Hockey Rules Explained

Ice hockey is an incredibly exciting and enjoyable recreational sport that people of all ages can participate in. For those who are new to the hockey game, it can be difficult to understand hockey rules and some of the game’s regulations.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic and most important hockey rules and information that will help you better understand the game.

Table of Contents: 

Ice Hockey Rink Layout

In order to understand the game of hockey, it’s important that we begin with an explanation of the rink and the significance of the different sections and markings. You’ll notice red and blue lines, as well as red circles placed at certain parts of the rink. Here is a brief explanation of some of the markings on the ice:

  • Blue Circle/Center Circle – The blue circle directly in the center of the rink is known as the ‘face-off’ circle and it’s where every hockey game begins. Both teams have a single player face off against one from the opposing team in the face-off circle while the referee stands between them, dropping the puck to begin the game.
  • Goals/Nets – These nets are obviously the objective that each team aims for in shooting the puck. The goals are guarded by a single ‘goalie’ that must observe specialized rules that only apply to the goalie.
  • Face-Off Dots – One of the four red dots around the Blue Center Circle are known as Face-Off Dots. These are used if the game has to be stopped at any point due to penalties or other reasons.
  • Blue Lines – The blue lines that run across either side of the rink are there to represent the border that separates the Neutral Zone and a team’s defensive zone.
  • Slot – The Slot is the area behind the Blue Line on either side of the rink.
  • Face-Off Circles – The red circles that are placed on each corner of the rink indicate a spot where teams will face-off in an offensive/defensive face-off.
  • Goal Line – The red line that runs through the goal/net across the rink on either side is known as the Goal Line. Goalies are not allowed to play the puck behind this line.
  • Trapezoid – Small area behind the goal where the goalie is allowed to contact the puck.
  • Crease – Small, blue-colored area with red border just in front of each goal/net. Players are not allowed to interfere with the goaltender in the crease area.


At the beginning of each game and each time the game is restarted, the players will align into a Face-Off. This will occur at one of the five designated Face-Off zones and only one player from each team is allowed to be inside the Face-Off circles. The referee will initiate a Face-Off at the Face-Off circle that’s nearest to where the infraction or penalty occurred.

Basic Rules of Hockey

There are many rules pertaining to the sport of ice hockey, but here are some of the most important rules players must know and follow to avoid being penalized. 


The Blue Line on either side of the rink are the boundaries for each team to ensure that they remain onsides. In order for members of the opposing team to be able to cross the Blue Line, one of their players must cross over the Blue Line with the puck in their possession. If a player crosses over this line without the puck, it results in a penalty and the referee will reset the puck at the nearest designated Face-Off Dots.


Icing is one of the more confusing rules within the game of hockey. It occurs when a player shoots the puck from their team’s side of the Red Line across the center Center Red Line and the opposing team’s Blue Line and across the Goal Line. This is permitted if a team is short-handed due to players sitting in the penalty box. Icing is waived off if a member of the same team as the shooter gets to the puck first, or if the goalie reaches the puck first.

Delay of Game

Hockey rules state that a delay of game penalty can be called for a number of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for a delay of game penalty include:

  • Shooting the puck over the glass
  • A player moving the goal or net out of place
  • A player (not a goaltender) close-handing the puck
  • Not getting all players onto the ice after a warning for illegal substitution

Penalty Box

The penalty box is where players who have been called for a penalty must sit for a certain amount of time before returning to the game. While a player is in the penalty box, his team is not allowed to substitute another player in and must play “down a man” or “one man short” until the time is passed.

The amount of time that a player spends in the penalty box is determined by the severity of the penalty with some penalties. Minor penalties result in 2 minutes inside the penalty box while major penalties will land a player in the penalty box for 5 minutes. Players who are called for misconduct penalties will spend 10 minutes in the penalty box. Read more about penalties in hockey here.

Power Play

A Power Play results when one team has at least one player missing due to being in the penalty box. Teams are allowed to have 5 players and 1 goaltender for regulation play, but losing a player to the penalty box will result in a 5-4 advantage, or Power Play. More than one player might be forced to sit in the penalty box for a team, which sometimes results in a 5-3, or 5-2 advantage for the opposing team.

If the team with the Power Play scores a goal, a player serving time in the penalty box for a minor penalty may resume play immediately.

Penalty Shots

A penalty shot is one of the most exciting moments in the sport of ice hockey. It’s basically a one-on-one battle between a single player and the opposing team’s goaltender. A penalty shot will be called if a player has a clear breakaway, or path to the goal without any opposing player between him and the goal/goaltender and the player with the puck gets pulled down from behind, tripped, or otherwise interfered with by opposing players.

Final Thoughts On Ice Hockey Rules

Those are the most common and basic rules when it comes to understanding the game of hockey.  Hopefully, you were able to get some helpful information out of this for the next time that you hit the ice or watch a game of hockey!