Ice Hockey Icon

Ice Hockey Face-off Rules

What is a face-off? What are the rules of face-offs? Get ready to learn how the puck is put back into play and the rules around face-offs in ice hockey.


Face-offs are used to put the puck into play during an ice hockey game.

Hockey Face-Off

In this chapter, we will learn the rules of face-offs and how they work in an ice hockey game.

Face-off Spots

All face-offs happen at one of nine (9) face-off spots on the ice.

Hockey Face-Off Spot

There are lots of rules that determine the face-off location, but you don't need to memorize them all. As a fan, you should know that the face-off spot is determined by the following:

  • What happened on the previous play? (e.g. a goal was scored, there was a penalty, or the puck went out-of-bounds)
  • Which team committed the act that stopped play?
  • Where did the act occur? (e.g. play stopped in the attacking zone)

We'll learn more about the face-off spots and how to determine the location of the face-off in the next chapter.

Face-off Procedure

Once the face-off spot is determined by the referee, players will get into position.

Players Get Into Position

One (1) player from each team will elect to take the face-off. This is usually the player who is the center forward. This player will move to the face-off spot and position his feet on the hash marks. These players square off with their sticks touching the ice.

Sticks On The Ice

The defensive player must put his hockey stick on the ice before the offensive player. If the face-off spot is at center ice, then the visiting team's player will place his stick on the ice first.

Remaining Players

The remaining players on each team position themselves around the face-off circle. They must be on their own side of restraining lines marked on the outer edge of the face-off circles.

PRO TIP: It is a penalty called encroachment, if players who are not taking the face-off move into the face-off circle.

Hockey Encroachment

Dropping The Puck

The referee or linesman will drop the puck in between the sticks of the two opposing players at the face-off spot when all players are ready and in position to start or resume play. The face-off ends once the puck is dropped. If a player moves early, the face-off will be repeated. If it happens twice, a bench minor penalty will be given.

Timing Rules

When a face-off is about to occur, the referee will lower his hands, blow his whistle. Both teams will have no more than five (5) seconds to line up for face-off. In last two minutes of regulation, this five (5) second rule is not enforced.

Face-off Rules

There are few rules that you should know about face-offs:

  1. Goalkeepers can not take face-offs
  2. Players not taking the face-off must remain on the perimeter of the face-off circle at least 15ft away
  3. No player can hit the puck with their hands, they must use hockey sticks

Search Results