How to Play

Areas of the Arena

Center Ice / Face-Off Circle: The face-off circle is at center ice is where the puck is put in play. The puck is dropped by the referee at the start of each period, and after a goal is scored. During the dropping of the puck, only one player from each team may be in the center ice circle. If you violate the space, you have to switch the player inside the circle with another player. Once the puck is dropped however, teammates from both teams can enter this area to assist in controlling the puck for his team.

A faceoff taking place

A faceoff taking place.


Neutral Zone: The area between the blue lines indicating each teams' Defensive Zone.

Neutral Zone Face-Off Dots: Four dots in the Neutral Zone where a linesman, which is a referee, can drop the puck after a stoppage of play.

Blue Line: A solid blue line spanning the width of the ice which indicates the boarder between the Neutral Zone and a given team's Defensive Zone.

Slot: The area directly in front of the goal tender, between the two Defensive Zone face-off circles. The "high slot" is an area of the slot that is farthest away from the goal, closer to the blue line. Shots from the slot can be dangerous, as the shot will have a good angle.

Offensive and Defensive Zone Face-Off Circles: Two large circles in a given team's zone where a linesman can drop the puck to restart play. There are four on the ice, two in a team's Offensive Zone, and two in that team's Defensive Zone. Given that each team has a Offensive Zone and a Defensive Zone, there are only four of these circles on the ice. One team's Defensive Zone is the other team's Offensive Zone.

Goal Line: The red line spanning the width of the ice on which the goal sits in each zone. One the puck is past this line, it is condsidered a goal.

Trapezoid: The area directly behind the goal in which it is permissible for the goal tender to touch the puck.

Goal / Net: Goals sit on the center of each goal line in a team's Defensive Zone. This is the target for offensive players.

Crease: The area directly in front of the each goal. This area is painted blue.

For a diagram of the rink, Click Here.

Basic Rules

Icing: This is one of the two most misunderstood calls in hockey. The rule is that if the puck is passed into the Offensive Zone by a team from their side of the red Center Ice line, and it is either not touched, nor could it be legitimately determined "touchable" before it passes behind the goal line in that player's/Team's Offensive Zone, then the puck has been "iced." The play will stop in most leagues such as International, Collegiate, and amature play without the need for the defense to touch the puck. In the NHL, play will not stop until the defense touches the iced puck. This gives the offense a chance to get to the puck first. If the iced puck is touched first by the team that iced it (the offense), then play will continue. The team that is iced will not be able to switch their lines, as the other team will get that option.

Off Sides: This is also misunderstood some times. Off sides is really not that hard to follow if you remember one thing. The puck always has to be the Offensive Zone before the offensive players. There is one exception; a defensive player can put the puck back into his own zone while the other team has offensive players in his zone. Off sides is waved off, and the offensive players can touch the puck with no consequence.

There are a few things to understand about off sides. First, the whistle will only blow if a player attempts to make a play or touches the puck while the linesman has indicated that a team is off sides. The puck will then be dropped to start play on a face-off dot in the Neutral Zone. Second, delayed off sides is the term used when a linesman has indicated that a team is off sides, and the whistle has not yet blown. During this time, if all offensive players have left the Offensive Zone (retreated back to the Neutral Zone), and the puck has not come out of the zone in question, the linesman will indicate that the delayed off sides is over, and the offense can then re-enter the Offensive Zone, and pursue the puck. Third, there are times that teams will cause an off sides in the Offensive Zone intentionally. If the linesmen feel that this is the case, then the face-off will come all the back in front of the goal tender of the team that is off sides.

Hand Pass: Before explaining hand passes (which really is self explanatory), at no time during play can anyone close their hands on a puck. So, to pass a puck with a swinging motion of a player's arm (like a baseball bat), or to push the puck along the boards or ice with any part of the arm or hand is considered to be a hand pass. Hand passes stop play if the puck is touched by a player of the same team as the one who committed the hand pass. Hand passes are considered legal only if a defensive player does a hand pass in his own zone. The puck will be dropped in the Neutral zone on a face off dot closest to where the puck was touched after a hand pass.

Puck Over Glass: Simply put, the puck leaves the rink and ends up in the spectator seating. There are times that this can be considered a minor penalty. For this variety of play stoppage, if the puck leaves the rink, the face off will then happen as close to where the player was when he put the puck off the rink.

Puck Touched by a High Stick: If the puck is touched by a stick above the player's shoulders, it will be called a high stick. If this occurs, play will stop if the next player who plays the puck is on the same team as he who touched the puck with a high stick. Also, if a goal is scored by a player who last touched the puck with a high stick, that goal will be dis-allowed, and the face off will come to the face off circle or dot closest to where that player was standing at the time of the high stick. There is no grey area for this call. If the other team controls the puck after the incident of a high stick, and play has not yet been halted (meaning the same team has not touched the puck), then the high stick infraction is waved off, and play will continue.

Puck Kicked in Net with Distinct Kicking Motion: In hockey, sticks get dropped, broken, tangled with other player, etc. So, players are trained to develop the ability to kick and control the puck with their feet. Kicking the puck is very common, and is often used by skilled players to trick other players all the time. No matter how fancy a player's foot work is, it is not allowed to kick the puck in the net intentionally. This does not mean that a puck that is scored off the feet of an offensive player does not count. The rule is stated that the puck can not be scored with a "distinct kicking motion." Players may angle their feet with the intent of deflecting the puck in, as long as it does not appear that their feet move in a kicking motion. Officials have spent considerable amounts of time reviewing goals scored off of players' feet to determine if they were "kicked" into the net. In the event of the non-kicking motion goals, they will count (subject to the opinion of the referee and official staff reviewing the goal). However, in the case that the staff feel that the puck was kicked in with the motion of a kick, the goal will be dis-allowed, and the face off will come to the closest face off circle or dot to where the puck was kicked.

Goal Tender "Freezes" the Puck: I have included this event in this section only because the whistle will blow, and play will stop. In hockey, the only person who can stop the puck on the ice, catch it and close his hand on it, or pin it in clothing and equipment with the intent to stop play, is the goalie. The goal tender can and often does stop play when the opposing team is threatening to score. Referees are instructed to stop play once they lose site of the puck under a goalie. Unlike soccer where the game clock continues to run even if the goal tender has the ball, hockey game clocks stop and will require the puck to be dropped in a face off circle close to that goal tender to resume upon goalies freezing the puck.


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