Hockey has been called the "fastest game on ice" and for good reason... the action almost never stops! However, the fast pace, line changes and penalties can seem a little intimidating to the novice spectator. So for those of you who are new to the sport of hockey, grab a pad and paper and throw on your Kings sweater because it's time for Hockey 101.


Let's start with the basics. Ice Hockey is played on an ice rink with official dimensions of 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. Players use "sticks" to pass and shoot a round black disc made of vulcanized rubber called a "puck". The boards and plexiglass surrounding the ice rink are there to keep the puck in play and protect fans from flying pucks, but often serve as the exclamation point on a wicked body check!

Painted onto the ice surface are a series of colored lines, one red and two blue. The red line indicates center ice, while the blue lines divide the surface into three zones (defensive, neutral, and offensive zone). "Face off" circles are found in each of the zones and at center ice, and serve as areas where teams will face off for possession of the puck after play is stopped.

At "even strength", each team is allowed six players on the ice, two defensemen, two wingers, a center and a goaltender. A team may elect to pull their goalie for an extra attacker when they are trailing in goals near the end of a game.

The object of the game is simple: shoot the puck into the opponents net. The team with the most "goals" at the end of a game is the winner. Traditionally, the game is broken down into three 20-minute periods, separated by two intermissions that last just over 15 minutes. If the game is tied at the end of 60 minutes, a five-minute sudden death overtime period is played with each team allowed only four skaters on the ice at a time. If a game remains tied after the five-minute, four-on- four overtime period, the teams will engage in a "shootout", in which three skaters aside take alternating "penalty shots" against the opposing goaltender. If still tied after three shots per team, 'sudden-death' shots will be taken to reach a decision.


The goaltender, goalie, or netminder in ice hockey is a player who defends the goal net from opposing teams shots. He plays in the area in front of the net called the goal crease. Due to the power and frequency of shots, the goaltender wears special equipment designed to protect the body from direct impact and has special privileges that other players do not, such as "freezing the puck" or holding the puck within their glove until play is stopped.

A defensemen's primary responsibility is to prevent the opposing team from achieving a scoring opportunity, by keeping the opponents as far away from their net as possible. While keeping the opposition away from the net, the defensemen will also try to gain possession of the puck in order to pass or skate the puck out of their defensive zone.

A wing is a player whose primary zone of play on the ice is along the side boards and in the corners of the rink. There are two wings (left side and right side) that make up the offense and typically work by flanking the center position. The wingers responsibilities include trying to gain control of the puck and score goals by passing to a teammate, or shooting the puck in the opposition's goal themselves. Wingers typically skate into the corners of the rink in an attempt to take the puck away from the opposition and create a scoring opportunity for their team.

A center is a player whose primary zone of play is the middle of the ice, away from the side boards, however, centers have more flexibility in their positioning and are expected to cover more ice surface in each of the three zones than any other player. The centers most notable responsibility is to take the "face off" in an attempt to gain possession of the puck from a stoppage of play.


The number of players a team is allowed have on the ice changes following a penalty. When a player receives a penalty, he must enter the penalty box for at least two minutes. This means his team is minus one player (short-handed), giving the other team a one-man advantage. These man advantages are called "power plays."

Minor: Lasts for up to two minutes. If a team scores on the power play, a minor penalty automatically expires and the penalized player may return to the ice.

Double minor:
Lasts for up to four minutes. Served as two minor penalties: If a power play goal is scored during the first two minutes, only the first minor expires – the player must serve another minor penalty.

Major: Lasts for five minutes. The penalized player must serve the entire penalty regardless of whether or not the opposing team scores on the power play.

Misconduct: Lasts for ten minutes. This is a penalty to the player only; his team is not shorthanded during a misconduct.

Game misconduct: The player is ejected from the game. This is a penalty to the player only; his team is not shorthanded.

Penalty shot: A player is given an attempt to score a goal without opposition from any defending players except the goaltender.

NHL Rulebook
  Boarding: Pushing an opponent violently into the boards   Charging: Taking more than three strides before hitting an opponent
Checking from behind: Hitting an opponent from behind
Cross-checking: Hitting an opponent with the stick when it is held with two hands
  Delayed Penalty: When the team without posession of the puck receives a penatly, the referree waits until the team to be penalized takes possession of the puck

Elbowing: Hitting an opponent with the elbow
  Hand-Pass: When a player uses his hand to direct the puck to another player from the same team in the offensive or neutral zone. Hand passes are allowed in the defensive zone.
High sticking: Hitting an opponent with a stick above shoulder level
Holding: Grabbing an opponent or his stick with the hands or stick 700K
Hooking: Using a stick as a hook to slow an opponent 700K
  Icing: Intentionally shooting the puck from behind the center red line over your opponent's goal line Interference: Impeding an opponent who does not have the puck; checking or otherwise impeding a goaltender
Roughing: Pushing or throwing punches Penalty Shot: When an attacking player has been clearly pulled down, preventing a breakaway shot on the goalie
Slashing: Swinging a stick at an opponent 700K
Spearing: Stabbing an opponent with the stick
Tripping: Using a stick or body to trip an opponent 700K    Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Arguing with a referee, coach or fan or playing with illegal equipment 700K
Washout: When used by a referee it means the goal does not count; when used by a linesman, it means there is no icing or off-sides.   Delaying the game: Deliberately stalling the game (for example, deliberately shooting the puck out of play)
   Kneeing: Hitting an opponent with the knee   Butt-ending: Jabbing an opponent with the end of the shaft of the stick
   Head-butting: Hitting an opponent with the head    


You may notice players jumping on and off the ice throughout the course of a game. These are substitutions. Teams rotate players in and out of a game during what is called a "line change" and can do so while the play is stopped or during the play, which is also known as "changing on the fly". Because of the speed of the game, line changes are necessary every 45 seconds to one minute of play.

Understanding the basics of Ice Hockey adds to the excitement of the game. Like any sport, it may take a few times in the stands to fully comprehend both the rules and the strategy.


Assist: the pass or passes which immediately precede a successful scoring attempt; a maximum of two assists are credited for one goal.

Backhand shot: a shot or pass made with the stick from the left side by a right-handed player or from the right side by a left-handed player.

Breakaway: a fast break in which an attacker with the puck skates in alone on the goalie, having gotten past or clear of the defensemen, trapping the opponents behind the play.

Check or checking: any contact initiated by a defending player against an opponent to get the puck away from him or slow him down; there are two main types of checks: stick check and body check; these are only allowed against a player in control of the puck or against the last player to control it immediately after he gives it up; checking after too many steps or strides becomes charging.

Clearing the puck: getting the puck out of one's own defensive zone.

Deke or deking: a decoying or faking motion by the puck-carrier; the art of making a defensive player think you are going to pass or move in a certain direction when you are not. There are shoulder dekes, stick dekes and head dekes.

Delayed penalty: a penalty against a team that has only 4 players on the ice, assessed only when one of its players gets out of the penalty box.

Delayed whistle or delayed call: when an official raises his arm but does not blow his whistle, waiting to see the outcome of a play before calling a penalty; this is done so as not to penalize the non-offending team by stopping its momentum.

Empty-net goal: a goal scored against a team that has pulled the goalie.

Face-off: the method of starting play; the dropping of the puck by the official between the sticks of two opposing players standing one stick length apart with stick blades flat on the ice; used to begin each period or to resume play when it has stopped for other reasons.

Full strength: when a team has its full complement of 6 players on the ice.

Goal: provides one point; scored when a puck goes between the goalposts from the stick of an attacking player and entirely crosses the red line between the goalposts; also the informal term used to refer to the area made of the goalposts and the net guarded by the goalie and into which a puck must enter to score a point.

Hat trick: three or more goals scored by a player in one game.

Icing: a violation which occurs when the team in possession of the puck shoots it from behind the red center line across the opponent's goal line into the end of the rink (but not into the goal) and a member of the opposing team touches it first; results in a face-off in the offender's defensive zone; a shorthanded team cannot be called for icing. 700K

Intermission: a fifteen-minute recess between each of the three periods of a hockey game.

Killing a penalty: preventing the opposition from scoring when a dis-advantaged team has a player in the penalty box.

Linesmen: the two officials on the ice, one toward each end of the rink, responsible for infractions of the rules concerning off-side plays at the blue lines or center line and for any icing violations; they conduct most of the face-offs, sometimes advise the referee concerning penalties, and separate players who are fighting; they wear black pants and an official league sweater, and are on skates.

Offside: a violation which occurs when both skates of an attacking player cross the opponent's blue line before the puck is passed or carried into the attacking zone; also called when a player passes the puck from his defending zone to a teammate across the red center line (two-line pass); this is one of the most common calls made in a hockey game and results in a face-off. 700K

Penalty box: an area with a bench just off the ice, behind the sideboards outside the playing area where penalized players serve their penalty time.

Pulling the goalie: taking the goalkeeper off the ice and replacing him with a forward; leaves the goal unguarded so is only used as a last minute attempt to score.

Save: the act of a goalie in blocking or stopping a shot.

Slap shot: a shot in which the player raises his stick in a backswing, with his strong hand held low on the shaft and his other hand on the end as a pivot. Then as the stick comes down toward the puck, the player leans into the stick to put all his power behind the shot and add velocity to the puck; achieves an extremely high speed (up to 120 miles per hour) but is less accurate than a wrist shot.
Stickhandling: moving the puck along the ice with the stick blade.

Sudden-death overtime: an overtime period that ends as soon as one team scores a goal, determining the winner and terminating the game.

Wrist shot: a shot made using a strong flicking of the wrist.