To have an easier time understanding the rules of ice hockey, start by searching online for a detailed diagram of the playing surface typically used for this game. The diagram will serve as an essential point of reference as the rules of the sport are broken down part by part. This article can be your guide as you learn more about how ice hockey is played by the rules.
Ice hockey players do not play in a court or field. Rather, they play inside the rink, which is basically an ice sheet surrounded by Plexiglas and boards. The playing area is divided into different zones, with a red line at the center while two blue lines mark the other zones. In North America, standard rinks measure at 200 x 85 feet while European rinks are a bit larger.
Neutral zone - This is the center or middle zone in the rink.
Defending zone - This is the zone where the net of the defending team is located.
Offensive zone - Also known as the "attacking zone", this is where the net of the team on the offensive is located.
One of the many things that make ice hockey unique from other sports is the equipment used in the game. For one thing, if basketball, football, or even tennis and golf make use of balls, hockey makes use of pucks. They are made from vulcanized rubber, black in color, and are typically 3 inches in diameter and 1-inch thick. In ice hockey, the use of hands to move or manipulate the puck is strictly prohibited. Rather, players make use of their feet or hockey sticks instead.
The Hockey Stick
Speaking of hockey sticks - which are another unique element of the game - these are used by players to pass, carry, control, retrieve or - most importantly - shoot pucks. A team scores a goal when one of its players manages to shoot the puck into the opposing team's net.
Ice hockey nets resemble nets used in soccer in appearance but not in size. For this game, nets typically measure at 6 x 4 feet (W x H) and are made of nylon mesh. One player - called a goaltender - is specifically assigned to defend his or her team's net by preventing opponents from scoring a goal.
The objective of the game is fairly simple: the team who manages to score the highest number of goals within the allotted time wins.
Teams and Players
Aside from the goaltenders, teams will also have five players or skaters each on the rink. Two of them will act as defensemen while the remaining three will serve as forwards. All five skaters can go anywhere in the rink but goaltenders are not allowed to cross the red line at the center.
Unlike in other sports, coaches do not have to call for timeouts or wait for certain times in order to make substitutions. In fact, they're allowed to make as many substitutions as they want but only for as long as the player to be replaced isn't actively involved in any play and is within 5 feet from the team bench.
Other Essential Ice Hockey Rules