A hockey assist occurs when a player passes the puck to a teammate that sets them up to score a goal. If their teammates scores a goal, the passer is awarded a point for an assist. There can be two assists given for each goal.
A primary assist is given to the player who passed the puck directly to the player that scored the goal. On the other hand, a secondary assist is awarded to the player who passed the puck to the primary assistant (two passes before the scoring goal). In the box score, the primary assist is the first assist listed under the scorer and the secondary assist is listed directly underneath.
Ever since the NHL began awarding points to players for secondary assists in the 1930s, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether the secondary assist should count or not. Those opposed to allocating points for secondary assists often argue that points should only be awarded for the primary assist and goal because those are the only true indicators of offensive performance. In addition, players are often offered contracts based on their scoring rates each season and counting secondary assists in the total can be misleading. Therefore, many teams focus on primary points and keep in mind the impact of secondary assists when looking at a player's offensive performance.
An assist in hockey is considered as the two passes leading up to goal being scored. The pass directly to the scorer is known as the primary assist. The pass before that is known as the secondary assist. Both the players that execute the primary and secondary assist are awarded one point towards their point total, along with one point for the player that scored the goal.
Like many other records, Wayne Gretsky holds the NHL record for the most assists in a single season. In the 1985-1986 season, Gretzky recorded 163 assists.
While there is no definitive term, players who record three assists in one game can often be referred to as "playmakers." While playmakers do not get as much recognition as players that score hat tricks, they are very important in a team's success because they help set up scoring opportunities. Playmakers tend to record more assists than goals because of their strong passing skills.
According to the NHL rules, only one point can be awarded per player on a scoring play. Therefore, a player can not score a goal and also be awarded an assist in the same play. For example, if a player shot the puck and it rebounded back to them where they shot and scored on the second attempt, the player would be awarded the goal but not the assist.