the game’s best three players, in order, followed by the abbreviation for their team. They are usually chosen by someone in the local media, for the purpose of garnering some publicity by presenting the player with the most selections some trophy or award. It’s a bit mysterious that Brendan Shanahan, who scored two goals, including the game-winner, didn’t get selected, but that’s sports journalists for you.

Often the information in sections 2, 7 and 9 is condensed further, and sections 8 and 10 are left out entirely. Other useful information that doesn’t appear in this box score but which you may find on-line are the time played and number of shots taken by each player, Plus/Minus results for the game for each player, and lineup and injury reports.