What are the Basic Rules of Hockey? Hockey 101 Guide

Professional hockey is a fantastic game. Also, both playing and watching hockey is enjoyable. But it can be challenging to understand why the players are playing the way they are if you are unfamiliar with this sport. If you know all the rules and regulations of the match, it will become enjoyable for you. 

What is hockey 101? Well, to understand hockey 101, you will have to learn all the basics and rules of the NHL. You will have to learn some of the tactics used by teams and individual players to win the match which also includes the fundamental rules of the sport.

To know more about the basic rules, objectives, and other details, you will have to go through this article completely. Let’s get started!

The object of the Game

It is the objective of the hockey match to achieve more goals than the opposing team and win in the end. By putting the puck in the opposing squad’s goal, one side scores a goal. Whoever makes more goals will get more chances to win the match. So, you can say that it is not too difficult.

object of the ice hockey Game

You will find it challenging to know that there are some specific rules that one side is permitted to do and not permitted to do to achieve more goals. While the opposite team will be allowed to do that. So, it can be difficult for one team. 

You should examine the individual skater’s and the squad’s abilities when they strive to win the match. It will assist you in identifying typical moves occurring on the rink if you will look for a remark at the end of each round.

The Team and Players

In each match of professional teams like the NHL, a squad is permitted to play with 20 players

Typically, this is split up into 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and  2 goalies (one goalie is playing while the other is selected as the backup as in the case when a goalie will be injured, that will be called then.) 

ice hockey Team and Players

The NHL groups will compete for 5 vs 5 with a goalkeeper when everyone is well. As a result, squads typically start with 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and 1 goalie. 

Here is detailed information on how many players will be on the rink at any given time. The following are the obligations of each role in the NHL:

Here are the following roles and responsibilities of each position.


  • They are mostly responsible for making more points.
  • The 12 forwards are divided into 4 groups, each with 3 individuals. A coach will change players to different points throughout the match.
  • The three forward roles are center, left-wing, and right-wing.
  • The center is the most challenging role among the three positions. It is because they are given greater defensive duties and must win all of the penalty shots. 
  • It is the duty of every forward to assist the goaltender and defensemen to avoid making the point.


  • They are mostly in charge of delaying the other squad’s offense and stopping scores.
  • The 6 defensemen on the field comprise three distinct teams. During the match, the coach can shuffle these players with others. But he will typically want to maintain the same individuals together.
  • There are Left Defenders and Right Defenders in the defense. Both are responsible for similar tasks, although trainers choose to place right-shooting defenders on the right-hand side and vice versa. It is because it is simpler for a defender to bring the puck up with his stick in this position.
  • In the attacking zone, defenders do assist to push the puck up the rink or enter the game to provide the attackers with an extra player. The Norris award for an overall greatest defender is won by the defenders who are experts at doing this.


  • Goaltenders are in charge of preventing the puck from entering the goal. This responsibility includes a variety of unique rights and regulations, such as the ability to retain the puck and pause the game.
  • Goaltenders use customizable sticks, gloves, and padding as well as other protective gear to try and stop the puck.
  • What occurs if you push the goalie? Goalies are not permitted to be hit within the crease, the marked space in front of the goal, or pushed when they have the puck out of the crease.
  • Only goaltenders are permitted to cease the game by securing the puck with their hands or other gear.

Related Article: What is the hardest position to play in hockey?

Points: Goals and Assists

The number of goals each squad scored determines who wins the game. There are three components to every goal that a team wins. It includes the goal itself, the primary assist, and the secondary assist. 

You must get to know more about scores and how much to anticipate from a player in a match or campaign. Each of these receives one point in total.

A scoresheet might resemble this: Sidney Crosby is aiming (Malkin, Letang)

  • This indicates that Sidney Crosby scored a goal with assists from Kris Letang and Evgeny Malkin.
  • Before making a point, the last two players to control the puck will be awarded an assist.
  • A point can or cannot have an assist, depending on the situation.
  • One point is added to the player’s performance statistics for both assists and goals scored.

Related Article: How To Read Hockey Stats?

Hockey Equipment

Ice hockey players require the following gear and equipment:

  • Skates with rounded blades
  • Hockey stick
  • Paddings for safety against falling on ice
  • Shin pads
  • Chest protectors
  • Elbow pads
  • Shoulder pads
  • Helmets (especially for goalies)
  • Gloves

Time Structure of the Game

A hockey match lasts a maximum of 60 minutes and is separated into 3 segments of 20 minutes. There is a 15-minute interval between each session. Have you ever questioned how three intervals were conceived?

NHL game clock time
Source: rookie road

In commercial and high-level invitational tournaments, the 60 minutes performed are the stoppage period. It implies that when the game is halted by the umpires, the timer stops as well and does not restart until the game is resumed. 

In amateur hockey, 60 minutes are performed continuously. It implies that the timer only pauses at the end of a session and does not pause after a whistle. Here is a further analysis of how longer hockey games commonly last at different stages.

The Officials

Two referees and two linesmen make up the four officials who conduct the match under the rules. The game will end when an official blows the whistle for a violation of the regulations.

officials umpire in hockey

There are 2 kinds of violations – Those that lead to a player receiving a penalty and being removed from the rink for two or five minutes or those that only pause the game and force a power play to restart the game.

  • Linesmen: Linesmen are in charge of identifying non-penalty violations including icing and offside goals.
  • Referees: Umpires are in charge of making decisions on goals that are permitted or denied, calling penalties, and interacting with the teams.

Hockey Rink and Lines

Hockey Rink and Lines

Zones: The attacking, neutral, and defensive zones

There are 9 large spots placed all over the ice and a total of 5 lines that extend from one end of the posts to the other on a field. The 9 large spots are utilized to assist in a game restart, while the 5 lines assist identify when it should be terminated.

Let’s first examine those lines.

Blue Line (Offside)

Generally, the blue line acts as a powerful barrier for the attacking side. Preventing the opposing team from moving around on the rink, helps the attacking side. 

The blue line does this by preventing any player from the squad from entering the area from the blue line to the top of the posts. They prevent the players until they have carried or hit the puck over the blue line.

Blue Line (Offside)

An official will sound the buzzer and the match will be stopped if an offensive skater enters his offensive area before the puck.

The important thing to remember is that a player is regarded to be onside position. If part of their body crosses the blue line before the puck as far as their foot is on or over the boundary, they will stay in the onside position.

Related Article: How Fast Can Ice Hockey Players Skate?

Red Line (Icing)

Hockey teams do not use the simple defensive strategy of shooting the puck across the rink to release pressure from an attacking action. This would disrupt the match’s pace and reduce scoring chances. They constructed a few red lines to prevent players from ‘icing,’ (Readout the complete guide on icing) or firing the puck across the rink.

Red Line (Icing)

Below is a detailed analysis of icing:

A squad must first cross the visible red line in the center of the rink before releasing the puck into the opposing side’s area. The game will be stopped by an official blowing the whistle if they do not cross this large red line and the puck crosses the big red line which is also known as the goal area. This puck will cross the other group’s area.

Then a faceoff will be conducted in the squad’s area that iced the puck to restart the game. This is a drawback as it puts the puck near your goalie. This will offer a lot of opportunities to score points that come from faceoffs won in the area of the opposition team.

Special Lines for Goalies (Crease and Trapezoid)

  • Crease: The crease is the area printed in front of the net assigned to the goalie. The players are allowed to go to the net to score a goal as long as they don’t block the goalie. But any connection with the goalie will be seen as goalie interference, which is penalized.
Crease hockey
  • Trapezoid: The region right behind the goal is known as the trapezoid. The goaltender is permitted to control the puck in the trapezoidal area. Also, they can directly control in front of the goal area but not at the fields’ edges.  As a result, the goalie will become so proficient at controlling the puck and essentially functioning as the third defender. This regulation was introduced to give attackers an increased possibility of maintaining time with the puck in the attacking area.
Trapezoid hockey

Goal Line

The goal line, or at least the part in front of the goal will be the most essential path of all. In hockey, players essentially try to accomplish one of two things. It includes either moving the puck over this goal area and into their opponent’s goal or preventing the puck from crossing this boundary and into their goal line! Besides that, to score a point, the puck must completely exceed the line.

Goal Line ice hockey


A faceoff is utilized to restart the game after a violation or a score. This violation can be penalized or not. A faceoff is essentially a competition between two individuals for control of the puck. In this competition, one of the officials throws the puck across them. 

face off dot in ice hockey

Here’s why a player could occasionally be expelled for winning a faceoff.

The two players who take the faceoff must have spacing from all other individuals. But once the puck is released by the official, all participants are free to relocate to any location on the rink they choose.

How do they choose which shootout lines to utilize? Below is the information about it: 

  • They will utilize the four dots immediately outside the blue lines for penalty calls.
  • They will utilize the faceoff rings nearest to the goalie for slowdowns by the goalie.
  • The faceoff rings in the area of the icing side will be used for icings.
  • They will utilize the faceoff rings in the squad’s area for infractions.
  • They will utilize the central power play line for scores and the beginning of games.

Penalties in Ice Hockey

  • Minor Penalty: Minor penalties are usually assessed for hitting, slashing, high-sticking, pushing, obstruction, and match delay. They are 2-minute punishments that are given to the players.
  • Major Penalty: Major infractions or penalties are 5-minute punishments that can be of the same kind as minor penalties. They last for 2 minutes, but the umpire has concluded that the major penalty is a result of severe action. A player imposes a significant or major penalty for clashing with other players.
  • Match Penalty: A player that purposefully hurts or attempts to hurt another player will receive a penalty of game suspension, a 5-minute timeout as well as removal from the match for the full duration of the match.
  • Misconduct Penalty: This is a 10-minute punishment but it would not be given by a short-handed squad.
  • Penalty Shot: There are a few circumstances in which a player is given a penalty shot. But the most common one is when he is impeded from behind while on a breakthrough. The player then receives a free chance to shoot at the goalie with no other player on the rink, which is extremely exciting!

Here I am going to describe the complete list of all the penalties:

  • Power Play: The squad that benefits from having more players on the rink when the opposing side gets a punishment are called playing on the power play. It will either be a 5 vs 4, 5 vs 3, or 4 vs 3 superiority for the side on the power play.
  • Penalty Kill: From the perspective of the squad that received the penalty, the penalty kill is similar to a power play. The squad will be on the penalty kill when a penalty is given. A squad can commit many penalties simultaneously as long as they always have 3  players on the rink.

Body Checking and Fighting

Pro hockey, elite amateur groups, and developing clubs all permit body checking. But body checking is generally prohibited in female hockey and most leisure clubs. It excludes light physical interaction when competing for the puck.

Body Checking and Fighting

In the NHL, conflict is permitted but is not encouraged. Over the decades, fighting in the NHL has decreased significantly. 

The citizen’s social norms and increasing knowledge and understanding of the effects of strokes and serious injuries are two factors that contribute to this. The majority of teams previously had a player that was only there to combat, but this practice has been replaced.

Overtime and Shootout

A match does not result in a draw if it is held after stoppage time which will be of 60 minutes. A game does not end in a tie unless you are playing recreational hockey. When a match is tied after 60 minutes on the professional standard, there will be an additional 5 minutes of extra time. There are additional 20-minute sessions in the finals until a winner is chosen.

Overtime in ice hockey
Source: rookie road

The NHL’s finals series overtime is fantastic because clubs use a 3 vs 3 structure rather than competing 5 v 5. There will be lots of goal opportunities as a result of this opening up the player’s action. The score in the final overtime stays 5 against 5 throughout the match. Thus, hockey overtime is a tragic death, so as soon as a goal is scored, the match comes to an end.

Here is a glance at overtime in hockey, including some of the longer periods in postseason history: 

shootout in ice hockey

After the 5 minutes of overtime, if the score is still split, a shootout will be used to select the winner. In a shootout, each group gets to choose three players who get an unrestricted break opportunity on the opposing goalie. The winner of the match will be the squad with the most goals and assists in the playoff.

In conclusion, if the squad’s scores are still equal, they will continue to select a player from each squad until one team makes a goal and the other does not.

Line Changes

The fact that players can switch on and off at any time throughout a match is one of the best things about hockey. If you see other games, such as basketball, football, or soccer, these people can only switch when the game is stopped. But in hockey, this is not possible.

While a game is in progress, players are permitted to leave the rink and join others.

line changes in hockey

“Switch on the go” is the hockey phrase for players when they switch while the game is currently happening. After whistles, players are permitted to switch with one another. Also, quick changes are a crucial component of the game of hockey. But how do they decide when to change? 

The capability to change quickly is what maintains the pace, movement, and excitement of a hockey game high. Changes are high-intensity situations, and the flexibility to switch while the game is still in progress encourages individuals to provide their best effort during each move.

The players will be aware of when they are expected to switch. When the center from the previous section is switched off, a center will turn on. So, it is the referee’s responsibility to inform the players of the next shift.

How To Play Ice Hockey?

After getting the equipment, you must practice the fundamental skills to play hockey.

  1. Learn how to skate in both directions. When skating, keep your knees bent to maximize your range of motion and power. To improve your gliding and balance on the ice, elevate one leg and push off with the other. Make a C-shaped motion with your feet while you skate in reverse.
  2. With your hockey stick, move and control the puck. Hold the ball at the end of the stick handle with your non-dominant hand, keeping the stick in line with your body. Two glove lengths down from the top, place your dominant hand. When dribbling the puck, shuffle it back and forth so that you can control it the best.
  3. To move the puck fast, it should be passed between players. Push the puck with a rapid, sweeping move to another player. To prevent the puck from slamming into the boards, keep it as low to the ground as possible.
  4. To be a forward, advance the puck to the other side of the ice. Central, wing, and left-wing are all forward spots. Stay in the middle of the rink and on your opponent’s side of the rink with the puck at all times Ensure that you pass the puck between forwards to maximize your chances of scoring.
  5. When playing defense, stay clear of the goal. Every ice hockey team has two defensemen who remain on the other side of the rink from the opposing team’s goal. Cover the other team’s goalie so they can’t score.
  6. The goaltender must keep an eye on it. When it comes to stopping opponents, goalies are the last line of defense. Keep an eye on the puck and go to the goal’s side closest to it.

Top 8 Tips For Playing Hockey For Beginners

  1. Borrow or buy second-hand equipment until you know ice hockey is for you.
  2. Consider your height while buying an ice hockey stick.
  3. Make sure your skates fit snugly without cramping your toes.
  4. Criss-crossing your skate laces provide even more comfort and support.
  5. Play street hockey on inline skates to improve your skills. You can practice stick handling and street skating.
  6. Observe the pros to learn positional play and tactics.
  7. Keep your hockey stick on the ice floor except when averting the puck. Sticks on the ice are safer while playing.
  8. Bettering your game doesn’t require only ice time. Improve your strength, speed, balance, coordination, agility, and explosiveness to play better ice hockey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it simple to learn how to play Ice Hockey?

A simple game at its essence, hockey is a great sport. It is possible to score a goal by skating, passing, then shooting, and eventually scoring. Nonetheless, you should familiarise yourself with the game’s regulations before you go out on the ice.

“Blueline Rule”: What does it say in Hockey?

The attacking-zone blue line is breached by a player with both of his or her hockey skates before the puck has crossed it completely. Players in the offensive zone can keep one of their hockey skates on or behind the blue line and the action continues.

In Hockey, What is the “Red Line”?

In the center of the ice, a line separates it into two sections called the red line. It is 12 inches thick and spans the entire 85-foot width of the ice to create a central red line. As well as serving as a means of splitting the ice into two parts, the center red line serves to enforce the rule against icing.

Conclusion: What are the Basic Rules of Hockey?

If you are unaware of hockey 101 and its regulations, this guide has sufficient information from basics to detail of hockey. Along with this guide, you can begin playing or viewing hockey with fun.

If you have learned all the information from this article that you were searching for, do share your remarks with me!

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