General Rink and Game Information

While hockey may seem confusing at first, a basic knowledge can help you unlock the game and appreciate the aspects of the sport. Read up on general rink and game information!

The Playing Surface

  • The ice sheet is commonly known as the rink.
  • The rink is divided into zones by a red line at center ice and two blue lines.
  • A standard North American rink measures 200 feet by 85 feet.
  • European ice surfaces are slightly larger.
  • The ice is enclosed by boards and Plexiglass.

Rink “Zones”

  • The ice surface is divided into three zones.
  • The area where the goal net is located is the “defending zone” for the team defending that net.
  • The middle of the rink, between two blue lines, is the “neutral zone.”
  • The area where the opposing net is located is the “attacking zone” or “offensive zone.”

The Puck

  • The puck is made of black, vulcanized rubber.
  • A standard puck measures one inch thick and three inches in diameter, and weighs between 5.5 and 6 ounces.
  • The puck can be moved with the hockey stick or the feet, but picking it up with the hands is illegal.

The Hockey Stick

  • A stick is held by each player and used to retrieve, control, carry, pass and shoot the puck.
  • Goals are scored by using the stick to shoot the puck into the opponent’s net.
  • A shot that inadvertently deflects into the net off another player’s body is allowed to stand as a goal.

The Net

  • A cage measuring four feet tall and six feet wide, strung with nylon mesh in the back.
  • There are two nets at opposite ends of the ice, guarded by the goaltenders.

Object of the Game

  • The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposition.

The Teams

  • Each team has six players on the ice, one goaltender and five “skaters”.
  • The five “skaters” have assigned positions: three forwards and two defensemen.


  • Substitutions are unlimited and can be made at any time.
  • A substitution does not require an official’s permission, or a stoppage in play.
  • A player can join the game “on the fly” – during the flow of play – as long as the departing player is within five feet of the bench and not involved in the play or with an opponent.

The Faceoff

  • The game begins when the referee drops the puck between two opposing forwards.
  • During the faceoff all other players are positioned on the defensive side of the puck.
  • The faceoff is used to resume play following any stoppage in the game.
  • There are nine designated faceoff spots painted on the ice.

The Game Clock

  • The game is played in three 20-minute periods.
  • The clock is stopped during all stoppages in play.

Body Checking

  • A player can use a shoulder, hip or torso to hit or impede an opponent, but only when the opponent is in possession of the puck.
  • A body check that targets the head is illegal.
  • A body check to an opponent’s back is illegal if the opponent is facing the boards.

Minor Penalties

Note that the difference between a legal check and a penalty is open to interpretation, and remains a source of dispute among fans, players, and everyone else involved in the game.

  • A player charged with a minor penalty is sent off the ice for two minutes, with no substitution allowed.
  • The penalty ends immediately if a goal is scored by the opposing team.

Minor penalties are called for obstructing an opponent. Infractions include :

  • Tripping (with the stick or knee)
  • Holding (with stick or hands)
  • Hooking (with stick)
  • Interferance (checking or impeding a player without the puck)

Penalties are called for dangerous use of the stick, including:

  • Slashing
  • Spearing
  • High-sticking (hitting an opponent in the head or face)
  • Cross-checking (hitting an opponent with the shaft of the stick)

Penalties are called for dangerous physical fouls, including:

  • Elbowing
  • Checking from behind
  • Kneeing
  • Roughing (broadly defined; usually involves a wrestling or shoving match)

Major Penalties

  • A player charged with a major penalty is sent off the ice for five minutes.
  • The most common major penalty is fighting. If both fighters receive five-minute penalties, substitutions can be made.
  • At the referee’s discretion, an infraction commonly deemed a minor penalty can be increased to a major. This usually occurs if an opponent has been seriously injured, or if the referee believes there was a deliberate attempt to injure.
  • A player charged with a major penalty involving serious injury or attempt to injure is ejected from the game.
  • If a penalized player is ejected, a teammate is assigned to serve his major penalty. No substitution is allowed.


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