Hockey Offside

ice hockey offside

Offside Rule

Offside in hockey can be a confusing rule.

Offside is an infraction that is called on any player who is in the Offensive Zone prior to a player with possession of the puck entering the zone.

A referee will use a player's skates to determine if that player is offside.

The puck has to also be completely over the blue line of the Offensive Zone prior to teammates entering the zone.

To avoid being called for offside, a player should make sure that the puck has already entered the zone before the player enters.

The three main types of offside include basic offside, delayed offside, and intentional offside.

New Rule For 2021 NHL Season

Recently, the NHL updated the offside rule to include the vertical "plane" of the blue line as onside. This means that a player is still onside even though his skate isn't touching the ice directly. The player can be in the air, but as long as they are within the plane they are onside.

If you are familiar with the rules of football, this update should sound similar. In football a player must break the plane of the goal line to score a touchdown.

The Blue Lines

ice hockey blue line

There are two blues on a hockey rink that together divide the ice into three zones called the defensive zone, neutral zone, and offensive zone.

The blue line is important when calling offside. There is a referee standing on the blue line whose sole job is to determine if players are offside.

The Offensive Zone

ice hockey offensive zone

The offensive zone is the part of the rink where the team with the puck is trying to score.

It all depends on who has the puck. For example, the offensive zone is switched for the other team since they are trying to score on the other side of the ice.

If your team has the puck outside of the offensive zone, then all teammates must be outside the offensive zone as well.

Basic Offside

In its simplest form, offside is called on any player who enters the offensive zone prior to their teammate with the puck entering the zone.

Delayed Offside

Now, just because a teammate is in the offensive zone doesn't mean they don't have a chance to leave the zone. This is called delayed offside.

In a delayed offside call, the referee will raise their hand in the air signaling that an offside call is imminent. This gives any teammates who are offside a chance to cross the blue line into the neutral zone.

Intentional Offside

This type of offside is more rare, but it does happen.

Sometimes in a hockey game, a player intentionally goes offsides.

For example, a teammate may be tired and need to go to the bench for a substitution.

Another situation where a player intentionally goes offside would be to purposely stop momentum of the opposing team.

Intentional offside is up to the opinion of the linesman.

Offside Deflections

What happens if a deflection is made during a potential offside call?

It is an offside deflection if the puck is deflected off a referee in the neutral zone and back into the defensive zone.

A teammate can deflect the puck into the offensive zone and it is not an offside deflection.

A player is not offside if they intercept the puck from a deflection back into the offensive zone from the opposing team.

The Player's Skates

A player is not offside if they have at least one foot behind the blue line when the puck enters the offensive zone. A player has to have both skates in the offensive zone for offside to be called.


A player is not offside if they intercept the puck from the other team while in the offensive zone.

Face-off Spots

ice hockey face off spot

Offside does not result in a power play. When offsides is called on a team, a face-off is used to put the puck back into play.

The face-off will take place in the neutral zone after an offsides infraction.

There are four locations that a face-off will take place after an offsides call, two on each end of the neutral zone just outside the blue lines.

On a delayed offside call, the face-off will happen on one of the face-off spots closest to the offensive zone.

On an intentional offside call, the face-off will happen on one of the face-off spots closest to the defensive zone.


Why does offside exist in hockey?

Offside is a penalty in ice hockey that is often misunderstood. It is a rule that is in place to discourage what is known as cherry picking, or sitting in the offensive zone waiting for the puck.

What happens if the puck leaves the zone?

If the puck leaves the offensive zone, all teammates must leave the offensive zone as well. Once the puck leaves the zone, the referee will signal a delayed offside call.