How offside works in hockey

How Does Offside Work in Ice Hockey? (With Pictures)

The offside rule is common in many sports. Football, soccer, and some other sports all observe the offside rule. So, how does offside work in Ice hockey?

Offside rules work differently in various sports, but they all flow with a similar idea. In most cases, offsides calls happen when an attacking player crosses the last opposing player before the ball or puck, as the case may be. 

This article will discuss how the offside rules work in an ice hockey game and what happens when an attacking team is offside.

What Is Offside In An Ice Hockey Game?

The offside rule in an ice hockey game comes into play when an attacking player crosses the offensive zone blue line before the puck. If a team attacking an opponent has one of their players in the offensive area before receiving a pass, an offside comes into play. And an offside leads to a faceoff for the defending team at that moment.

Offside in hockey

How Does The Offside Rule Work In An Ice Hockey Game?

The offside comes into play when the offensive player’s skaters cross the defensive blue line of the opponent. However, the offside rule does not count if the player’s skate is behind or on the blue line. 

Also, an attacking player has to touch the puck with his stick for the offside rule to count. So, if the player does not touch the puck after crossing the blue line before the puck, the offside rule will not stand. The blue line divides one of three attacking zones in this game. And I will briefly discuss each of these zones in the next section. 

What Are The Three  Zones Of An Ice Hockey Game?

  1. The Defensive zone
  2. The Neutral and 
  3. The Attacking zone

The Defensive zone

The defensive zone is the part of the two side’s goal where they are looking to defend against an attacking opponent. The defensive zone also contains two faceoff circles in between the goalie. 

The Neutral zone

The neutral zone is mainly the centre of the ice. It houses just one faceoff circle, which is used during icing calls and before the start of a game. The neutral zones also have two lines that demarcate the attacking zone from the defensive zone. It is also known as centre ice. 

The Attacking zone

The attacking zone is also called the offensive zone. It is the area where the team with the puck is trying to score the opposing side’s goalie. Like the defensive zone, the offensive zone also has two faceoff circles. 

The area that separates the attacking zone from the defensive zone has a blue line. This blue line is crucial to the offside rule in an ice hockey game. 

Read Also: What is the Hand Pass Rule In Hockey Game? 

What Are The Blue Lines In Hockey?

Blue Line in hockey

The blue lines separate the three zones on hockey ice. The defensive, neutral, and attacking zone comes between this blue line. It also helps to detect if a player is offside or not. 

What Are The Exceptions To The Offside Rule?

The offside rule does not count in two situations, and these are; 

  1. When a defensive player passes the puck to its zone, and in the process, the opponent’s attacking player intercepts the play. 
  2. Also, the offside rule does not stand if a defensive player clears the puck and the opponent’s defenseman touches it in the neutral zone before reaching their zone. 

What Are The Types of Offside In Ice Hockey?

In an ice hockey game, offside could be in the following category; 

  • Delayed Offside
  • Intentional Offside
  • Offside deflection

Delayed Offside

Delayed offside is when the attacking player enters the opposition’s defensive zone before the puck but does not touch it. However, all the attacking players can tag up and come out of the attacking zone to have a chance of cancelling any potential offside.

Intentional Offside

The intentional offside comes into play when a team intentionally passes the puck to a teammate in an offside position. Players do this to get a line change when a team member is tired. 

See Also: How Many Players Are On Each Side Of A Hockey Team?

Offside Deflection

The offside deflection is not a common scenario in a hockey game. It happens when a defensive player clears the ball, and it bounces off an official, crossing the blue line and the attacking zone. An offside will stand if the teammate of the defensive player touches the ball in the attacking area. 

So, these are the three scenarios that could trigger an offside rule into play in a hockey game. 

What is The Offside Challenge?

An offside challenge is another part of hockey rules that comes into play when a goal is suspected to be offside. The offside challenge rule allows the coach of a team that has conceded a goal to request a video review. The review would be to assess whether the goal was offside or not. 

This situation is where the exception to the offside rule comes into application. If the referee deems the goal offside, it will not count. But if the goal is not offside, the team filing the challenge will face a minor penalty.

What Happens When A Player Goes Offside?

When there is an infraction of the offside rule, the official halts the game, and the referee blows for offside after an indication from the linesman about a violation of the office rule. The puck then goes to the neutral zone for a faceoff.   

The New Offside Rule In Hockey (Updated 2021)

Before 2021, the National Hockey League judged a player to be onside if only one of their skates touched the blue line. However, the rulers now state otherwise. The player’s skate must be entirely off the line for play is considered to be onside. 


The offside rule in an ice hockey game is a common situation. The game officials make sure that they call out every infraction. It is also evident as the coach’s challenge also allows the referee to assess the offside via a video review. So, if you were wondering, how does offside work in ice hockey? I believe you now know. 

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