Ice Hockey 101

Here is a brief guide to the essential ice hockey rules!


All players take up set positions around one of five face-off circles on the ice.  Only two players are allowed inside the circle during the faceoff.  The location of the faceoff is determined by the cause of the last stoppage in play.

Delay Of Game

The following actions will result in a two-minute minor penalty for delay of game:

  • Deliberately shooting or batting the puck outside the playing area
  • Deliberately displacing the goal from its normal position
  • Failure to provide the proper number of players on the ice surface after a warning from an official or for making an illegal substitution

Playing the puck with a high-stick

When an opponent bats a puck out of the air with a stick above shoulder height, play shall be stopped and a faceoff shall ensue.  A goal scored by a puck that made contact with a stick that was above the height of the goal crossbar shall be disallowed.

Icing the puck

Icing is when a player on his team’s side of the red centre line shoots the puck all the way down the ice and it crosses the red goal line at any point (other than the goal). Icing is not permitted when teams are at equal strength or on the power play.  When this occurs, play is stopped and the puck is returned to the other end of the ice for a face-off in the offending team’s zone.  Icing the puck is not called:

  • If the goalie leaves the crease to play the puck, even if he does not touch the puck
  • If an official rules an opposing player could have played the puck before it crossed the red goal line
  • An official may waive off the icing call if he deems it was an attempted pass


A team is offside when any member of the attacking team precedes the puck over the defending team’s blueline.  The position of the player’s skate — and not that of his stick — is the determining factor.  If both skates are over the blueline before the puck, the player is offside.  If he has only one skate over the blueline and one on it, he is onside.


Any regular-season game that ends regulation play with a tie score will go into a five-minute sudden-death overtime period. If at the end of that overtime period the game remains tied, the game will then go into a shootout.  During the playoffs, there will not be a shootout and overtime periods will be 20 minutes in length.


Player actions that violate the rules of the game may be given penalties at the discretion of the officials.  Penalties are classified into three categories: minor, major and misconduct. For a minor penalty, players are required to serve two minutes in the penalty box while their team plays short-handed. A minor penalty will expire if the opposing team scores while on the power play. Major penalties require a player to serve five minutes in the penalty box and only expire at the end of that time. Misconduct penalties vary in length.

Penalty Shots

A penalty shot is awarded when a player is pulled down from behind on a breakaway scoring opportunity or when the net is deliberately dislodged by an opposing goaltender or defenseman.

Power plays

When one team has more players on the ice than the other team, because one player is serving a penalty.


Any regular-season game that ends overtime play with a tie score will go into a shootout.  A shootout is a series of penalty shots in which each team is allowed three attempts to score in alternating fashion. If after three attempts the teams remain tied, the shootout will continue to alternate shots until one team fails to match the attempt of the other. The winner of the shootout will be awarded one goal.

Spectator Etiquette

There is plenty of stoppages in ice hockey, so please take that opportunity to get up from your seat if you need to head to the toilet or the bar etc. Please avoid standing in front of other spectators whilst the game is in progress.