How Many Players Are There On Each Side Of Hockey Team?

How many players are in a hockey team

Ice hockey games are winter sports that involve playing on ice using ice skating rinks. For first-timers, you might be confused about how many players are there on each side of the hockey team. This game is played between two opposing sides with the same number of players each.

Generally, there are six players on the ice in a hockey game. But some situations during the games could affect the number of players you see on the ice

In this article, you will learn the number of players on the ice in a hockey game across different situations –including penalties– we will also discuss some other rules that guide the hockey game and teams. 

How Many Players Are Allowed To Start For An Ice Hockey Team?

A team can have up to six players on the ice to start a game. Each team can start with five players and a goalie. The goalie remains on the ice for most of the game. However, you cannot have your backup and starting goalie in a game simultaneously. The other five players include forwards, wingmen and defensemen. 

Teams can start three forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie.

How Many Ice Hockey Players Are Allowed

How Many Ice Hockey Players Are Allowed On the Roaster?

The players allowed on the roster are players who dress up for an ice hockey game. In the National Hockey League, 20 players can dress up for an ice hockey game. Generally, a team can have four forward lines (12), three pairs of defensemen (6), and two goalies. 

However, an ice hockey team can have as many as 50 players with active contracts. This number also includes players with injuries or those playing for a minor league affiliated with the team. 

Teams could also have the rights of about 90 players. This includes free agents, injured players, and restricted players of a team. 

So, the numbers could differ, but on the roaster, each team can have only 20. Since six can start, the remaining would be on the rooster, including another goaltender, who is a backup. 

How Many Positions Does An Ice Hockey Game Have?

An ice hockey team consists of three major positions. These are the forwards, the defenseman, and the goalie. The forwards can be divided into players on the center, the leftwing, and the right wing. 

A team can start with one goalie, two defensemen, and three forwards. The goaltender position must always have a backup who is listed on a game’s roster. 

How Many Players Are On The Ice During Penalties?

The penalty rules are common in an ice hockey game. This happens when one player commits an infraction against the opposing player. The culprit is taken down for 2 to 5 minutes, and this situation results in his team having a shorthand. When a team takes down a player due to a penalty, the power play comes into play. 

Penalties can also happen when a team features more players on the ice than they are expected to do. In this case, the coach picks one of the players who would sit out for the penalty duration.

So, the game, which is traditionally 5-on-5 (excluding the goalie), would no longer be a balanced tie. The penalty makes the game a 5-on-4. 

This rule applies to both sides. So there could be scenarios such as this during a penalty; 

  • 5-on-4; one team has a penalty while the other does not.
  • 4-on-4; The two teams have a penalty
  • 4-on-3; One team has a penalty, and the other has two.

However, no team can have less than three players on the ice at any time of the game. Also, in rare cases, you could see the goalie joining with the skaters if the team is in desperate need of a goal. This situation could lead to a 6-on-5. 

How Many Players Are On Ice During Overtime?

Overtime is another exciting moment of the game that alters the number of players on a team. It is common when there is a tie in an ice hockey match. This happens when there is a tie between both sides. An extra five minutes of play would decide the winner. Both teams will have to play 3-on-3 (3 skaters plus the goaltender) during the overtime. 

What Happens When There is a Penalty In Overtime?

The overtime involves the minimum number of players a game should have. But if a team gets a penalty during overtime, the shorthand of 3-on-2 would not stand. However, the team that got the penalty will have one man added to make a 4-on-3, triggering the power play rule. This rule only makes the game fair as a team with only two skaters and a goalie will be too much of a disadvantage. 

If the winner is not decided during the overtime, the game goes into a shootout. 

How Many Players Are Allowed On Ice During Playoffs Overtime?

The overtime in playoffs has a little more variation in the numbers of players compared to that of the regular season overtime. Playoffs overtime continues with the same number of players as regular time (5-on-on-5). Although it is different from the regular season, which shifts to a 3-on-3, the times are also different. 

While overtime in the regular season is only five minutes, the playoff takes more time. The overtime in the playoffs sees a 15-minute intermission before 20 minutes periods until the ‘death goal’ decides a winner. 

How Long Does An Ice Hockey Game Last?

An ice hockey game lasts for 60 minutes. This time is divided into 20 minutes with an intermission period in between. However, a tie could lead to overtime which is 5 minutes in a regular season. Playoffs over time are definite as the game continues for 20 minutes periods until a winner is decided. 

Read Up: How Long is a Hockey Game

Wrapping Up

The ice hockey game is an exciting and entertaining sport. It can feature different numbers of players depending on the game’s situation. Penalty and overtime are the major factors determining how many players are in an ice hockey team. 

So, I believe you now know the number of players in an ice hockey game for every situation. 

Dustin Jeffery

Hey there, I'm Jeff Dustin! I've been playing hockey for 12 years, and I'm so glad to be here talking to you about my love for the sport.

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