Guide to Hockey 

 Originally Written: April 27, 2011

By  Hanna Trafford

Last Updated on April 27, 2011 by Hanna Trafford

The NHL Playoffs for the coveted Stanley Cup trophy are in a full swing and believe me – if you are going to watch hockey, this is the time to get some snacks, settle down on your couch and enjoy the excitement! Just in case you feel a bit left out because you are not quite sure what it going on there, here is a little simple help for you. My guide to hockey – the very basics of the game a bit of terminology used. That is all there is to it – honestly! The game is relatively simple – get hold of the puck and do all you can to get it into your opponent’s goal net. Do that more times then the other guys – and you end up winning the Stanley Cup.

Hockey is often labeled as the world’s greatest and most exciting game. And it is easy to understand once you know the few basic rules – here is a quick guide:

First – the object of the game is to score more goals than the other team

The Ice Rink:

  • The ice surface is divided into zones by a red line in the centre and two blue lines, creating three zones
  • The area where the goal net is the “defending zone” for the team defending the net
  • The middle zone is the “neutral zone”
  • The area where the opposing net is located is the “offensive zone”
  • Standard North American ice rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide – European surface are slightly larger

 The Teams:

  • Each team has six players on the ice – one goaltender and five skaters.
  • The five skaters all have roles – three of them are forwards. Their job is to move the puck as fast as possible to the opponent’s defense zone and score. Two are defensemen – their job is to defend their  team’s goal net and protect the goaltender.
  • But regardless of their positions, all players – except the goaltender (he is not allowed to cross the red centre line) can go anywhere on the ice.
  • Substituting players is unlimited and can be made at any time – it does not need official’s permission and it does not have to stop the play. Player who is entering the ice surface can do it “on the fly” – meaning during the flow of play, as long as the departing player is within 5 feet of the bench and is not involved in the play.

The Game:

  • The game begins when the referee drops the puck between two opposing forwards – that’s called “faceoff”. And it is used to resume play following any stoppage of the game.
  • During the faceoff, all other players are positioned on the defensive side of the puck. There are nine designated faceoff spots – they are painted on the ice.
  • The game is played in three 20 minute periods and the clock stops during all play stoppages.

About Body Checking:

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

Minor Penalties:

  • Remember that the difference between a legal check and a penalty is open to interpretation and is a source of constant dispute among players, fans and everyone else involved in the game.
  • Minor penalties are called for obstruction of an opponent, such as tripping, holding, hooking or other interference.
  • They are also called for a dangerous use of the stick, such as slashing, spearing, high-sticking or cross-checking. Included are also penalties called for dangerous physical actions, such as elbowing, checking from behind, kneeing and roughing.
  • A player who gets charged with minor penalty has to leave the ice without substitution.
  • The penalty ends if a goal is scored by the opposing team

Major Penalties:

  • Major penalties are more severely punished and the most common major penalty is for fighting. If both players involve receive major penalty, substitution is allowed.
  • A player involved in a serious offense such as causing physical injury or an attempt to injure another player can be ejected from the game. If that happens, a teammate is assigned to serve the major penalty and no substitution is allowed.


  • Offside is called if a player precedes the puck into the offensive zone – play is stopped and faceoff takes place in the neutral zone.
  • Also – a pass made across the blue line and the centre line is ruled as an offside pass – play is stopped and the faceoff takes place in the originating point of the pass.



  • Icing means shooting the puck to the end of the ice from behind the centre red line. It is considered to be a delaying tactic and it will result in a stoppage of play and faceoff in the offending team`s defensive zone.
  • The purpose of icing calls is to encourage continuous game action so the referees and the linesmen interpret and apply the rule to produce the desired result.

Power Play:

  • When a penalty is called, it will result in one team having a greater number of players on ice


These are the game basics – if you would like to do a bit more studying and brushing up on your terminology, check out The Canadian Tire Hockey School website – all kinds of great information on that site plus great and simple way to read up on all the words and slangs as well.


Have fun watching hockey and make sure you keep watching this website for more information and Stanley Cup playoffs standings – your comments, suggestions and experiences are always welcomed and very much appreciated!



Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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