Hockey 101

To help our new players become familiarized with the sport of hockey, we’ve pulled together a bunch of good information, presented here as Hockey 101. It’s part crash-course and part reference, with information for new players and experienced players alike.

Check out these additional pages about hockey for more information.

Here are some hockey basics.

The Rink

The rink is the area in which hockey in played. The ice surface is divided into three zones by the two blue lines: The neutral zone, and the two attacking/defending zones:

Rink Diagram

The Players

Teams play with six players on the ice at a time. Substitutions can be made during play without waiting for play to stop. Players are typically organized as follows:

  • Goalkeeper (“goalie”): One player is designated as the goalkeeper. With additional protective equipment and additional privileges, the goalkeeper has the ultimate responsibility to defend the goal and prevent the other team from scoring. In exchange for the additional protective gear and privileges, goalkeepers also have some additional restrictions on their play.
  • Defense: Two players are designated as defense, usually left and right, for their general areas of responsibility. In the defensive zone, the defense usually play closest to the goal. In the offensive zone, the defense usually play in the area closest to the blue line.
  • Forwards: Three players — left wing, right wing, and center are the forward line. The forwards generally play closest to the opponent’s goal when in the offensive zone, and have responsibility to cover the opposing defense players when in the defensive zone. The center usually covers the opposing center in the defensive zone.

When the Whistle Blows (Penalties and Other Infractions)

When an official blows the whistle, play stops. The whistle could be for three types of events: A goal is scored; a penalty is to be enforced; or a rule violation that is not a penalty:

  • A goal is scored when the puck crosses completely over the goal line into the net. There are a number of reasons why an apparent goal could be disallowed. A simple explanation: the puck must be propelled into the net by an attacking player using his stick (no kicking or throwing the puck), and also not with a “high stick” play. A defending team player can put the puck in the net in any way, and it will count for the other team. After a goal, the face-off is at center ice.
  • Penalties: there are a large number of penalties, mostly involving doing something excessive to stop another player from playing the puck (tripping, holding, etc) or doing something dangerous or unsportsman-like (slashing, high-sticking, etc). There are three types of penalties: Minor penalties, Major penalties and misconduct penalties. For minor and major penalties, the offending player has to sit in the penalty box for a set period of time (two minutes for a minor, 5 minutes for a major). During that time, the offending team can not replace the player on the ice. If the other team is not serving a penalty at the same time, the offending team is shorthanded. A shorthanded team is allowed to ice the puck with impunity (see below). The team with a greater number of players on the ice is “on a power play“. A minor penalty expires when the penalty time is over, or if the other team scores a power play goal. A major penalty must be served for the entire time, regardless of how many goals the other team scores. Misconduct penalties do not reduce a team’s on-ice strength, but the offending player must sit in the penalty box for the penalty time (10 minutes) or leave the game entirely for certain penalties.
  • Non-penalty infractions: The majority of whistles in a game are for rule violations that are not penalties. Here are the most common:
    • Offsides: The attacking team can not cross the blue line into the attacking zone before the puck. If an attacking team player is in the attacking zone before the puck enters the zone, they have to “clear” the zone (go back and “tag up” in the neutral zone) and re-enter the zone. The entire team must be “onsides” so all the other players on the attacking team must wait until the off-sides player tags before entering the attacking zone. If a player from the offsides team plays the puck, the whistle will blow and there will be a faceoff at the nearest neutral zone faceoff dot, or at point that the pass originated.
    • Icing: If a team shoots or passes the puck from behind the center red line, and it crosses the far red line (the goal line) without going into the goal, the whistle blows for “icing”. The ensuing faceoff is at the defensive zone faceoff circle on the side where the pass originated. A team that is shorthanded may ice the puck without a whistle. If a player from the other team had a chance to play the puck, and chose not to, or the puck is moving very slowly, icing will be “waved off” by the officials.
    • Playing the puck with a high stick: Playing the puck with a stick above the shoulder is a high-stick play. If the puck goes to a teammate, the whistle will blow and a faceoff will occur. If the puck goes to the other team, play continues.
    • Hand pass: If a player directs the puck to a teammate with his hands, the whistle will blow and a faceoff will occur. A hand pass is allowed in the defensive zone. If a hand pass is played by an opposing player, play will continue.
    • Puck out of bounds, unplayable, or out of sight: If the puck goes over the boards, get stuck in the netting, is “frozen” along the boards, or is out of sight of the officials (if a player falls on it), or is “covered” by the goaltender, the whistle blows and a faceoff occurs.