How do Offsides Work in Hockey? and What are Offsides Rules?

Ice Hockey can be an overwhelming game to understand as its list of rules and regulations is much longer than any other sport. In ice hockey, one of the most significant aspects is offside play. 

Contrary to what some people think, offsides play a crucial role in determining the outcome of a hockey match. Any lead or mishandling in offside can tremendously affect the scoreboard. 

However, without understanding how offsides work in hockey, you cannot acknowledge its rule and implementation method. Check out the following context if you want to know how offsides work in hockey and what offsides rules are. 

What is Offside play in Ice Hockey?

When one of the players from the attacking team steps into the offensive zone, with both of his skates being outside the blue line, and the other player in the neutral zone tries to make the puck enter the offensive site, then this type of technique in hockey is called offside. 


Though an entire team is playing on the rink, only two players are involved in the offside play. One is in the offensive zone, while the other is with the puck in the neutral zone. Both players try to make the puck enter the offensive site and get a puck clearance from the referee.

When the player in the neutral zone pushes the puck beyond the blue to the player on the offensive side, then the offensive side player can move the puck with his stick, and this tactic is called ‘Puck Clearance.’ After a puck clearance, the referee gives a pass and allows the following line of players to get on the ice. 

Related Post: Why do hockey players tape their sticks?

How does Offside work in Hockey?

Before 1928, players weren’t allowed to move the puck freely. Players had to stand in the opposite direction to the goaltenders in order to receive the full ice pass and make uncontested shots. 

However, in 1929, modern offside rules were introduced, giving the players freedom to enter the offensive area. The following are a few rules that a player in the offensive region has to obey during offside play. 

  • The position and movement of the skates largely determine whether the play is offside or not. If both skates of the player have crossed the blue line, only then is the player said to be playing offside. But if only one skate or the hockey skate touches the blue line, then it won’t be offside, and the game will continue normally.
  • The player in the offensive zone cannot move the puck with his stick; instead, he waits for the other player to push the puck beyond the blue line (offensive zone). Thus, it is evident that if a player enters the offensive zone, then practically his role in the game becomes minimized. He can only put his contribution to the game if the puck comes within the blue line area.
  • However, there is no restriction regarding the player in the offensive zone coming to the field. He can stay in the zone as long as he wants. Usually, the player enters the offensive zone on purpose when he wants to make a goal and get a puck clearance from the referee. 
  • But if the player on the offensive side gets his hockey stick touched by the puck lying on the other side, then it is considered that he has broken a role, and the referee gives him a ticket. 

What is the importance of Blue Line on the Ice Rink?

The blue line on the ice rink is directly associated with offside play. Therefore, to understand offside rules and implementation, it is crucial to get familiar with the aspects of the blue line in hockey. 


If you analyze the ice rink, you will know that two blue lines are running parallel to each other, with a significant distance between them. These two blue lines divide the rink into three regions, i.e., the defensive zone, the neutral zone, and the attacking zone. Besides dividing the ice rink, the blue lines also determine whether the play is offside or not.

As mentioned earlier, if a player crosses the blue line and enters the attacking zone before the puck, the technique is said to be offside. If the player on the offensive side obeys the regulations and plays according to the rules, he can get a puck clearance. But if he touches the puck before it enters the offensive side, the referee whistles and stops the game. 

Related Post: What is the Red Line in Hockey?

Types of Offsides in Hockey

Offside play has revolutionized drastically over the past few decades, and as a result, several types of offsides have been introduced in the NHL. The most prominent three types are; intentional offside, delayed offside, and deflection offside. To understand their concept thoroughly, let’s have an elaborative study of these types. 

Intentional Offside 

The technique in which the attacking team intentionally deems the offside upon themselves is categorized as an intentional offside. In intentional offside, one player purposely gets in the offensive zone and waits for the other player to pass him the puck. The tactic is used when the team wants a puck clearance to change the line of players with a new one.

Delayed Offside 

In delayed offside, the puck enters the offside, but the offensive zone player does not touch it with his skates or stick. Delayed offside happens when the team does not want to change their line of players, or the puck has entered the offside by accident. After a few seconds, the referee whistles and calls out the ‘delayed offside.’ Then a player from the attacking team crosses the blue line and brings back the puck.

Deflections Offside

Offside deflection is a unique type of offside play, which rarely occurs in hockey. It is one of the only offside plays involving both the attacking and defending teams. In a deflection offside, both the defending and attacking zones are considered offsides.

If the defending team tosses the puck to clear it and sends it to the neutral zone, but it goes back into the defensive zone, it will be called a deflection offside. 

However, it will not be offside if the puck enters the defensive zone but gets deflected and enters the neutral zone. In this situation, the attacking team players can continue their game. 

Related Post: How many players are on an NHL team?

What happens if the Referee calls out an Offside?

Not every time the players use the offside technique, but sometimes, the referee also calls it out. For instance, if a player tries to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but his skates touch the blue line before the puck does, the referee calls it out as an offside. 

The referee calls an offside by blowing the whistle three times in a row and then speaks ‘Offside’ out loud. Once the referee does this, players stop at their position, and the game comes to a halt.

What happens if the Referee calls out an Offside

Then, the referee describes the point where the infraction took place by motioning signs with his hand. After he tells the infraction and every player acknowledges the offside, the puck is taken back into the neutral zone for playing faceoff. 

During a faceoff, the defending team and attacking team come opposite each other at their respective sides in the neutral zone and continue the game at the site of the offside infraction. 

Conclusion: How do Offsides Work in Hockey?

Offside play is an essential aspect of ice hockey. Without acknowledging the functionality and importance of this term, you cannot utterly understand the gameplay of ice hockey. Now that you know how offsides work in hockey, you will be able to comprehend the complex aspects of hockey better. 

Similar Posts