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Top 10 Hockey Rules

Table of Contents


What are the most important rules of hockey?

  1. Offsides
  2. Icing
  3. Game Structure
  4. Faceoffs
  5. Penalties
  6. Power Play and Penalty Kill
  7. High Touch
  8. Line Changes
  9. Pulling Goalie
  10. Equipment

1. Offsides

Ice Hockey Offsides

'The zone' is defined by two blue lines on either end of the ice. The area on opposite sides of these blue lines are known as the offensive and defensive zone, and the space in between is known as the neutral zone. Offsides is a rule that states that the puck must enter the zone before any offensive player does. This does not allow players to 'cherry pick' or wait near the opponents goal. It also means that when the puck leaves the offensive zone, the entire offensive team must also leave the zone and wait for the puck to enter the zone before entering again.

A more recent rule that has affected many hockey games is the ability for a coach to challenge a play and review it for being offsides. This means that if a team entered the zone offsides and then ended up scoring a goal, a coach can challenge and have the goal taken off the board. If the officials review the play and deem it onside (the opposite of offside), then the team that initiated the review receives a 2 minute delay of game penalty.

2. Icing

Ice Hockey Icing

Icing is another very important rule in ice hockey. It states that a team cannot dump the puck into the opposing team's zone from beyond the red line, located at the center of the rink. This dissuades teams from just sending the puck down the ice when they are tired and may need a change. However, if you dump the puck in from beyond the red line, and someone on your team gets to the puck first, icing is waived off. However, icing does not take effect on teams on the penalty kill, allowing them to dump the puck all the way down the ice to waste time. In any other scenario, if the player is behind the red line and dumps the puck into the opposing team's zone, it is considered icing.

3. Game Structure

Ice Hockey Game Structure

A hockey game is 3 periods long. Depending on what level of hockey you are playing, the period length will vary. In most professional leagues, periods are 20 minutes long meaning games are 60 minutes long. If the score is tied after 3 periods, the game will go to overtime. Overtime is a 5 minute period where whichever team scores first wins, and only 3 players from each team are allowed on the ice. If the score is still tied after overtime, the game will be decided in a shootout. This means teams go back and forth shooting one on one with the goalie, and whoever has more goals at the end of 3 attempts wins. After this whoever wins any round wins the game.

4. Faceoffs

Ice Hockey Faceoffs

Faceoffs always happen after a stop in play, and decide who starts with possession. There are 5 dots around the ice, 2 in each zone and 1 in the center of the ice. A player from each team will line up on each side of a dot, and when the referee drops the puck on the dot, players taking the faceoff fight for the puck and try to win the faceoff. The dot is chosen based on where the play left off on the stoppage. Faceoffs are important because winning faceoffs means your team gets to start out with the puck. This can help you score more goals and win more games. Some players in high level hocker are faceoff specialists who excel at winning faceoffs.

5. Penalties

Ice Hockey penalties

Spending time in the penalty box can be detrimental to your hockey team. This is where you go if you commit a penalty in hockey. There are 2 types of penalties, a minor and major penalty. A minor penalty lasts 2 minutes and leads to a power play for the opposing team. If your team gets scored on during those 2 minutes, then you come out of the penalty box. Some examples of minor penalties include: slashing, hooking, tripping, high sticking (can result in a double minor if blood is drawn), boarding, charging, cross-checking, holding, interference, roughing, and others. A major penalty is awarded when the referees deem a play with intent to injure another player, and the offending player will go to the penalty box for 5 minutes. Also, if the team who commits a major penalty is scored on during the power play, the player in the penalty box does not return to the game. He or she must wait the entire duration of the 5 minute major.

6. Power Plays

Ice Hockey Power Play

If a penalty happens in a hockey game, then teams will be on either a power play and penalty kill. This means that you are playing either 4v5 or 5v4 for a certain amount of time, depending on the penalty. If your team commits a penalty, 1 player will go to the penalty box and you will be down 1 man. In this case, you will be on the penalty kill, and the other team will be on the power play. If the other team commits the penalty, then you will be on the power play and the other team will be on the penalty kill.

7. High Touch

Ice Hockey High Touch

In hockey, you cannot touch the puck with your stick if the puck is higher than their shoulders. This is because it would be dangerous for players to be swinging their sticks above their heads trying to hit the puck. If a player's stick makes contact with the puck above the player's shoulders, then a high touch will be called. This just stops the play and a faceoff will occur, no penalty is awarded.

8. Line Changes

Ice Hockey Line Change

Hockey can be a demanding sport and extreme endurance is needed to play at the highest level. In hockey, you can change lines at any time during the play, which is different than most sports where you have to wait for a stop in play to substitute players. This is called changing on the fly. If at any point during the play you get tired, just skate over to your bench and a teammate will replace you. Players on the bench must also pay attention to the play on the ice so they are ready to replace any teammates who want to change. The ability to change players so easily makes hockey a fast paced and exciting game that has few breaks in the action.

9. Pulling The Goalie

Ice Hockey Pulling The Goalie

Goalies are also allowed to change in hockey. A common tactic in hockey is to pull your goalie. This means that a coach will signal to his goalie to come to the bench, and a player will replace him and be the extra attacker. Teams only do this when they are desperate, for example losing late in a game and need a goal to tie the game. Having an extra attacker means it is a 6v5, giving you a better chance of scoring. However, you have an empty net with no goalie so any shot the opponent takes will be a goal.

10. Equipment

Ice Hockey Equipment

Hockey is a dangerous sport, so you need to protect yourself properly. Most leagues have similar equipment requirements, but it changes in the pros. In the NHL, you do not need to wear a full cage on your helmet, just a visor to protect your eyes. In all leagues, you need the correct type of skates, gloves, pads, and sticks. When you play hockey, you need to make sure you are following the rules on equipment to ensure your's and other's safety while playing hockey.



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