Hockey may seem like a foreign concept if you hail from a country where ice is found in a glass rather than on a rink. But fear not! This guide will break down the fundamental rules of ice hockey, making it easy for beginners, especially those from warmer climates, to understand and enjoy this fast-paced and thrilling sport.

The Basics of the Game

Ice hockey is played on a rectangular ice rink with rounded corners. Two teams, each typically consisting of six players (including the goalie), compete to score the most goals by hitting a rubber puck into the opponent's net using curved sticks.

Game Duration

A standard hockey game is divided into three periods, each lasting 20 minutes with intermissions in between. The clock stops for various reasons, including penalties, puck out of play, and goals.

Starting the Game

Each period begins with a face-off where the puck is dropped between two opposing players at the center of the rink. Face-offs also restart the game after goals and certain stoppages.

Scoring Goals

The primary objective is to score goals. A goal is scored when the puck completely crosses the goal line within the goal frame.

Offside Rule

To encourage fair play, the offside rule is crucial. A player is offside if they enter the offensive zone (the opponent's half of the rink) before the puck.


Penalties are given for rule infractions like tripping, high-sticking, or fighting. Minor penalties result in two minutes in the penalty box, while major penalties can lead to five minutes or more.

Power Play and Penalty Kill

When a team is penalized, the other team gets a power play, playing with one more player. The penalized team is on a penalty kill, trying to prevent a goal despite being a player down.


Icing is when a player shoots the puck across two red lines, the center line, and the opposing team's goal line, without it being touched. This leads to a stoppage and face-off in the offending team's zone.

The Role of the Goalie

The goalie's primary role is to prevent the puck from entering their net. They wear specialized equipment and are the only player allowed to use their hands to play the puck.

Understanding these basic rules can greatly enhance your appreciation of hockey. Whether you're watching it for the first time or attempting to play, the energy, strategy, and skill involved in hockey make it a captivating sport, no matter where you're from.

Feb 6, 2024

More from 



View All