Basic Hockey Rules for Beginners

Ever imagined a game without any rules? What would it look like if there were no hockey rules made for the game?  Maybe it would look like a few men are running around with hockey sticks in hand. It would be more like a chaotic fight scene than a hockey match. Rules play a very important role in our life, but when it comes to sports, it is the backbone of it.

Knowing about the hockey rules of the game is as important to know about how hockey is played. Before we get down to the rules about hockey, let’s get into some hockey basics. Here we tried our best to make the blog beginners hockey friendly. The very first basic is the structure of the rink where you will play. It is one of the basic rules of hockey to know about the rink well.

Structure of the rink:

Hockey rink is divided into three zones; defensive, offensive and neutral. Defensive is the zone where you and your teammates are standing. The middle section is the neutral one. And the opposite side where the opposition party will stand, is called the offensive zone. The attacking way is from the defensive zone to the offensive zone.

Position of the players:

Ice hockey:

5 players and 1 goalie makes a team. All of them have to stand in their defensive zone. There are different positions for different roles.

  • Goalie: Goalie stands in front of the goal post to prevent the puck from entering into the goal line. 
  • Defense players (left and right) : They try to block the opposition party when the team doesn’t have puck possession. They also block the opposition party from taking over the puck when their team has possession. 
  • Forward centre : They try to take possession on the puck during every face off.
  • Forward left and right wing : They have some defensive responsibilities. But they look forward to creating the primary situation of making a goal. 

Inline (roller) hockey :

Inline roller hockey has a player less than the ice hockey one. They got 5 players including the goalie.

Field hockey :

The field hockey rules are quite similar to soccer. The difference is they have to hit the ball with the stick except for their feet. So they got 11 players in a team. The setup is of a  goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards.  Anyone can make the goal including the goalie (rare case) .

Game time:

Ice hockey:

It is basically a 60 minutes game divided into three 20 minutes periods. Each period got 5 minutes break time, which is 15 minutes in total. 

Inline (roller) hockey:

Because of lacking the cooling effect of an ice surface, this inline hockey game duration came down. It’s a two 20 minutes session in the world championship games.

Field hockey:

This one has the longest time duration in comparison to other hockey games, excluding the hockey rules overtime. It has got 2 sessions of 35 minutes each. There’s a break time of 15 minutes in between. 


The term overtime is used when you can’t reach a conclusion in the given time. Like when it’s a draw and game time is up. Then some extra time is given to sort out the match winner. This is known as overtime. The first action taken after a draw match is giving 15 more minutes. If it’s a draw after this event, then a penalty shootout comes. It is again like soccer. A single player tries to make a goal from a selected spot. Team goalie gets the chance to defend goals. Hockey rules overtime is more or less the same in every type of hockey. But one of the worst parts of NHL hockey rules is, the team that loses in overtime is awarded a single point, and this might seem a bit unfair to you. But it is the rule. 

Starting of the game :

Hockey starts with centre passes. The puck is placed in the centre of the rink. One of the forward centre players of any team pushes the puck. Forward centre player needs to stand in his defensive side while pushing it. Both the players are allowed to try to take possession over the puck. 

Tackling :

After the centre pass is done, any of the players except the goalie is allowed to try to take possession over the puck. This action is called tackling. This is the main action required throughout the game. 

Rules of playing with the stick:

The most basic rule of playing the puck is you can’t touch it with your feet or your hand. You will have to play it with the stick. There’s one of the famous NHL hockey rules, that is, you can’t play with a broken hockey stick. If your stick is broken, you will have to drop that immediately. There are few more specifications about the stick rule in field hockey. Those are –

  • You are allowed to hit the ball with the flat side of the stick only. 
  • Other than the goalkeeper none is allowed to touch the ball with any part of their body.

Officials :

A game official is the person who has the responsibility of enforcing the rules and doing the maintenance of the game. The number of officials vary with the type of the game. 

Ice hockey:

  • Referees (on ice)
  • Linesmen (on ice)
  • Assistant referees (on ice)
  • Goal judge (off ice)
  • Video goal judge (off ice)
  • Official scorer (off ice)
  • Penalty timekeeper (off ice)
  • Goal timekeeper (off ice)
  • Statistician (off ice)

Inline (roller) hockey:

As there is no offsides, no icing; here they need lesser referees and usually they don’t use any lineman. 

Field hockey:

They got umpires instead of referees. Umpires and referees do the same job almost. 

Crimes :

Ice hockey:

  • Off side : When the puck is in possession of your team and your players’ sticks cross the blue line of the attacking zone, before the puck crosses that line is called off side.
  • Icing : If you hit the puck from behind the centre red line and your puck remains untouched, it will be called icing. 
  • Butt ending: Jabbing a player of the opponent team with the top end of the stick.
  • Checking from behind: Hitting a player from behind while he is not aware of the scene and can’t defend himself.
  • Cross checking: :Checking the stick with both hands.
  • Elbowing: Hitting an opponent with the elbow. 
  • Fighting : Getting involved into physical fights inside the rink.
  • Hooking: Blocking someone’s progress using the stick. 
  • Interference: Blocking someone’s progress while he doesn’t have the puck and creating any kind of disturbance while picking up his stick or gloves from the ground. 
  • Kneeing: Hitting an opponent with the knee. 

All kinds of deliberate actions that make an opponent fall or get him injured comes under the crime section. 

Inline (roller) hockey:

No icing , no off side rule here. Plus you can have body contact with the opponent while playing the puck, but there can’t be any deliberate hitting of course. 

Field hockey :

All the things are the same like ice hockey. 


Ice hockey:

  • For a minor penalty you have to sit in the penalty box for 2 minutes. In case of double minors a four minute penalty is given. 
  • In case of a major penalty you have to sit in the penalty box for 5 minutes. 
  • In case of a misconduct penalty you have to sit for 10 minutes in the penalty box. 
  • Sometimes a penalty shot is also given. It depends on the situation and the league. 
  • While having an offside, your goal won’t be counted and you will have to resume the game with a faceoff. 
  • Icing comes under a delayed penalty.

Here’s a chart of hockey majors and minor penalty time.

BoardingMinor2 or 5 minutes
ChargingMinor2 minutes
Contact to the HeadMinor2 minutes
Cross-CheckingMinor2 or 5 minutes
Delay of GameMinor2 minutes
ElbowingMinor2 or 5 minutes
SlashingMinor2 or 5 minutes
RoughingMinor2 minutes
ObstructionMinor2 minutes
High-StickingMinor2 minutes
KneeingMinor2 minutes
HoldingMinor2 minutes
Holding the StickMinor2 minutes
InterferenceMinor2 minutes
HookingMinor2 minutes
Unsportsmanlike ConductMinor2 minutes
TrippingMinor2 minutes
Butt-EndingMajor5 minutes
Checking from BehindMajor5 minutes
FightingMajor5 minutes
Fight InstigatorMajor2 minutes
Holding/Grasping the FacemaskMajor5 minutes
Pushing-off of Opponent with SkateMajor5 minutes
MisconductMajor10 minutes
SpearingMajor5 minutes

Inline (roller) hockey :

As there is no off side or icing, except those all other rules are the same.

Field hockey:

There are three kinds of punishments for the crimes.

  • Free hit
  • Penalty corner
  • Penalty shoot

All the rules are similar to soccer. 


Every team can replace their player any moment they want. But they have to announce their replacement.

So that’s it. Hockey rules explained here as if they are the rules of hockey for the dummies. We hope that you enjoy playing hockey. But it is really important to follow the protocol to be a good player. So follow the rules and we hope if you have a dream of being a world class player, that comes true.

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