If you want best image quality with some focal length and are able to push the camera, then I would say the G9 or G10(which will be out shortly). If you're just looking for one that will take very good photos and have a large focal range, then I'd look at the Canon S5IS or the Panasonic FZ18. I also hope that the hockey your talking about is field hockey, because indoors hockey will be pretty much impossible for any point and shoot.
I am in the price range of $400-$500 and will use the camera for Nature,including lighting, general pictures of my friends, sport shots,(football) (hockey)(soccer) and anything else you can think of.
any help would be greatly appreciated.