Hockey Restraining Line

Ice Hockey Restraining Line

The hockey restraining lines are markings in the face-off circle that indicate where players should be positioned when a face-off occurs on the ice.

On the outside of the face-off circle, there are two pairs of markings known as hash marks. Typically the hash marks are red in color, on either side of the face-off circle and parallel to the goal line. The restraining lines are different from the hash marks.

The restraining lines can be found on the inside of the circle rather than the outside. In each face-off circle (besides the center circle), there are four “L” shaped markings in the center of the area. The restraining lines are only two inches wide and less than four feet by three feet long. Similar to the hash marks, they are usually marked in the color red. The color red is very easy to see and identify when on the ice.

Centers typically take the face-offs for their respective teams. When the centers are taking the face-off, they are required to properly position themselves behind the restraining lines. To avoid being called for a penalty, each center needs to position their feet on either side of the restraining lines that are parallel to the side boards. However, contact with the lines is allowed. 

As the player approaches the face-off spot, the toe of their blade is not permitted to cross over the restraining lines that are perpendicular to the sideboards. If a player doesn’t comply with the position or face-off procedures, it will result in a face-off violation. The referees are carefully watching for this violation. The restraining lines are designed for both players inside the face-off circle to have a fair chance of winning the possession.

Face-Off Violations

If a player is not lined up properly on the face-off spot, a face-off violation will be called. Usually, the first time a player violates face-off procedures, they will be thrown out of the face-off and must be replaced by a teammate. Any subsequent face-off violations will result in a two-minute penalty.


When does a face-off occur?

A face-off takes place after every stoppage of play. They are also used to begin every period and game. Face-offs will also occur after a goal is scored or a penalty is issued by the official.

How many restraining lines are on the ice?

Besides the center face-off area, there are four other face-off circles on the ice. There are two face-off circles on either side of the ice. This means there are four “L” shaped restraining lines in each face-off circle. Therefore, there are a total of sixteen restraining lines dedicated to the face-off circles, not including the center circle. There are two pairs of restraining lines in each circle. Each pair is dedicated to one of the centers taking the face-off.

Why does a referee send a player out of the face-off circle?

Referees send players out of the face-off circle for committing face-off violations. A referee wants to have a fair face-off for both teams in the circle. When a referee sends a player out of the face-off circle, another team member is required to enter and take the face-off. If the player violates the restraining lines, they will be sent off. The players cannot touch each other before the puck is dropped, and they must keep their sticks on the ice.

What is the five second rule?

The player only has five seconds to prepare themselves once stepping into the face-off circle, called the five second rule. As long as neither player is violating any face-off rules, the official will drop the puck to start play.