Basic rules of hockey game

What Are The Basic Rules Of Ice Hockey?

Every sport has rules and regulations, and hockey is no different. Knowing the basic rules of ice hockey will bring more understanding of the game if you are only getting to know about this sport.

The match officials oversee the execution of the rules of the ice hockey game. From the penalties to the power play, offsides, and other laws, there are many parts of this game you could discover. This article will discuss some basic rules of ice hockey and how it applies to the game. 

So, let’s quickly look at what these rules are all about.

7 Basic Rules Of The Ice Hockey Game

There are various game regulations that hockey follows; this section will discuss seven basic rules of an ice hockey game. 

1. The Offside Rule

Offsides are one of the most common rules in sports as it is also present in football, soccer, and rugby. But the offside rule in each sport works in different ways. So, let’s talk about how the offside works in ice hockey. 

The hockey ice consists of three zones; the defensive, neutral, and the offensive zone. Two blue lines separate the defensive area from the offensive zone on each side of the ice. These two blue lines are crucial to determining if a player is offside or not. 

An offside comes into play when an attacking player enters the opponent’s defensive zone before the puck and plays it. However, these rules have some exemption that includes;

  • When an opposition player intercepts the puck before it reaches the attacking player 
  • When a team’s defenseman passes the puck to an opponent’s attacking player 

These two situations would ensure that play continues and the referee does not call for offside.

2. Line Changes

Ice hockey is a highly physical game that requires stamina, endurance, and strength. Players can get tired quickly, so substitution is vital for this game. Unlike other sports, hockey does not need play to stop before changes can happen. That means line changes can happen ‘on the fly.’ 

On Average, hockey games can experience shifts after every 45 to 60 seconds of a match. A few factors determine line changes in a hockey team; strategy, defense pairing, and grouping of the forward lines. 

We have also covered how line changes work in an article.

3. Pulling The Goaltender

The goalie of a hockey team spends most of their time in the goal guarding the team. However, there are occasions when the coach could instruct the goaltender to join the skaters on the field. This happens when a team needs a goal, and pulling the goalie would give them a numerical advantage. 

Hockey teams play with five players and a goalie. If a team pulls out their goaltender, it gives them a 6-on-5 and a chance to score. But it is also risky as the post is empty and vulnerable to goals from the opposition. 

Another occasion where teams pull the goaltender is when their opponent has a delayed penalty. The risk factor here is also low as the play will be called if your opponent touches the puck. 

4. Power Play and Penalties

Penalties and power play work hand-in-hand. Power play results from the advantage a team gets if their opponent commits an infraction. So, here is how it works; 

If a team wins a penalty, they get a power play while their opponent is on a penalty kill and vice versa. That means the team which concedes the penalty will have one player down for a short period. As a result, the team with the power play has an advantage as the game is now 5-on-4. 

A hockey game also has two types of penalties. A minor penalty leads to the offending player going to the penalty box for two minutes. On the other hand, a major penalty will result in a five-minute stay in the penalty box.

However, there are limitations to this rule, as one team cannot have less than three players on the ice.

5. Ice Hockey High Touch

High touch in hockey restricts a player from touching the puck with his stick at a level above his shoulder. Playing the puck above your shoulders could be dangerous for other players. 

Although players that do a high touch will not concede a penalty, the referee will call for a faceoff. 

6. Icing

Icing comes into play when a team plays the puck into the opponent’s zone from behind the red line. The red line is in the middle of the ice rink. This rule prevents players from dumping the puck on the opposition’s half to make changes. When that happens, the match official calls for icing. 

However, some exceptions come with icing in hockey. When a player plays the puck into the opposition’s zone from behind the red line, and a teammate picks the ball, the referee does not call icing. 

Also, the icing rule does not count for a team on the penalty kill. 

7. Faceoff

Faceoff is another vital part of an ice hockey game. It usually occurs when there is a stop in play. This part of the game also decides who keeps the possession after a halt in the play. There are nine dots on the ice where the faceoff could happen. It usually continues from the previous spot of the last activity in play. 

When there is a stop in play, a faceoff happens; the referee drops the puck on the dot, and the teams fight for it. Winning faceoffs is essential to keeping the puck and helping the team score goals. Some players have exceptional skills in winning faceoff fights, which can be crucial to a team’s setup. 


Sports all have rules and regulations they abide by; hockey is a game that comes with exciting ones. The offsides, line changes, high touch, and penalties are also common in other sports. This game also brings unique rules that make it even more exciting. 

So, I believe you now know what the basic rules of ice hockey are; and how they work.

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