The Playing Surface
- The ice sheet is commonly known as the rink.
- The rink is divided into zones by a red line at center ice and two blue lines.
- A standard North American rink measures 200 feet by 85 feet.
- European ice surfaces are slightly larger.
- The ice is enclosed by boards and Plexiglass.
- The ice surface is divided into three zones.
- The area where the goal net is located is the "defending zone" for the team defending that net.
- The middle of the rink, between two blue lines, is the "neutral zone."
- The area where the opposing net is located is the "attacking zone" or "offensive zone."
- The puck is made of black, vulcanized rubber.
- A standard puck measures one inch thick and three inches in diameter, and weighs between 5.5 and 6 ounces.
- The puck can be moved with the hockey stick or the feet, but picking it up with the hands is illegal.
The Hockey Stick
- A stick is held by each player and used to retrieve, control, carry, pass and shoot the puck.
- Goals are scored by using the stick to shoot the puck into the opponent's net.
- A shot that inadvertently deflects into the net off another player's body is allowed to stand as a goal.
- A cage measuring four feet tall and six feet wide, strung with nylon mesh in the back.
- There are two nets at opposite ends of the ice, guarded by the goaltenders.
Object of the Game
- The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposition.
- Each team has six players on the ice, one goaltender and five "skaters".
- The five "skaters" have assigned positions: three forwards and two defensemen.
- Substitutions are unlimited and can be made at any time.
- A substitution does not require an official's permission, or a stoppage in play.
- A player can join the game "on the fly" - during the flow of play - as long as the departing player is within five feet of the bench and not involved in the play or with an opponent.
- The game begins when the referee drops the puck between two opposing forwards.
- During the faceoff all other players are positioned on the defensive side of the puck.
- The faceoff is used to resume play following any stoppage in the game.
- There are nine designated faceoff spots painted on the ice.
The Game Clock
- The game is played in three 20-minute periods.
- The clock is stopped during all stoppages in play.
- A player can use a shoulder, hip or torso to hit or impede an opponent, but only when the opponent is in possession of the puck.
- A body check that targets the head is illegal.
- A body check to an opponent's back is illegal if the opponent is facing the boards.
Note that the difference between a legal check and a penalty is open to interpretation, and remains a source of dispute among fans, players, and everyone else involved in the game.
- A player charged with a minor penalty is sent off the ice for two minutes, with no substitution allowed.
- The penalty ends immediately if a goal is scored by the opposing team.
Minor penalties are called for obstructing an opponent. Infractions include:
- Tripping (with the stick or knee)
- Holding (with stick or hands)
- Hooking (with stick)
- Interferance (checking or impeding a player without the puck)
Penalties are called for dangerous use of the stick, including:
- High-sticking (hitting an opponent in the head or face)
- Cross-checking (hitting an opponent with the shaft of the stick)
Penalties are called for dangerous physical fouls, including:
- Checking from behind
- Roughing (broadly defined; usually involves a wrestling or shoving match)
- A player charged with a major penalty is sent off the ice for five minutes.
- The most common major penalty is fighting. If both fighters receive five-minute penalties, substitutions can be made.
- At the referee's discretion, an infraction commonly deemed a minor penalty can be increased to a major. This usually occurs if an opponent has been seriously injured, or if the referee believes there was a deliberate attempt to injure.
- A player charged with a major penalty involving serious injury or attempt to injure is ejected from the game.
- If a penalized player is ejected, a teammate is assigned to serve his major penalty. No substitution is allowed.