The two blue lines of a hockey rink might look harmless, but over the years, they’ve been surprisingly hazardous. Well, that’s not really true. It’s just that many hockey players seem to fall when they cross those lines.

In fact, it happens so often that the phrase “tripping on the blue line” has become part of the sport’s vernacular.

Hockey players frequently tease teammates who stumble when going across a blue line. It’s a way to bond.

Getting It Backward

In many cases, hockey players trip over a blue line when they are skating backward. Backward skating is a complex skill that’s important to master, especially for defensive players.

The main challenge is that the body positioning and movements involved in backward skating don’t come naturally to human beings. When players can’t see where they’re going, it can be disorienting. Plus, both feet remain on the ice when a person skates backwards, which takes some getting used to.

The Great Ones Take a Spill

Tripping over a blue line — or a red line, for that matter — is far from a rookie mistake. Some of the most talented hockey players in the world have gotten tangled up in blue lines. Here are a few examples.

In this October 2008 game, the blue line knocks over the Buffalo Sabres’ Andrej Sekera as his team competes against the Montreal Canadiens.

In 2013, Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs toppled over when taking on the Canadiens.

Even Alex Ovechkin, one of the major stars of the sport in recent years, isn’t immune from blue line woes. Here’s his tumble, which happened during the 2011 NHL Winter Classic.

When it comes to blue line falls, what should a budding hockey player keep in mind? First, it’s wise to practice backward skating as much as possible and to ask a coach for some tips. Second, when someone gets tripped up by a pesky blue or red line, that person should try to feel a little proud. After all, it’s one of hockey’s oldest traditions.

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