“WHAT the heck is hockey?” asks the page heading on our behalf: the irreverent opening to a brief beginner’s guide to ice hockey, covering the complete basics of the game.

The introductory guide in question is available on the official website of the Edinburgh Capitals – Edinburgh’s top-flight ice hockey team since 1998 – and its inclusion there gives some indication of just how deeply ingrained in the Scottish cultural psyche the sport isn’t.

The team competes at the highest level played domestically as one of 10 clubs in the UK-wide Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL), the only league of any UK sport to feature representation from all four home nations. Established in 2003, the competition went two seasons before the Capitals were inducted, becoming the league’s sole Scottish contingent from then until they were joined in 2010 by two more compatriot sides – and another the year after that.

Reckon you can name one of them for 10 points? No? Not even the Fife Flyers, the oldest professional ice hockey club in the UK, established way back in 1938? Or, surely, the Braehead Clan, whose average 3,000-plus attendance is much more than that of some Scottish Premiership sides?

With the Dundee Stars, these clubs constitute a disproportionately large Scottish representation in the league, matching the four English entries – alongside those from Belfast and Cardiff.

While ice hockey remains in relative obscurity (your nil points is excused), the growing presence north of the border in top-tier competition suggests that, in more ways than one, this is a sport on the up.

And no wonder. With dazzlingly fast-paced action flashing from end to end in a heartbeat and intricate skill juxtaposed with rugged physicality, ice hockey delivers a sporting spectacle rivalled by few.

North America’s National Hockey League (NHL) offers the finest example, boasting the sport’s highest level of competition and drawing a dedicated global following. With NHL players pocketing an average yearly salary of around £1.5M, the league ranks fifth worldwide for average player salaries –and the big numbers on those pay cheques attest to the league’s enormous popularity.

Salaries here are understandably lower and EIHL players will bank something in the region of £10–30K yearly – a sum more closely resembling the average NHLer’s weekly earnings.

The league is nonetheless played at a good level, drawing talent from overseas. As well as being an English-speaking overspill for the saturated North American leagues, the attractions of the EIHL include passionate fans and the opportunity to travels.

With the recent surge in top-level Scottish representation, a league-leading scorer in Edinburgh’s Ryan Hayes, and an emerging title-contender in the Braehead Clan, There’s never been a better time to go and see for yourself what the ‘heck’ hockey is all about.