The officials control play
Playing by the rules
The aim of the game is simple enough, score more goals than the opposition. But is that it? Like any game, the more you understand what's going on, the more you'll enjoy it. We take a look at a few of the fundamental rules.
Face-off at Telford
Although Ice hockey is a fast game, the basic rules are pretty easy to understand.
Like any sport, the official rulebook runs to many pages. We'll take a look at the most common rules... all you'll need to enjoy the game.
Each match is played in three 20 minute periods, with a 15 minute break between periods. Importantly, when play stops, the clock is also stopped - every second counts!
Each team can have a maximum squad of 20, including two goalkeepers.
Although only six players from each team can be on the ice at any one time, substitutions can be made at any point (even during active play). The ice hockey playing area is marked on the ice rink's base and ice built up on top of that to a total thickness of around 3/4 - 1 inch.
The playing area is surrounded by white boards just over a metre high. Protective glass on top of the boards allow fans to watch the match safely.
Meanwhile, the puck is made of vulcanised rubber and frozen before the game to reduce its bounce and to allow it to slide across the ice easier and therefore faster.
The playing zones
The ice is marked with a series of blue and red lines. The centre, red line divides the ice into two halves, while the blue lines separate the ice into three equal 'zones' - defending, neutral and attacking zones.
Goals are scored by striking the puck into the opposing team's net. If the puck accidentally comes off another player (attacker or defender), the goal stands.
However if an attacking player deliberately kicks or strikes the puck with any part of the body (other than the stick) into the net, the goal is disallowed. A goal is also disallowed if the puck comes off an official first.
There are only two principal rules in ice hockey - offside and icing.
Offside is a relatively simple concept. An attacking player isn't allowed to enter the opposition's defending zone ahead of the puck - so keep an eye on the defence's blue line.
'Icing' is when a player strikes the puck from his own half across the opposition's goal line (red) without it deflecting off another player (including a goalkeeper).
Face-offs are used to start periods of play and to restart play (for example after a goal or after an offside ruling).
During a face-off, two opposing players stand opposite each other roughly one stick's blade apart and the official then drops the puck between them.
The blue centre spot is used to 'face-off' at the beginning of each period, or following a goal.
The red face-off spots are used in a variety of other circumstances. For example, after a typical offside, the face-off takes place on the nearest face-off spot in the central, neutral zone. In the case of icing, play is restarted with a face-off in the defending zone of the team responsible.
In the event of the puck leaving the ice (and heading over the perspex barrier), two imaginary lines are drawn along the length of the ice between the face-off spots. A face-off then takes place at a point closest to where the puck left the ice.
Tempers flare on the ice
Contact and Fighting
Ice hockey has quite a reputation as an aggressive sport and you'd be forgiven for thinking that more punches are thrown on a rink than in a boxing ring.
The rules are explicit when it comes to contact during play (although the speed of the game can make it tough to apply).
Contact from the side and front is generally OK, though deliberate checking from behind will usually result in a penalty.
Tripping and 'boarding' (causing another player to violently hit the rink's walls) are also banned, as is the high use of the shaft of the stick.
Elbowing, charging and using the shaft of the stick to check an opponent ('cross-checking') will also result in a penalty.
Fighting (or 'roughing') is subject to the most severe penalties, depending on who started the fight - a player who starts 'fisticuffs' is often dealt with more harshly than someone retaliating to another player's punches.
This contact wasn't a problem
The referee is in charge of the match and has final decision on any matter.
However, the referee is also assisted by linesmen (on the ice) and goal judges (behind each goal) who are particularly concerned with offside and goal rulings respectively.
The referee and his assistants are responsible for applying the rules and deciding on penalty decisions.
Penalties range in severity from a minor penalty, which often results in as little as two minutes off the ice for the offending player (similar to the sin-bin in other sports)... up to being sent off for the balance of play (in the case of Game Misconduct and Match penalties - e.g. for fighting). If a player is sent off, a timer on the scoreboard usually counts down the time until he/she will rejoin play.
During a game in which only six players from each team are on the ice at any one time, a one man advantage can make quite a difference.
last updated: 18/09/07
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