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Rules, Terminology and Game Info

How to Talk Hockey

Hockey has its own language. So if you’re looking for help with some terms, look no further. Our Hockey Glossary explains everything about the game.

Assist: the pass or passes which immediately precede a successful scoring attempt; a maximum of two assists are credited for one goal.

Attacking zone: the area between the opponent’s blue line and their goal.

Blue lines: two blue, 12-inch-wide lines running parallel across the ice, each 60 feet from the goal; they divide the rink into three zones called the attacking, defending and neutral (or center) zones; the defending blue line is the line closer to a player’s own net; the attacking blue line is the one farther from their net; used in determining offsides.

Breakaway: a fast break in which a player with the puck skates in alone on the goalie, having gotten past or clear of the defensemen, trapping the opponents behind the play.

Center: the center player in the forward line who usually leads their team’s attack when they are trying to score a goal; they take part in most of the face-offs; they control the puck and try to score or pass it to a teammate who is in a better position to score a goal.

Center face-off circle: a circle, measuring 30 feet in diameter, at the center of the ice where the puck is dropped in a face-off to start the game and to restart the game after a goal has been scored.

Center line: a red, 12-inch wide line across the ice midway between the two goals.

Clearing the zone: when a defending player sends the puck out of the opponent's attacking zone, all the attacking players must leave or clear the zone to avoid being called offside when the puck reenters the zone.

Defensemen: two players who make up a team’s defensive unit usually stationed in or near their defensive zone to help the goalie guard against opposing forwards; sometimes they lead an offensive rush. The left defenseman covers the left half of the rink, the right defenseman plays to the right, but they can skate into each other’s territory.

Defensive zone: the zone or area nearest a team’s goal (the goal they are defending).

Face-off: the method of starting play; the dropping of the puck by the official between the sticks of two opposing players standing one stick length apart with stick blades flat on the ice; used to begin each period or to resume play when it has stopped for other reasons.

Face-off circles and spots: the various circular spots on the ice where an official and two players will hold a face-off to begin or to resume the action of the game; there is one blue face-off circle and four red face-off spots located in the neutral zone; two red face-off circles are found at each end of the ice.

Forwards or forward line: consists of two wings (right and left) and a center; these three players play nearer the opponent’s goal and are responsible for most of the scoring.

Goal: provides one point; scored when a puck goes between the goalposts from the stick of an attacking player and entirely crosses the red line between the goalposts; also the informal term used to refer to the area made of the goalposts and the net guarded by the goalie and into which a puck must enter to score a point.

Goal crease: a semicircular area with a 6-foot radius in front of the opening of the goal; denotes the playing area of the goaltender within which attacking players must not obstruct their movement or vision.

Goalkeeper, goalie or goaltender: the heavily padded player who guards the goal; prevents opponents from scoring by stopping the puck any way he can.

Hat trick: three goals scored by a player in one game.

Icing: a violation which occurs when the team in possession of the puck shoots it from behind the red center line across the opponent’s goal line into the end of the rink (but not into the goal) and a member of the opposing team touches it first; results in a face-off in the offender’s defensive zone; a shorthanded team cannot be called for icing. Note: many leagues now call "no touch icing" – meaning that as soon as an iced puck crosses the red line, the ref whistles to stop the play. This prevents players from racing to the puck with potential injuries resulting from high-speed collisions.

Intermission: a 15-minute recess between each of the three periods of a hockey game.

Linesmen: the two officials on the ice, one toward each end of the rink, responsible for maintaining the rules concerning off-side plays at the blue lines or center line and for any icing violations; they conduct most of the face-offs and sometimes advise the referee concerning penalties; they wear black pants and an official’s sweater, and are on skates.

Neutral zone: the area between the blue lines.

Officials: can include two referees and two linesmen on the ice calling infractions and handing out penalties. At higher levels, officials can include the following: goal judges, the game timekeeper, the penalty timekeeper, the official scorer, the statistician and the video goal judge.

Offside: a violation which occurs when both skates of an attacking player cross the opponent’s blue line before the puck is passed or carried into the attacking zone. This is one of the most common calls made in a hockey game and results in a face-off.

Passing: when one player uses his stick to send the puck to a teammate.

Penalty: punishment of a player for a violation of the rules; 6 types exist: minor, bench, major, misconduct, match and goalkeeper’s penalties.

Penalty box: an area with a bench just off the ice, behind the rink boards outside the playing area where penalized players serve their penalty time.

Power play: a team at full strength against a team playing one man (or two men) shorthanded because of a penalty (or penalties) which resulted from a player on the opposing team receiving penalty-box time.

Puck: a black, vulcanized rubber disc, 1-inch thick and 3inches in diameter, weighing between 51/2 and 6 ounces used to play hockey; they are frozen to prevent excessive bouncing and changed throughout the game; can travel up to 120 miles per hour on a slap shot.

Referee: the chief official in a hockey game, distinguished from the other officials by a red armband; they start the game, call most of the penalties and make the final decision in any dispute; they are responsible for making sure the ice, the nets and the clock are in good condition; they wear black pants and an official’s sweater; they are also on skates.

Rink: the iced area inside the boards on which the game of hockey is played; it is 200-feet long by 85-feet wide with rounded corners.

Save: the act of a goalie in blocking or stopping a shot.

Shorthanded: a team with one or more players off the ice in the penalty box when the opponent has its full complement of six players; also a power play for the other team.

Shot on goal (SOG): a scoring attempt that would enter the goal if not stopped by a goalie; results in either a goal or a save.

Zamboni: a brand of machine used to clean and resurface the ice.

Zones: three areas made up by the two blue lines; the attacking zone is the area farthest from the goal a player is defending; the neutral zone is the central area; the defending zone is the area where a player’s goal is (the goal where his team’s goalie is stationed).

Skates, Saves and everything in between

Before heading to the ice, why not brush up on the basics. Whether you’re wondering where hockey came from or just what the heck is happening, this section will get you up to speed.

The Players Offense
Center: These are the primary playmakers. Operating up and down the middle of the ice, centers lead their team’s attack by passing the puck between the two wings to set up a goal. Defensively, centers try to keep the play from leaving the attack zone. As the play approaches his/her own goal, it’s the center’s job to hustle and break up the opposing team’s plays.

Wings: You can’t fly with just one. These guys follow the action up and down the rink on either side of the center. Left and right wings pass back and forth, trying to position themselves for a shot on goal. Defensively, they guard the opponent's wings and attempt to disrupt them.

The Players Defense
Defensemen: The two defensemen try to stop incoming play before any chance of scoring is possible. They block shots and clear the puck from their own net area. Offensively, they move the puck up the ice and pass to the forwards, then follow play into the attack zone.

Goaltender: As the last line of defense, everyone takes shots at the goalie. This player’s challenge is to keep the puck from entering their team’s goal. Goalies can use any piece of equipment or any part of their body to protect the net.

The Rink
Ice hockey is played on an ice surface known as the rink. A regulation ice rink is 200 ft long x 85 ft wide. Many youth hockey games are played in a rink with smaller dimensions.

The Goal
A goal net is 6 ft wide x 4 ft high. It is designed so that the pucks entering the net will stay in, though shots will occasionally rebound off a back post and carom out. The goal line itself is 2 inches wide.

The Puck
Made of vulcanized rubber. It is 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. It weighs about 6 ounces, and is often frozen before games to make it slide and not bounce. Fun fact: the first hockey pucks were square and carved from hardwood.

Scoring a goal is the object of the game. It is not necessary to shoot the puck into the netting behind the goalie to score. If the entire puck crosses the goal line inside the posts, it is a goal unless:
1. An attacking player kicks the puck, throws the puck or otherwise deliberately directs the puck into the goal by means other than the stick.
2. An attacking player is in the goal crease, and is in no way held by a defender, while a teammate "scores."

The Teams
On the ice, teams field six players each, made up of a center, a right and left winger, two defensemen and a goaltender. In addition, teams usually have an additional nine players on the bench who substitute with their on-ice counterparts throughout each game.

The Time
Games vary in length, depending upon the age of the players. Intermediate (ages 11-17) teams play games that generally consist of three 15-minute periods with very brief intermissions in between. Younger teams usually play 12-minute periods. Often in tournament play, due to the large number of games to be played, all teams will play 12-minute periods to help speed along the play. Standard regulation games feature three 20-minute periods with 15 minute intermissions.

The referees control the game and ensure all players play by the rules. Sometimes they will call time-out and ask the linesmen for an opinion before making a final decision.

The duty of the linesmen is to determine offsides and icings. They drop the puck for face-offs and chase the puck after stoppage of play. Linesmen can also call certain penalties such as too many players on the ice.

Starting Play
The game begins with a face-off, in which the referee drops the puck in the center circle, and two players face each other in an attempt to gain control of the puck. Face-offs at different locations on the ice are used to restart the play throughout the game.


Rules Made Simple

Offsides: When any member of the attacking team precedes the puck over the defending team's blue line.

Iceing: When a player shoots the puck across the center red line and past the opposing red goal line. Icing is not called if the player's team is killing a penalty, a teammate of the player shooting the puck touches it before a player from the opposing team, the defending goalie touches the puck first or if the puck travels through the crease (semicircle of blue paint at the "mouth" of the goal) on it's way to the red line.


A team plays shorthanded when one or more of its players is charged with a penalty. However, no team is forced to play more than two players below full strength (six) at any tiime. If a third penalty is assessed to the same team, it is suspended until the first penalty expires. When a penalty is called on a goalie, a teammate serves his time in the penalty box.

Minor Penalty: Two minutes - Called for boarding, charging, cross-checking, elbowing, holding, hooking, high-sticking, interference, roughing, slashing, spearing, tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Major Penalty: Five minutes - Called for fighting or when minor penalties are committed with deliberate intent to injure. Major penalties for slashing, spearing, high-sticking, butt-ending and cross-checking carry automatic game misconducts.

Misconduct: Ten minutes - Called for various forms of unsportsmanlike behavior or when a player incurs a second major penalty in a game. This is a penalty against an individual and not a team, so a substitute is permitted.

Penalty Shot: A free shot, unopposed except for the goalie, given to a player who is illegally impeded from behind when in possession of the puck with no opponent between him and the goal except the goalie. The team which commits the offense is not penalized beyond the penalty shot, whether it succeeds or not.

Delayed Penalty: The whistle is delayed until the penalized team regains possession of the puck.

Rink Zones

Lots of Dots

Faceoff spot

There are 9 faceoff spots on a hockey rink. Most faceoffs take place at these spots. There are two spots in each end zone, two at each end of the neutral zone, and one in the center of the rink.

There are faceoff circles around the center ice and end zone faceoff spots. There are hash marks painted on the ice near the end zone faceoff spots. The circles and hash marks show where players may legally position themselves during a faceoff.

The center faceoff spot is typically blue. The center circle may be red or blue. Usually all other faceoff spots and circles are red.




Called for driving, throwing, checking or tripping an opponent which causes the opponent to be thrown violently into the boards.

Called for running, jumping or charging into an opponent (usually taking more than three strides before impact).

Called when a player delivers a check with both hands on his stick and no part of the stick on the ice.

Called when a player uses his elbow to foul another player.

Called whan a player carries or holds his stick above the normal height of the waist of an Opponent and the stick causes injury to that opponent.

Called whan a player holds an opponent with his hands or stick. Holding the stick is called for, well, holding an opponent's stick.

Called when a player impedes or seeks to impede the progress of an opponent by "hooking" him with his stick.

Called when a player impedes or seeks to impede the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the puck.

Called for various forms of misconduct including the use of abusive language to any person, challenging an official's ruling, etc. (also given to a player receiving two major penalties in a game).

Called when a player or players are deemed guilty of unnecessary roughness, engaging in fisticuffs and/or shoving.

Called when a player swings his stick at an opponent or impedes or attempts to impede an opponent by slashing with his stick.

Called when a player stabs an opponent with the point of the stick blade while the stick is being carried with one or both hands.

Called when a player places his stick, knee, foot, arm, hand or elbow in such a manner that it causes his opponent to trip or fall.

When signaled by a linesman, it means there is no offsides or icing. The referee will also use this signal to "wave off" a goal.